As social media continues to become more integrated into our daily lives, content creators large and small are in a race to capture fleeting attention spans and engage audiences. Among some of the winners so far are the likes of Netflix and Spotify on the behemoth end of the spectrum and influencers and eSports on the smaller end. Some brands are caught somewhere in the middle of the content race, many are not even in the race.
What’s been of most interest among the winners is how brands have tried to get in the race by way of influencers.
Today’s audience is extremely skeptical and they are really good at picking up on when a brand is not being completely honest, especially on social media. Influencers have mastered the ability of coming across as genuine and can therefore deliver brand messages in ways that advertisers can’t.
Influencers are known to only promote items that they truly believe in and their genuine enthusiasm will always shine through to their followers. More than 30% of consumers value the trustworthiness of an influencer over the number of followers someone might have.
Beyond authenticity, influencers have learnt quickly that the audience is looking to experience rather than just watch. Influencers are constantly striving to deeply understand their audience and listen to their need for content that they can relate to. They understand that engagement with their audience is a necessity and are using social media features to open that conversation with their audience.
Everlane’s Transparency Tuesday
Instagram polls is a feature that influencers are using to connect with their audience, making it a quick and easy way to understand and engage with the audience. This also benefits brands as a great way to gather valuable feedback from their consumers. The poll is not alone; understanding the potential in audience interactions, Instagram added more interactive features used heavily by influencers to engage their audience.
Another favorite is the ability to have your followers ask questions, to then be posted on the influencer’s story with their response. This opportunity for an improvised “ask me anything” is generating instant engagement and connection, adopted by brands like Everlane for their Transparency Tuesday Q&A on Instagram.
Other features encouraging audience interaction are the countdown, the slider scale, and even just the ability to send replies and emojii to every story slide. Stats say that one in five Instagram stories gets a direct message.
Influencers are adept at targeting specific online audiences and are able to adapt to a specific category, such as fashion, fitness or cooking. Influencers home in on specific industries and become experts, which makes it more likely that consumers will be drawn to that particular field.
This can be applied to the use of social media platforms: You won’t reach a younger consumer by using just one platform; the key is jumping between channels and understanding what each platform means to the consumer. Gen Zers tend to use Instagram for brand discovery, YouTube to research the products and Snapchat to share their shopping experiences.
New social media innovations are great tools that are focused on enhancing influencer campaigns. The most recent release from Instagram, the new native Checkout on Instagram, allows users to check out right from Instagram without ever leaving the app to a web browser. This is a huge advantage, as it cuts out the middle step and allows users to purchase on a platform which they inherently trust more than businesses they are not familiar with.
There are also reports that Instagram is working on improving their campaign options for influencers and brands by working on developing branded content ads. These ads will allow brands to sponsor posts that are created by influencers, then promoting them as they would their own posts or ads, and access all the performance data and analytics directly.
Interaction is the future
Instagram has recognized the need to make the platform more authentic and transparent in order to appeal to today’s consumers. It is not the only platform that has recognized the power of influencers and the need to adapt to the evolving consumption habits.
Pinterest has created many tools to elevate its influencer community and their ability to engage their audience. It extended its content marketing API to third-party influencer marketing partners. These partners now have direct access to statistics on profiles such as monthly views, impressions, click-through rates and saves for pins.
Pinterest also added the option to mark pins you tried, to encourage users to take the recipe or DIY content and actually try it in real life, then mark what they have already tested and add a photo of the result. What a great way to make online content more personalized, engaging and experiential.
Content that encourages active interaction is the future: that has become very clear to brands and media alike. While trends will come and go, audiences will likely continue to maintain a close relationship with digital influencers.
Whether an online influencer’s following is a thousand or a million, these online personalities make an immediate impact on this generation’s brand loyalty and purchasing decisions. Companies and the media need to embrace this approach; if not, audiences will ditch brands and platforms that don’t keep up.