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Influence takeover

A serious company is looking to launch a new product, service or campaign. Gone are the days when, alongside a few stakeholders, it will mainly invite the press to cover and broadcast the news to the masses. It’s the age of the influencer, writes MANUEL NTOYAI

Walk into any launch event these days and you’re likely to spot celebrities; in the orthodox sense and social media ones. Companies are ever looking into new ways of being head and shoulder above the rest through different marketing strategies. In the eyes of brand marketers, so-called influencers are likely the most important when it comes to reaching audiences. Influencer marketing is where focus is directed at prominent individuals as opposed to the target market in its entirety. These are people identified as having influence over potential customers.

With technology evolving, adopting new strategies has proven inevitable, if one is to remain on top of the game. Influencers, whose platforms largely exist online, offer the advantage of tracking reach, and efforts to step up a brand’s engagement with the masses have seen the likes of sportsmen, media personalities and other celebrities endorse products, leveraging on their social influence.

Also, the growing millennial market that spends most of their time on mobile phones, has spurred the birth of social networks celebs or micro influencers, who are also brought on board to drive conversations in smaller crowds, as brands look to elevate user experience by the day. Micro influencers understand their audience, and have a direct, personal connection with them. Account executives for various agencies that run public and media relations companies turned to this new found gold mine, and terms such as hashtags, tweets, impressions, trends and reach are a key feature when pitching for business.

FACTORS

So, what are some of the things clients look out for when searching for influencers? “They consider various factors depending on the campaign. For example, if it is a lifestyle product, they will definitely look at someone who knows about fashion, styling, and is full of life in the society pages and the likes.

If it’s a sports campaign, they will look at someone who has a huge following plus sporting attributes that can appeal to that market,” says Kevin Ogola, Account Executive, PR & Influence at Ogilvy. “They look at social media following. What are your numbers on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other popular platforms? Do you appeal to their target market? Can you make someone try a product or embark on a campaign you are pushing for?” he adds.

They also look at image. There have been instances where some influencers have lost their contracts with clients. At times, they are caught up in their own scandals and firms are discouraged by the negative vibe extending to the brand. “Corporates look at public appeal.

Are you someone with a positive image in the public domain? Are you linked to any saga? Is the individual a reflection of the product or campaign? All these considerations are important to companies as they seek to promote their brands or products,” elucidates Kevin. This explains why certain personalities, especially socialites, have huge followings on social platforms but rarely get influencer jobs and endorsement deals.

When it comes to payment, like any other deal, the terms and deliverables are agreed upon. The higher you are paid, the more you have to do. The amount runs the spectrum from handsome cash to quick fix bucks. Chatter among KOT (Kenyans on Twitter) has time and gain featured the ‘527 gang’ – tweeps with large followings who are allegedly paid Sh500 (plus Sh27 M-Pesa withdrawal fee) to make products or people trend.

Apparently, they are picked by a lead who has direct links to the client and are put in a WhatsApp group where they get briefs then proceed to share the same on their own timelines and post as if they are at an event. “When I started doing this business, we were paid as little as Sh500 or at times, we are given meal vouchers and ‘a chance to interact and network’ with the high profile people attending an event,” Festus Mutuku, whose handle on Twitter is @_Mutuku told PD Wikendi. He has 42,000 plus followers. Depending on the amount, clients normally ask for a certain number of tweets or engagements per post. Some of the better paying jobs reportedly come from Safaricom, DsTV, Coca Cola and Trust Condoms.

LEGACY MEDIA

Higher level contracts will even include a fully paid trip on top of blogging and posting on social media about it. Photographer Trevor Maingi, known as The Mentalyst on social media, as well as popular tweep Brian Mbunde, are some of the influencers whose services were enlisted by Airbnb when the international accommodation firm was seeking to grow locally. Legacy media meanwhile, seemingly continues to play second fiddle to many brands. In a recent incident, PD applied to cover the first TEDx event to ever be held at a refugee camp, which was headlined by popular Somali-American model Halima Aden.

However, we were dropped at the last minute, with the organisers indicating that ‘there were no longer spaces available’ to transport us to the venue in Kakuma, Nothern Kenya, only for us to see media personalities with huge followings on social media such as Julie Gichuru and Jeff Koinange post about attending the function. Similarly, some two years ago, during the YouTube Awards held in South Africa, journalists jetted into the country on Friday for the event slated for Saturday, and were flown out immediately after on Sunday. Meanwhile, influencers such as Chef Raphael, who has considerable clout on Facebook, had been in the country for the whole week and some days, touring around and posting about it.

BAD PRACTICE

On the other hand, the lucrative opportunities the trade seems to promise have also encouraged some less than desirable behaviour, with the legitimacy of some influencers coming into question. Being a game of numbers – impressions, reach, and similar metrics – some ‘influencers’ have been found to posses fake followers. Earlier in the year, Unilever led the war against fake followers and bots. Its chief marketing and communications officer, Keith Weed, said the transnational consumer goods company will not be working with influencers with fake followers, stating that the firm will also work with influencers who make an effort to “increase transparency and help eradicate bad practices throughout the whole ecosystem”.

A few months later, Twitter launched the famous purge, that saw celebrities and public figures lose a grand number of followers. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto were not spared either. Controversial blogger Cyprian Nyakundi saw his followers shrink from 1.2 million to 694,000. “We will remove these locked accounts from follower counts across profiles globally. As a result, the number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down,” Twitter said in a blog post.

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