Emily Stonham
7th December 2018 - 5 mins read
T

his used to be the best way to use influencer marketing in business. Looking to sell a new perfume? Find out who your target audience is, figure out who’s on the posters on their bedroom wall and there’s your answer. And there’s nothing wrong with this, per se. Celebrity endorsements do still work, specifically for brands and luxury goods on social media.

But there’s a fairly new form of endorsement sneakily taking over the marketing and advertising industries: micro-influencers. Using these influencers is becoming more and more common as modern brands see the value of scaling down their campaigns to reach a more targeted audience.

Firstly, what exactly is a micro-influencer? Tribe (a popular platform which connects influencers to brands) defines micro-influencers as ‘everyday people with a decent following’ who post about specific niche interests and passions. ‘Micro’ is fairly subjective, but in terms of social media it usually revolves around having a few thousand followers who interact with your content regularly.

This is a great way of summing it up, as one of the main advantages of micro-influencers is that they’re just normal people who’ve done well for themselves online.

One of the reasons that celebrity endorsements sometimes don’t do as well in modern society is because consumers are now aware of how polished and honed a celebrity appearance online is. Sure, they might be raving about how much they love that new sweatshirt, but they’ve probably been given it for free on a PR list and had six people work on the social media post before posting. It looks great, but it just isn’t authentic.

Most modern consumers want authenticity - specifically younger consumers, for whom this form of marketing is so relevant. Despite the media raving about how younger generations are addicted to social media and celebrities, many are actually turning away from a digital-focused life. The pressures of keeping up a perfect appearance online and trying to live like idols can have a huge impact on mental health and well-being.

Thus, highly polished celebrity endorsements just don’t have the same impact that they did 10 years ago. There seems to be a rising lack of trust in big brands and celebrities, which is affecting the way consumers behave. Just Google a brand name with ‘conspiracy theory’ or ‘scam’ behind it. There’ll probably be someone who’s convinced that the brand works for the Illuminati. And who’s to say they don’t?

In all seriousness, marketers need to be aware of this shift in attitude, especially if they’re targeting younger audiences. Micro-influencers are the perfect way to promote products and communicate with an audience, without losing their interest and trust. This may not seem like the best marketing strategy if you’re a large brand, but like I said earlier, there’s a lot of large brands using micro-influencers to their advantage.

One key example of micro-influencers being used is ASOS’s insiders. The ‘insiders’ are a team of fashion influencers who use their personal social accounts to promote ASOS content and engage with their audience. This particular influencer marketing scheme is famous in the industry as it’s incredibly successful.

The influencers all have unique styles, ranging from 90s tomboy chic to over-sized LA vintage. There’s something for everyone, and it’s clear that these are all styles that the influencers are genuinely passionate about. Therefore, it’s easy for consumers to relate to these people and feel more invested in their lives.

Obviously, these influencers now have large followings, but they all started out as just regular folk posting on Instagram. They’re now present across multiple platforms and constantly growing their audience. The appeal is how normal these people are. Who would you rather listen to for a review? A multi-millionaire celebrity or someone who you’d probably bump into in your favourite store?

Another great user of micro-influencers is Glossier. The company has a great online presence, particularly on Instagram. There are two elements that it’s aced for influencer marketing: fashion micro-influencers and niche memers.

Firstly, it uses a lot of user-generated content and micro-influencers to promote its products. It recently launched a referral program to reward its most loyal and influential fans online, which is boosting its profile even further.

Glossier creator Emily Weiss said recently in an interview that something that motivated her team was the idea of ‘every woman being an influencer’. This can be seen on its Instagram where it frequently reposts and celebrates its followers who promote its products. The overlap between micro-influencers and user-generated content is growing, and it has created nothing but positivity for Glossier.

It has also cracked the niche meme market well, which is notorious for the number of micro-influencers it’s created. Niche memes are a unique style of online content, specifically found on Instagram, which are very personal and visual posts. They’re often in the style of mood boards or aesthetic posts, but they originally started as more of a scrapbook/visual diary-styled post for people to express themselves and talk about sensitive topics online.

The fact that these niche memes are so personal means that people often post about their favourite brands and shops, and this is where micro-influencers come in. Glossier has collaborated with a number of moodboard/niche meme accounts and given them discount codes to promote to their followers.

This was a great move on Glossier’s part, as niche meme followers are normally incredibly invested in the pages that they follow and trust the owner’s opinions much more than they’d trust a celebrity. A lot of brands have done this, but few have achieved the success rates and status that Glossier gained from this marketing move.

So, what does this mean for your business?

If you’re considering using influencers, it’s worth looking into micro-influencers. Take some time to research what pages are relatively popular on your chosen platform, or look into influencer platforms like Tribe or AspireIQ. Using a smaller but more targeted page can often lead to better results and a more positive reaction from your audience.

If you’re set on using a celebrity or someone with a huge following, think about the authenticity of your message. Would that person’s audience really like what you’re asking them to promote? If not, your brand is going to seem fake and untrustworthy. Try chatting with them for a while to find out more about their audience and previous sponsored content, to get a better feel for how you could work with them.

On a broader level, think about the authenticity of your brand’s advertising and marketing campaigns. Consider whether your audience is going to actually like your product and your message, or whether you’re just trying to reach as many people as possible. Modern consumers are intelligent, and they can spot a fake review or endorsement a mile away.

 

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Marketing

The value and risk of communicating your sustainable story

Tom Idle 19th February 2018 — 5 mins read
T

his was Baptista’s revenge protest against a betting industry he claims regularly exploits people like him—those that have lost thousands of pounds betting on FOBTs and are encouraged to keep doing so, regardless of the consequences.

His actions, while destructive and illegal, garnered a wealth of sympathy across the media, raising serious ethical questions about the validity of FOBTs in high street betting shops. A lunchtime flutter on the horses has become legend across the generations. But offering the option of pouring hundreds of pounds into an algorithm- controlled giant computer is a relatively new phenomenon—and one that has raised concerns, particularly among local councillors and MPs. They continually face questions as to the social benefits (or otherwise) of betting shops popping up on every high street across the UK, especially when two million people are said to be addicted to gambling or at risk of developing a problem.

Of course, it is a narrative of which the gambling industry is only too aware. Being a socially (and environmentally) responsible business that plays a useful role for people and the communities in which they live, is front of mind for many CEOs—even those running companies in a sector constantly battling claims it is devoid of any positive social value whatsoever.

For those of you still unsure about whether it's worth ‘doing sustainability’ (largely defined as investing in measures to ensure your organisation is fit, proper and able to stay competitive for the long-term), you can stop it right now. More and more evidence suggests that those companies proactively looking for ways to make sure they are viable and attractive entities 50 years from now are already reaping the benefits. Just look at the consumer goods giant Unilever.

When addressing shareholder meetings, the softly spoken boss Paul Polman sounds more like Bono than a CEO, opting for soliloquies on global warming rather than detailed analysis of quarterly financial returns.

For the past six years the business has been building what it calls ‘Sustainable Living’ (SL) brands, such as Lifebuoy, Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Hellmann’s—businesses with a social or environmental purpose strongly attached to their operations or customers. For example, the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s exists to “make and sell the finest quality ice cream” all the while sourcing natural ingredients and making sure its operations have zero negative impact on the planet.

All of the company’s brands are said to be focused on reducing their environmental footprint and boosting their positive social impact. Those that are furthest ahead are tagged as ‘SL brands’ and, collectively, they grew over 50 per cent faster than the rest of the business last year, delivering more than 60 per cent of Unilever’s growth. “Our results show that sustainability is good for business,” says Polman, pointing to a spurring of innovation, strengthened supply chains and reduced costs.

The telecoms business BT is another good example. It has spent plenty of energy and resources in recent years making sure its product and service offering can help its business customers be more responsible and efficient too. As part of its 3:1 goal, BT's consumer operations and products that contribute to carbon savings now represent 22 per cent of annual revenues and are worth more than £5 billion.

Waking up to the realisation that customers, of all shapes and sizes, care about what it is their favourite brands are doing to create a better world, or not, companies should know that CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility—or whatever you want to call it) is increasingly valuable.

And that’s largely because the next generation of consumers and customers want to know why companies exist, how they operate and whether their core business is having a negative impact on people and planet. A new study by Cone Communications reveals that 87 per cent of consumers say they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, while more than 75 per cent say they would boycott a product or company if the brand supported an issue contrary to their ethics and values.

It is a trend only likely to grow with Millennials and the Gen Z putting their money where their mouths are, purposefully backing more socially responsible brands over any others. Even if they don’t care about issues like climate change, pressured by peers on social media, they know they ought to so are more easily swayed to ‘do the right thing’.

So, if CSR has real value, why aren’t more companies talking about the good, positive things they are doing?

A lack of confidence and an absence of good, simple storytelling lies at the heart of the lacklustre response by all but a handful of progressive businesses. Ultimately, customers want their relationships with brands to possess the very same qualities they value in their personal relationships: Trust, empathy, respect, openness.

But in a corporate world defined by quarterly growth stats, companies blindly believe that acting more human will destroy any chance of economic success—a view that flies in the face of a growing mountain of evidence.

Maybe it’s too early for the likes of William Hill and Ladbrokes to gamble on ripping out their valuable FOBTs, a move that would stake a claim to the moral high ground.

But what might the future CSR payback look like among a consumer base keen to defend and support companies that take an ethical stand? Might we see gamblers flock in unison to any betting shop willing to gamble on first mover advantage in positively responding to Baptista’s argument that they in fact may be destroying the lives of society’s most vulnerable.

In a world of continued divestment from companies unwilling to accept and respond to environmental and social risks, the corporate world can no longer bury its head in the sand.

Instead, it must rise in response to the big challenges the world faces—from poverty and human rights abuse, to global warming and water scarcity. To avoid being left behind forever, companies must change their course. But in doing so they must engage their customers effectively—a task that demands transparency, accountability, honesty and, above all else, fantastic communication and storytelling to bring them along for the ride.



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Mark Mars
3rd October 2017 - 5 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

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