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Social media isn’t so much about Twitter followers or Facebook likes. It’s more about a brand getting the correct message across. MURRAY LEGG gives some tips on how to make social media work for a company.

The power of influence is about as nebulous as the impact of social media. While we agree both exist, we cannot really control the extent to which one person influences another, and we cannot absolutely guarantee that a single tweet or a Facebook post becomes a conversation.

Still, local companies believe in using social media to influence their customers. In South Africa alone, 93% of major brands communicate via Facebook, 79% use Twitter, 58% are on YouTube, 46% have a presence on LinkedIn and 28% on Pinterest, says World Wide Worx.

These figures aren’t surprising, there are many great case studies from all over the world reporting marketing campaign successes that are directly attributable to use of social media. Consumers, however, are spending longer online to research their purchases, and branded content is fighting for a share of voice in front of a customer in the online space, as much as it does instore.

The opportunity for endorsement and fair discussion from credible independent influencers has become the new battleground for brands to win favour with specific audiences, and lead to a new dawning of “influencer marketing.

The combination of influencer endorsement and messaging from brands using their own social media channels have led to some great case studies in these brands achieving tangible, real-life, offline results. Some of my favourite case studies do not just report numbers of ‚Äòlikes’ or ‚Äòfollowers’ or ‚Äòviews’, they boast about cars pre-ordered and getting shoppers in store.

These brands have learnt that influence correctly harnessed results in tangible, real-life sales. And, they know that working with genuine, credible influencers who live, talk, work, argue, complain, play, and share on social media’s various platforms is what delivers the return on investment marketers strive for.

The extent to which any influencer – blogger, Twitter celeb, Instagrammer or YouTuber – has the potential to spread a marketing message comes down to a variety of factors. I want to talk about two of these:

Identify the right place to seed the message

To determine which influencers are appropriate to your campaign, start by looking at the numbers – how many influencers can you name off-hand, how many followers do they have, how regularly and how frequently do they interact with their audience, how many of their followers are living, breathing, engaged people?

Qualified influencers on Webfluential, for example, must have a minimum of 1,000 verified followers on at least one social platform. Filtering the bots and bought followers, to provide auditable data is core to our service.

So, our 1,200 qualified influencers have the potential to reach a combined 5.5 million blog readers, 13.4 million Twitter users, 3.4 million Instagrammers, and 300 000 YouTube subscribers. That is a lot of consumers, whether they view content or posts in real time, or scan history at a later date.

And, they hail from 26 countries around Africa, which means it is likely that there are more qualified influencers in more cities your brand is targeting than you may have realised.

This potential reach is not yet the campaign reach you may achieve targeting these influencers, which brings me to my next point.

Drive the impact of your message

I need to stress the importance of matching your brand essence or product offering to the interests, habits and passions of your influencers, and in turn to their audiences – your target consumers. Spreading a campaign message across a wide audience will have high impact if there is a follow through in messaging resonance and relevance, achieved through social engagement from the brand’s social channels.

Using Webfluential to filter influencers’ interests is a great way to start the research process, as it narrows down a large pool of influencers to a selection likely to participate in your campaign and be aligned to your target audience.

This is likely part of your agency’s mandate if you have one, but either way, it’s a good idea for marketers to familiarise themselves with the influencers who may play a role in communicating the essence of your campaign to their audience.

Whoever does the work, the information you’re looking for is how frequently your area of interest is covered, and in how much depth. Does your influencer work with brands? Do they maintain a sense of editorial integrity you’re comfortable with? Does their writing style match your brand voice? Will they be appropriate brand ambassadors?

Get answers to all these questions, and you are likely to have a happy working relationship with your chosen influencers, and a campaign that delivers the results you want.

To recap, a successful marketing campaign driven by social media is given higher levels of authenticity by integrating legitimate, credible influencers who talk with meaningful numbers of your target consumers.

Identifying these influencers requires interrogation of their reach, and research into their style, interests, degree of engagement and so on to ensure that they offer appropriate impact within your chosen audience.

* Murray Legg, co-owner of Retroviral and Webfluential

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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