Why social media influencers may not be the right choice for your marketing campaign

Malaysians seem to be addicted to social media. A recent study revealed that about 29 million, that’s 83 per cent of our population, have social media user identities, and there are approximately 17,000 social media influencers in Malaysia.

In addition, a recent poll revealed that an alarming number of teenagers preferred not to further their studies after Form Five, and instead, aspire to become professional social media influencers.

Everyone either wants to be an influencer, or wants to engage their services, but this begs the question, is using influencers the only way to market a product or service?

The last few weeks I’ve been feeling like a schoolteacher again. However, this time, it’s not secondary school students I’ve been teaching, but rather, it’s people (potential clients) who want to incorporate influencers in their communication campaigns.

When considering including influencers in the marketing mix (paid, earned, shared, and owned media), the first thing to bear in mind is that influencers are a paid engagement. Therefore, they fall under the ‘paid media’ category, and technically (or traditionally) not under the scope of public relations (PR), whose traditional domain is ‘earned media’.

PR got involved with handling influencers because clients wanted to ensure that the influencers they engaged got their messaging right, and to ensure that the entire communication campaign was properly synchronised. Add to that, in Malaysia, influencers are not necessarily known for having a good command of English, or sometimes, Bahasa Melayu, for that matter.

For those organisations that are toying with the idea of engaging influencers, here are some points you may wish to consider:

1. First and most importantly, influencers fall under the ‘paid media’ category, and as such, should be parked under the sales and marketing, not the PR, budget.

2. Since cost seems to be the key deciding factor for business decisions these days, keep in mind that influencers don’t come cheap, particularly the more popular ones, also known as Tier 1, or mega-influencers.

3. Relevance. Is the influencer you wish to engage relevant to the product or service? As a random example, getting a fashion model to talk about a car battery – not much relevance there. Unless, of course, the model is an expert on car batteries.

4. Protect the brand. Engaging an influencer to promote a product or service is fine. My advice would be, no external party should be linked with your brand, for a couple of obvious reasons. Firstly, their service, or endorsement, is not exclusive to any client. They may also represent other products or services which you may not wish your brand to be associated with. Also, in the event that they are embroiled in controversy, there could be fallout for any brand associated with them.

5. Fleeting. While social media may have further reach, it is also extremely overcrowded. Viewers scroll and move on very quickly. Impressions may be just momentary. Your message may easily be missed or drowned out in the noise.

6. Exclusivity. The more popular influencers take on a number of projects, so your product or service could very well be drowned out in the sheer multitude of their social media posts. Is that worth the expense?

Just because others are using influencers, doesn’t mean you have to jump on the bandwagon, too. It’s best to carefully determine your objectives, look at the marketing mix, and then evaluate the options available.

Perhaps, instead of using an influencer, you may wish to consider a PR stakeholder engagement programme, which would give you several benefits, such as direct access and more quality interaction with your target audiences and relevant decision makers. While a social media post is fleeting, a stakeholder engagement programme is long lasting, gives you more face time, and creates networking opportunities.

As Albert Einstein once said, “The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.

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