Lead Story

Decentralising Influence

Today, brands need to engage with their audiences across platforms while staying true to their messages

Valued at $9.7 billion in 2020, the influencer market is estimated to reach $15 billion by 2022, with a majority of marketers reporting that they budget more than 20% of their spending on influencer content.

We live in a content-driven world. Everything is content—from Instagram Reels, memes, films and limited series to blogs and podcasts—and consumers are constantly bombarded with messages. Consumers’ attention is not only limited but also fractured across multiple platforms, and the effectiveness of traditional mass media is falling short. As a result, marketers and brands have taken a more targeted approach. Influencer marketing is now mainstream.

Influence is a combination of reach, relevance and resonance. The influence of a professional influencer is the same as a celebrity’s, if not more. The difference between an influencer and a normal person is the scale. The Covid-19 pandemic proved the importance of a digital presence. At a time when brands were struggling to create content, influencers were in a position to create meaningful content, reaching audiences when traditional advertising could not.

As with every brand partnership, every influencer marketing campaign involves achieving certain goals. This gives a pathway to marketers to evaluate their campaigns for set key performance indicators. To optimise return on investment (RoI) on influencer engagement, one needs to find the right brand partners.

One of the biggest challenges that brands and marketers face is identifying the right influencers. You cannot evaluate the potential of an influential person just based on the number of their subscribers. To select the best influencer for a given campaign, it is important to know their audience. Micro-influencers with a community of a few thousand may deliver better results for your brand than a major influencer with a huge audience if they can connect with the brand and create authentic content.

Gone are the days when one celebrity carried a brand. Brands need to decentralise their ambassador. Today, brands need to engage with their audiences across platforms while staying true to their messages. They need not focus on one face but on having multiple faces across social and digital platforms that are collectively helping them engage with their audiences.

The influencer–brand partnership model is not a one-time deal. Working long term with influencers gives better results and builds real equity with the influencers’ community. When they work long term with brands, their audience begins to build a habit of the brand along with the influencer. Working in the short term is just a shout-out for the brand. That said, a business should be able to analyse figures to get a real idea of whether a campaign will be successful or not.

The next phase of influencer marketing will see widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in everything—from influencer identification to performance influencer marketing. It will help revolutionise the impact of influencer marketing by searching for the right influencers, providing practical workflows, and identifying relevant content and trends.

In this predictive AI-powered model, brands will only pay for the conversions and sales influencers produce, which looks good for their RoI. In addition, AI in influencer marketing can detect fake engagement and fraudulent influencers, predict and calculate campaign RoI and even choose the best content for each influencer campaign, thus bringing in quantifiable results and actions to help measure the impact of influencer marketing. Going forward, we will probably see a continuing shift towards social commerce as more consumers embrace shopping directly from social networks. With platforms pushing for in-app shopping, influencers will grab a disproportionate share of the marketing funnel. Brands will be able to leverage them as an awareness strategy and purchase driver.

The author is the CEO of Leo Burnett South Asia and chairman of BBH India