Would the real social media influencer please stand up?

Here’s an idea: “take this product and send this to some online influencers and get them to tweet about it.” Yes, that is a common brief to an agency, and no, you should not simply go ahead and get that done. Unless you’re the Reserve Bank and your product is money, simply sending stuff to an influencer is unlikely to achieve the campaign success you had hoped for.

This type of brief makes me wonder who thinks of of these promotional items, and how well they researched the recipient? It’s becoming an all too familiar scene on the ‘socials’, scrolling down your Twitter feed and catching a glimpse of a generic ‘thanks brand X for Y gift’ followed by a customary Instagram of said item. People can smell an obligatory punt from a mile away. It’s not uncommon for my timeline to be filled with repetitive brand mentions. I see them, and move on. Nothing about that sort of tweet would get me to stop to consider the product being mentioned, or make me want to go out and purchase/buy/drive/taste it.

It’s rare for a mention like that to connect with anyone but the recipient which defeats the purpose. There have however been many times when I have stopped to read a post, purely because the nature of the mention evoked some emotion in me. Take a recent incident for example: a well-known blogger tweeted about his beloved dog falling ill and a few hours later Vodacom had sent him a care pack for his beloved pooch. Something about that made me go all, “aaw, shame” and so I became engaged in the story. Turns out his dog recovered and most likely the gesture brought a smile to more than a few faces.

You could say it’s because I’m a hardcore dog lover, and that’s why it evoked an emotional response from me, but I believe it’s such a great story because the owner, clearly a dog lover himself, received an appropriate gift that would not only resonate with him, but also make his sick pup feel better.

I’ve experienced a few incidents of brand love myself. One of the most applicable being a few years back; it was a slow Monday morning at the office, the coffee machine was broken and I was nodding off at my desk. I tweeted how my day could really use a caffeine kick and about 30 minutes later a hamper of assorted coffee arrived on my desk. Very clever, very smart and very quick.

It’s the same principle as the Nordstroms ‘urban legends’. If you haven’t heard why this company is known for its killer service – read here. The reason this super store has got such a great reputation around customer service is because each and every one of the stories sound too good to be true. Yet, they aren’t.

Most of us in the media and communication industry have at one time been guilty of the ‘spray and pray’ method, whether it’s sending out a mass press release or generic gift to many in the hopes of catching a few nibbles. I would like to challenge us to change this mass approach. Firstly, cater your gestures to the individual, and secondly, when next targeting a person, take into consideration a bit more than their Twitter followers or Klout score. Look at who they are as an individual; identify their hobbies, likes, dislikes and environment. I can guarantee that an average person who is active on the ‘socials’, yet who is obsessed with food, baking and blogging would be far better suited to receiving a ticket to a food show, than a digital ‘guru’ whose hobbies include music, fast cars and woman.

South African agencies have a tendency to continually target the same people over and over again. Take dried up soapie actors appearing on most TV shows, radio DJs hopping from one station to the other and 20 online influencers receiving every free gift under the sun. Unfortunately it’s a vicious cycle, which only serves to exacerbate the problem – if these people don’t tweet about it, they dot get free stuff, so they do and the gifts keep arriving. Why not invest some time, take a step back and identify a new range of people to target – people who have passions, dreams, desires and a voice. Just because someone doesn’t have thousands of followers on Twitter, doesn’t mean that they have no voice.

Often it’s these stories that spread faster and wider because they’re more genuine than a simple product drop to the usual suspects.

*First published on www.cerebra.co.za

Engage with your influencers as people, not prospects
Too True

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3 Comments

  1. Hear hear! I know this is an old post but your blog referenced it as a related post so I clicked through. So glad I did and nothing’s really changed since then. But you make a good point.

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