The Rise of the Citizen Influencer
March 30, 2017
For many years now we’ve become accustomed to seeing celebrities and influencers using social media to promote brands. Whether it’s Kim Kardashian pushing tea, or Cristiano Ronaldo flashing his new ‘gifted’ watch, rarely a day goes by without our Twitter and Instagram feeds presenting us with a celebrity declaring their allegiance to a product, many of which are seemingly random, or unclearly related to the interests and audiences of the influencer in question.
A quick search of the ‘#ad #sp #sponsored #paid hashtags’ on Twitter or Instagram will demonstrate the proliferation of influencer advertising. At the time of writing #ad produced 3,624,741 hits on Instagram alone! It’s not difficult to understand why influencer advertising has seen such a fantastic uptake in recent years; brands want to tap into the colossal reach afforded by large numbers of followers and some of the most influential figures (i.e. those with followings of 1m+) can demand fees of up to $100,000 per post!
For example, Louise Thompson (above) and the rest of the Made in Chelsea crew are regularly seen pushing a plethora of brands to their 100K+ followers on Instagram.
Additionally in their 2015 report on Global Trust in Advertising, Nielsen found that 66% of consumers trust the opinions of others online versus on 42% stating trust in banner ads.
But in reality, how effective is isolated promoted content by an influencer, who is happy to rave about your brand in a single post (often using copy written by the brand’s comms team, and therefore quite obviously striking a contrived, inauthentic tone of voice), and then never to mention your brand or products again?
In addition to this, the Advertising Standards Agency (and the FSA stateside) require all influencer ads across social media to clearly state that they are paid promotions, or else risk reprimand, which further strips influencer ads of real influence, as audiences grow ever wiser of the paid nature of endorsements.
Throw in a couple of widely documented influencer ad blunders, such as Naomi Campbell posting a picture of her new Adidas trainers on Instagram, and copy and pasting the exact email from their team as the caption, which embarrassingly read: “Naomi, so nice to see you in good spirits. Could you put something like…”, and you can see why influencer ads may be becoming less effective.
Certainly, influencer ads can help brands achieve a boost in reach and awareness, but recent data has shown that in terms of engagement, there is an inverse relationship between the number of followers and the number of likes posts generate. Influencers with less than 1000 followers were likely to see an 8% engagement rate in contrast to influencers with 10million + followers who only receive 1.6% engagement.
Welcome to the stage the citizen influencer, the social media user with a modest number of followers, who could help your brand engage an audience more effectively and efficiently than celebrity influencers with followers in the millions. Unlike celebrity influencers, brands are better placed to engage citizen influencers in a meaningful and authentic way, which need not necessarily rely on payment.
Whilst perhaps more time consuming, a campaign to engage citizen influencers in long term relationships is likely to result in higher engagement and ROI. Ways to do this may include investing in social listening to find the perfect, authentic opportunities to add value, such as by offering free samples or advice to citizen influencers when in need. Check out the great example from Esther, founder of TeaHuggers appealing for brand amabassadors below:
Could your brand offer citizen influencers the opportunity to attend exclusive product-based events or experiences? Or perhaps seek their input when developing new products?
With celebrity influencer advertising proving increasingly ineffective and a growing emphasis on authenticity in brand activity, it seems the power of the citizen influencer is only set to grow! Power to the people!
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