According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM, UK), Influencer marketing has become one of the most popular and fast-growing channels for marketers and communication professionals, with 83% of consumers in 2015 reporting that they are more likely to trust the recommendation of a friend over and above traditional advertising.
Also, CIM research shows that 3 out of 4 brands now turn to private individuals to promote their products and services, especially via digital media channels. This is true globally and the situation in Nigeria is no different.
For communications professionals in Nigeria today, especially PR agencies, who up until a few years ago were the go-to’s for brand managers seeking to use influential personalities, celebrities and social media superstars as advocates, it may appear that the environment has changed. Could it be that brands no longer need agencies as much as they need social media influencers, who can ‘trend’ your hashtag quicker and generate a gazillion impressions in a matter of days for less than N50,000?
Brand Managers’ preference for dealing with influencers directly instead of going through the agencies may be due to a number of reasons:
- Agencies’ poor influence and following on social
- Creativity and high audience engagement levels of some influencers’ platforms
- Marketers’ desire for vanity metrics and output over outcomes
- Low cost of recruiting influencers versus agencies
- Agencies’ inability to create well thought out, effective digital strategies
Even though one can argue that influencer marketing in Nigeria is still practised in a somewhat unsophisticated way, not like the subtle art of consumer behaviour change, advocacy and strategic marketing that it is meant to be. However, there’s no doubt that the ‘sector’ is growing fast — both in terms of the number of self-acclaimed influencers available for hire and also the significant revenue they can now generate from doing brand campaigns.
Agency naysayers can argue that what many Nigerian (Twitter) influencers do is nothing more than forcing hashtags to trend and overt brand name spamming on the timeline. Purists may deride them for their suspicious follower counts and guerrilla growth tactics: those Tweetdeck multi-account tricks, buying followers, bots and so on. But to deny the influence (pun intended) of ‘social media influencers in the client’s boardroom and on the client’s marketing budgets would be foolishness.
It is difficult to ignore the ingenuity and creativity that these young men and women have deployed in order to get to this point where some individuals now gross millions monthly — more than some agencies do while incurring only a fraction of agency overheads. Influencers now command the respect of multi-billion naira brands, while being armed with nothing but a smartphone, internet data, a laptop and loads of free time.
Now, let’s not forget that all of this happened, while PR agencies who should be masters of influencer marketing were sleeping and struggling to figure out how social media works for years. In fact, the bloggers came first and took food from agencies’ plates, successfully building media empires from the money made from selling their digital engagement and content creation skills to brands. Now, it’s the turn of Instagram comedians and Twitter superstars to tear another hole in PR agencies’ pockets. In fact, some more savvy influencers are now directly pitching to clients and bypassing the agency middleman!
In a country like Nigeria with ridiculously high levels of poverty and youth unemployment, any legitimate money-making venture on the internet should be fully celebrated. So, to see many bloggers, smart creatives and comics flourishing on Instagram and Twitter, using their audience engagements and storytelling skills for brand promotion in the same manner that traditional media platforms do, is definitely welcome.
It is however important for corporates to ensure that in all of this, brand marketers on the client side are enlightened enough to recognize what truly matters in influencer marketing and to ask themselves if all their influencers really deliver value in terms of sales growth, marketing ROI, consumer behavioural change, brand recall and TOMA — the real outcomes that matter, and not just vanity metrics of Likes and Impressions.
Because, what’s the point of your hashtag (which tells no story) getting 1 million impressions after being seen by 100,000 Twitter accounts, out of which only 2,000 are in the actual target group, another 2,000 are random users from India, USA and Kenya, while 96,000 are inactive bots bought from buyrealfollowrs.com?
And how do you want me, the target of your marketing campaign to believe that Twitter user @Ade_texter10, who posted over 20 tweets about Coca-Cola being “the greatest thing ever” just yesterday, now today, all of a sudden swears that Pepsi is “the bestest drink ever made”? Like really, who’s fooling who?