The Secret Sauce: Ability To Define Probability Of Success In The New Form Of Marketing

Vedanarayanan Vedantham, VP- Marketing, HealthifyMeVedanarayanan consults with early stage startups directly or through incubators on branding, digital marketing & helps them evaluate product market fitment.

There are several misconceptions surrounding influencer marketing, one school of thought confuses this new fangled form of marketing with having multiple brand ambassadors instead of one while another extreme data driven school of thought driven by bean counters masquerading as marketers tries to run this like a pure performance marketing/affiliate marketing channel. While the "sceptical" school of thought considers this to be plain, old fashion paid-for marketing under the new garb of "influencer marketing".

So, where does the truth lie?

Like with everything else in life, the truth lies somewhere in between. Influencer marketing entails a right brain (creative) + left brain (data driven) approach to using "influencers",i.e. people with captive social capital comprising of users whose demographics over-lap with your own target consumer universe.

Data from the MENA(Middle East & North Africa) and SEA (South East Asia) markets show that brands in categories such as fashion, foodtech spend close to 40 percent of their marketing budgets on influencer marketing.

Compared to this, influencer marketing in the Indian market certainly has some catching up to do and does not quite have this level of maturity. However, there are some encouraging signs.

Data available in the public domain suggests that almost 90percent of marketers in India consider influencer marketing to be something that is capable of adding value to the marketing mix while one out of every six marketers believes influencer
marketing is an essential part of their marketing mix that is used 365 days a year.

Given all of this a question on most marketer's minds is How do we measure the ROI for influencer marketing?

The answer in my view needs to be a mix of market share & mindshare metrics. Market share metrics refer to short term numbers that can be measured on a weekly/monthly basis such as clicks, shares, post engagement and others which are a mix of organic and earned media metrics.

While the best practices serve as good guiding stars, success comes down to determining what influencer marketing playbooks work for your brand

The mindshare metrics however are harder to measure and need to be looked at over nothing less than a quarterly time horizon. These would include metrics such as social brand mentions, overall engagement, and brand sentiment on social media. So what is the secret sauce?

The secret sauce that has the ability to define your probability of success in this new form of marketing that most practitioners are still coming to terms with, involves the following ingredients

1.Overt Vs Subtle-Are the influencers on your network overtly seen as brand advocates or sellouts? Is their social feed disproportionately littered with overt brand promotional messages? This can lower their credibility and the traction your brand could get by using them.

2.Kind of Influencers-Some brands prefer to use "macro" influencers, i.e. People with more than 50,000 followers,some prefer to use "micro" influencers who have between 5/10K followers to 50K, some prefer a mix. I personally prefer to use greater numbers of micro influencers instead of fewer numbers of macro influencers for the same budget since I believe it diversifies your portfolio and micro influencers in general have greater credibility.

3.Level of Engagement-Like with any other industry, there is a lot of fraud with impostors masquerading as credible influencers using "paid" followers to dress-up their social profile. One way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to check the level of engagement and comments for each post made by the influencer before making a selection.

4.Execution Rigor-Ideas are easy, hardnosed execution is tough. Having a strong sense of rigor in measuring ROI for the influencer channel overall and individual influencers is critical.

While the best practices serve as good guiding stars, success comes down to determining what influencer marketing playbooks work for your brand in the category you operate in and having a rigorous focus on execution.