A few days ago, I attended an excellent Digital Summit organised by Kantar, the data and insights consulting company. It was a well curated event, full of relevant new information and insights about the digital marketing world. A wide range of topics was covered, including trends in digital media, creating superlative content and the sources of future growth in digital India.
Role of influencers
One of the topics that stood out for me was the role of influencers in digital marketing. A speaker pointed out that each digitally connected person today follows an average of seven and half influencers. The data points that followed were even more powerful.
A Kantar Global issues barometer study showed that, Indians are very receptive to influencers. For instance, 50 per cent of all Indian consumers surveyed say that they seek ideas and advice from influencers on social media.
Influencer content also appears to add the most to the equity of advertisements, compared to other digital formats, as per a Kantar media reaction study.
Influencer content is less powerful at creating awareness compared to other digital formats. However, it works better at enhancing lower funnel metrics such as purchase intent, which are critical to all consumer products and particularly to established brands which are seeking to deliver that final nudge to action. This finding was based on an evaluation done by Kantar, of more than 20 influencer campaigns in India over the past two years.
All this points to a single direction — influencers are very influential in today’s world of digital marketing. Why do influencers do so well? Here are a few reasons:
Many of the best influencers stay close to their areas of expertise. For instance, an automobile influencer who blogs about cars and SUVs is unlikely to veer away into talking about jewellery or cosmetics. This enhances the credibility of influencers, because consumers see them as experts in their respective fields. This is also totally unlike Bollywood or sports celebrities, who are happy to endorse a wide and diverse range of categories in advertisements. Hence, these celebrities are not necessarily seen as credible experts for the products that they promote.
Many influencers are much like the boy or girl next door, but with an aspirational halo. Hence, consumers relate easily to the situations they portray, the homes in which they live, the garments they wear, the language they speak. At the same time, consumers also see them as having a touch of celebrity status. Compare this with advertisements that use picture-perfect models or mega celebrities who look and feel so distant and unattainable. Clearly, influencers will have the edge in persuading consumers, because the combination of their high relatability and “touch of aspiration” leads to resonance and there on to persuasion and purchase.
Social media influencers are in regular touch with their large follower base through frequent posts and two-way dialogue. They build and carefully nurture their community by responding to readers’ comments, engaging in conversations and being topical in their observations. Therefore, influencers have an excellent pulse of what works best with their respective communities. This instinctive sense, honed by constant connect, can lead to powerful and sometimes even viral content that their followers simply love. What more can brands ask for?
Influencers inject amazing creativity into their content. Thousands of influencers bring to their viewers million shades of entertainment and relevant information through engaging formats that include earthy humour, dance and music. Consumers are lapping this up. In fact, this sort of spontaneous influencer creativity is seen as a refreshing change compared to the advertising content put out by professional agencies. Also, influencers are excellent storytellers, using a style of narration which is authentic to their own personalities.
Indians appear to be far more trusting of social media sites and influencers than people in other parts of the world. Studies have shown that over 50 per cent of Indians turn to social media when looking for factual information. Hence, we also naturally tend to trust social media influencers, who are the best known spokespersons of this digital world.
For all these reasons, influencers will continue to have an outsized influence on the world of digital marketing in India.
(Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views.)