To influence or not to influence?

Over the years, social media has become one of the most important sources of information to consumers. According to Statista, in 2017, people spent more than 135 minutes a day on social media, more 65 minutes than in 2012. In fact, over one third of internet daily activities consist in social networking. With the increasing popularity of social media, consumers are induced to share their opinion with others and to look for others opinions’ as well.

Callie Morgan on Unsplash

Social Media Influencers, credited as Internet’s trusted opinion leaders by their followers, started their online presence as a hobby or an escape of their quotidian life, until it became their job. With the increasing recognition of Influencer’s importance by brands, they are pushed directly by marketing departments to advertise their products by sending them gifts, inviting them to events or by partnering with them. Hence, the question that arises is:

“With the increasing number of sponsor content, how do Influencers maintain a transparency relation with their followers?”

Accept Partnerships

The first and most important step is the acceptance of partnerships as it represents the foundation of the subsequent steps of the relationship with their followers. In order to accept or not a partnership, influencers consider various criteria, such as brand’s values, personality reflection, other people who have already worked with the brand, and compensation, among others. The consistency of their trait is also taken into account when deciding. Plus, the creation of trustworthy content is based on a prudent selection of brands to work with.

Product Experience

Influencers’ experience with a product influences the communication with their followers. Aiming to reduce the risk when choosing, consumers prepare by gathering information about the products or services they intend to buy. What once was done by looking “over the fence”, asking a friend for example, now it’s done by looking at a screen, more specifically looking at a social media feed. Therefore, influencers aim to replicate their own experience with the product to their audience, from purchasing the product to using them. For an efficient communication, they use various communication strategies, like comparisons and analogies. Product Experience and communications efforts work hand-in-hand to provide a realistic product experience story representative of the reality.

Interaction with followers

Thirdly, the interaction with their followers allows the Influencer to understand their audience and what they look for on an online channel. Besides their opinion leader status, Social Media Influencers are considered approachable and available to answer followers’ questions, creating friendships through screens with their followers.

Social media influencers walk the two-way street. On one hand, they are common people and their opinion derives from their product experience as any other consumer. But, on the other hand, they receive benefits for publicizing specific products. So, influencers must maintain a balance between sponsored and organic content to sustain a transparent relationship with their followers.

Ana Carolina Castro

Ana Carolina Castro is a Nova SBE alumnus who has recently graduated from the Masters in Management. Her domain of interest is digital business, namely the way digital affects the way people consume, relate with each other and work. Before her masters, she has worked in the HR department of the biggest Portuguese retail group. She is currently working as an analyst in consulting at Deloitte Portugal.