Hady El Hajjar, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Humanagement, on how to do it right in 2022.
What is an influencer? The answer to that question is, everyone! Everyone has the ability to influence others. But the term has come under heightened scrutiny due to the massive rise in the number of people with a large social following being used by brands to market their products or services. In the last five to seven years, the landscape has changed dramatically. Today, beyond traditional advertising campaigns and celebrity endorsements, real people with an interest in certain topics are used every day in marketing. We’ve truly entered the influencer marketing age. In that context, being an influencer is no longer some sort of hobby. It is now a full-fledged profession, with KPIs, indicators, and measurement tools that allow businesses to identify a target audience and choose the right person for the job – the one that aligns best with their brand and their objectives.
And you can find an influencer to promote pretty much anything, from sportswear to tourism, music, medical procedures, beauty, fashion… You name it, you can find someone to talk about it.
No wonder that, as traditional marketing methods not only remain costly but become less effective, brands and agencies are spending less on radio, TV, print, and outdoor, diversifying their budget allocation and investing in digital media instead. According to a study by MediaKix, 17% of companies devoted more than half of their annual marketing budget to influencer marketing campaigns globally in 2019. Given that the number of active social media users has passed the 4.55 billion mark in 2021, that figure is not likely to drop. What’s more, no less than 59% of businesses now link their Instagram Stories to shopping pages that have been recommended by influencers.
But let’s start with the basics and see how you should go about picking and working with a social media influencer.
ABCs of influencer marketing
I’ve seen many disappointed companies that hadn’t got the outcomes they wanted from a collaboration with an influencer. Often, the problem is that they have unrealistic expectations, believing that an influencer marketing campaign should yield immediate results. But there’s no magic trick here. Yes, social media is an interactive tool that can be used to promote products very effectively, but only if you get it right.
Consistency is key to success. You need to pick the right person to collaborate with, someone who is best aligned with your brand or product, and who can also find the right balance between education and entertainment. Then, you need to make sure that strategic elements such as the scope of work, what the creator can do for you, and what they get out of it, are all discussed and agreed on. A question that I get asked all the time – and it’s a hard one to answer because the tools and platforms that are supposed to give you insights are not very accurate, particularly in this region – is how to differentiate between a real influencer and those who are just after freebies or have bought their followers and have little engagement. And another challenge lies in the fact that new influencers are constantly making their mark, so it might be hard to keep up.
Working with an established agency can help with all this. Humanagement, for example, has developed a mix and match approach that allows us to find the best fit for both the influencer and the advertiser. We personally know more than 90% of the talents in the MENA region, and we’ve learned through trial and error who the best ones are so that we can make the right recommendation to our clients.
An evolving landscape
One important dimension of influencer marketing for both influencers and advertisers is that the industry is not just about the size of the following anymore. Because social media platforms’ algorithms constantly change, having a high number of followers doesn’t guarantee high engagement.
This explains why the concepts of micro and nano-influencers have emerged – influencers with fewer followers than the megastars but who generate what really matters: a high level of interaction with their communities. Micro and nano-creators have the highest forms of engagement because they can create and retain a sense of community shared by fewer but more dedicated fans; whenever they post, the percentage of their followers that is more likely to like, comment, and share this content is greater. No wonder today, brands use them ten times more often than mega ones. As an influencer marketing agency, we simultaneously use influencers who can create good content and have high engagement and macro and hero influencers who can provide awareness – because, whether we like it or not, an influencer with ten million followers can boost word-of-mouth around a brand or product. In addition, now more than ever, people are informed and demand authenticity. Don’t underestimate them; they know when an influencer is being paid to promote a product and they don’t mind, as long as the content is really creative and engaging. Storytelling, whereby the product or brand is secondary in the creative process, is the key to reaching them. Yet, many clients who say they like this approach insist on their brand being put at the forefront – and in their audience’s faces – when we propose creative ideas. There’s still a lot of educational work ahead…
Lastly, the number of social media platforms keeps increasing and creators may not be able to perform efficiently at all. However, they can’t limit themselves to just one. My recommendation for influencers and those who want to work with them is to focus on Instagram, but also on TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube. Here is why. Facebook, or Meta as it’s now known, is mainly used for paid and boosted campaigns; it’s not viable anymore. Instagram, while more popular than ever for influencer campaigns, has its own issues. For example, influencers with creator accounts constantly complain that their reach is being limited and less organic and that they are therefore forced to pay to boost their posts just to get their own followers to see the content – which is why many of them are now reverting to personal accounts. As for Twitter, it’s a very niche market. Although many people in the MENA region are heavily active on it, the new generations are more visual and less interested in getting involved in conversations. The other social media platforms have taken advantage of this situation. As short-form content becomes more popular, TikTok exploded in 2021, reaching one billion active users, many of whom from Gen Z – the main target of brands and advertisers looking to build active relationships with this demographic in order to turn them into loyal consumers. Snapchat and YouTube also have high monetization prospects and creators are encouraged to utilize these as well.
What’s coming next? Blockchain, crypto, and of course NFTs! Many of us are still researching and trying to understand how best to use these new digital assets because NFTs are not just images; they can be used for music, video, and much more. Add to the mix the rise of the Metaverse and the boom in the gaming industry, especially in sports with events like the World Cup. We’ll definitely be looking for talents there.
Influencers have a huge role to play in the marketing industry. Brands that don’t use them are definitely missing out on an essential audience targeting the channel. I couldn’t recommend them more.
This article was published in Communicate's latest issue.