If the recent global lockdowns, social distancing and isolation have proven anything it’s that – even in this digital age – we are a social animal and we crave personal connections.
And that this is the time for influencer marketing – true influencer marketing – to really take the lead for the future of brands and information. It is the time for influencer marketing to become part and parcel of your marketing communications. Not just an afterthought by a marketing assistant who has a friend with an Instagram account, but a well thought out, budgeted and strategically aligned pillar of your communications.
I was struck recently by the impact many celebrities have been making on social media – through words of support, through actions, even with how they are engaging with their fans about their everyday lives and the normalcy of their times with their families.
And then we have the celebrities who have struck an incredibly tone-deaf chord with their social offerings.
Keep in mind, these celebs are not doing what they are doing to make people mock them (well not all of them anyway), they genuinely believe that their posts, instas, and tweets are making a difference, are imparting wisdom and happy feelings.
They genuinely believe that they are creating a connection.
So, where did they go wrong?
This is where a proper influencer marketing model comes in.
Your audience needs to make a connection. A billionaire telling me how delicious a packet of two-minute noodles is will make me switch off – probably snort in derision first and then switch off. But a billionaire telling me a story about how those same noodles were what got him or her through college while they were still dreaming about changing the world? That is a different story.
Because I can relate to it. I can see myself sitting in a dorm room, fork buried in a microwaved bowl of noodles as I doodle my ideas onto a pad of paper.
Because it is genuine. It is a real moment, in a real person’s life. It is an authentic connection.
And connections are what make influencer marketing one of the most powerful tools in modern marketing.
Followers are not connections.
The word ‘influencer’ has taken on a negative connotation. The hordes of entitled demanding free drinks or meals or holidays because they will give you ‘exposure’ to their hundreds of followers are NOT influencers.
Ryan Reynolds inviting you into his home to share his experiences and family situation during lockdown – HE is an influencer.
A mom showing you how to create delicious meals on a minimal budget that are healthy and nutritious for your kids – SHE is an influencer.
Each of these people, in their own way, is defining a trend or setting an aspirational goal or demonstrating expertise. One might have millions of followers while the other only has a few hundred, but they share one thing in common: authenticity. And each has a very defined role to play in the influencer market – trendsetter, innovator, expert, reliable source, trusted caregiver, the characters in this play of life are endless.
All you need to do is find the one who resonates with you, your brand, your message, your dream. The one who really believes in your vision. The one who connects with you.The one who is real.
Influencers are real.
Real people with real lives and real stories and real experiences. In a world that is absolutely jam-packed with messages, it is the real voice that stands out. Finding that voice is not always easy.
For companies like R-Squared, it is our life’s work. We make connections. Not between brands and products and consumers and ROI and target audiences. Between people.
We find the real people, with the real stories. And then we let them tell their stories to the world. We do not tailor-make, we tailor source. We take your product, and we search out the people that actually connect with it. And that connect with others like them.
When a campaign is designed, executed and managed by experts, you go from a product endorsement to a life affiliation.
Budgeting for billions.
This is why influencer marketing is growing into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Pre-COVID estimates were that the influencer market would be worth over $10 billion in 2020. With the pandemic upon us, it was expected to slow down, but the opposite seems to be happening.
This time of isolation and increasing tension is showing us the real need for human-to-human connections. The bombardment of brand messages and unbelievable endorsements is coming to an end. Real people and real experiences are rising. Whether it’s a mom with a few hundred followers or a movie star with a million fans, people want genuine in a world filled with false promises and false hopes.
A personal connection.
Personally, I find this a very exciting time. A time of change and innovation for sure, but more a time of building humanity and building human connections – real human connections.
I have been at the helm of R-Squared for six years and have watched, and involved myself in, the growth of this incredibly exciting industry. I have seen it falter (see the entitled ones comment above) and I have seen it truly put the best of human empathy and emotion on display (see the switched-on celebs comment above).
As an agency shortlisted for Best Global Boutique Influencer Marketing Agency (holding thumbs for the awards in September), R-Squared is at the forefront of making influencer marketing an essential resource for brands and an authentic experience for people around the world.
Our mission is simple: keep it real.
Stephane is a 41-year-old Belgian citizen. He grew up in Brussels, lived in Switzerland, before moving to South Africa. Authentic conversations with real people inspire Stephane, an entrepreneur with more than 15 years’ leadership experience, utilising strategic foresight, analytical abilities, and trend spotting in diverse areas. He founded R-Squared Digital, a leading Influencer Marketing Agency that partners with some of the largest brands, media, and advertising agencies in South Africa and internationally.