By Dalia Halabi, manager – brand entertainment, OMD
While the social platform play may be new, influencer advertising certainly isn’t. Though the faces have changed and the vehicles have evolved, the psychology of influence remains the same. The success of an influencer campaign rests on the incorporation of the principles of reputation and persuasion to subvert people’s purchasing decision-making processes.
Marketers who want to leverage an influencer strategy need to be mindful of the universal principles of persuasion: liking, authority, reciprocity, and consistency (Dr. Robert Cialdini’s. 2014). These psychological factors form the foundation for a successful influencer campaign.
Liking: we like people who are similar to us and with whom we can cooperate to reach our goals
Research shows that we are more likely to listen to the recommendations coming from those whom we can relate to (Skyword, 2018). Yes, that seems very obvious, but you would be surprised at how often the implications of that very simple statement goes by overlooked. What this means for partnership selection is we need to look for influencers who resemble our target audience in the sense that they have similar demographics and psychographics.
Macro influencers are perceived as celebrities, and users may feel unable to relate to them in an authentic way They often get lower engagement than the power middle influencers. Not only that, but these macro influencers tend to get a lot of negative sentiment in their comments and have become so commercial that followers are desensitized and impervious to what they are selling. Nonetheless, they do have a high reach and that’s a definite advantage of working with them.
Micro influencers, on the other hand, are perceived as more real, and thus people tend to trust their recommendations even more. Due to the fact that they cost less to work with a brand would be able to spend the same amount they would working with one big influencer on multiple micro influencers solving the issue of reach. An influencer marketing strategy will only work if followers genuinely like and respect the influencer, and when the influencer sincerely wants to create value for their followers – this is the fundamental role of influencer marketing. This leads to the next point: reciprocity.
Reciprocity: brands are responsible for adding value for the influencers and their followers
It is the brand’s responsibility to create value for both the influencer and their followers. When users are on social media, they put their guard down and are more receptive to subtle communication. However, just like they are sensitive to subtleties, they will also adversely react when a brand is blatantly advertising and using the influencer merely as a mouthpiece. When it comes to influencer campaigns, we need to be conscious and make sure that the end receiver is getting as much love as the influencer we chose to work with.
This love can be attained through the creation of customized storytelling content, special promo codes, competitions, or sampling exercises. The influencer benefits from this as they are the medium that is offering such ‘exclusive’ love from the brand, while the brand maintains its position as the facilitator.
Authority: go with thought leaders in fields that are relevant to the brand
Go for the thought leaders and experts in fields that are relevant and compatible with the brand. Pick those fields wisely, and your influencers wiser. More often than not, brands are bedazzled by the follower count and partner with influencers who don’t align with their pillars. Resist the ‘I want to hire the influencer with the most followers’ instinct and move towards the ‘I want the influencer with the greatest authority and relatability to build a long-term relationship with’. Which is a great segue to the final point: consistency.
Consistency: the importance of a holistic relationship between brands and influencers
The evolution of influencer marketing will raise the stimulus for more ‘always on’ relationships with influencers as opposed to a one-off, tactical campaign. Currently, the formula for most brands is purely transactional: x amount of money for x number of posts, and then the influencer is never seen with the brand again, lacking authenticity.
A consistent, more holistic relationship will serve both the brand and the influencer. Influencers can provide valuable insights from their followers that can spur new ideas for the brand, and brands can keep their fingers on the pulse when it comes to how they can better attend consumers.
When it comes to planning a successful influencer campaign we need to focus on nurturing long-term relationships with the right partners. Consistency goes a long way in terms of establishing credibility as it subliminally communicates that the influencer genuinely endorses the brand as opposed to being paid to do so as a one-off opportunity. The issue with the one-off approach is that it is so obviously commercial that followers don’t buy it. Always on means a higher frequency and consistency of communication which is more appealing to the users.
Transparency is a topic that has been in the spotlight lately, and regarding ethical communication, as OMD we do encourage that influencers and brands use the “#ad”. We are not trying to pull one over on the followers; we do not want to underestimate their intelligence. They know when an influencer is being paid to endorse a product. Transparency and consistency diminish the commercial aspect of the relationship, and in the long run, this honesty is appreciated by consumers.
Rounding up, hand-picking influencers makes them feel special about what they bring to the table (authority), and more cared for by the brand. This feeling will be passed onto their followers and be reciprocated. When influencers consistently infuse love and passion into their communication about a brand (incorporating consistency and transparency), it results in more positive engagements.