The era of influence


THELOOKBOOK takes a look at the world of social media influencers, and how they are changing the game and helping us connect with brands big and small

Back in the day, brands were endorsed by artistas who would take the time to thank their sponsors during a “guesting” at a TV show. After a song or dance number, they would take the mic and rattle off the brand names of their clothes and shoes, along with whoever did their hair and makeup. Fervent fans would know which brand their idols are identified with.

As with many other things, social media has changed the game and leveled the playing field of sorts. Influence now not only comes from the big stars but also people who have amassed quite a following on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and yes, even that ephemeral Snapchat app.

Brands have found another platform to reach out to the market, with posts by celebrities and “ordinary” people. These “influencers” are seen as more relatable because followers can get a glimpse of everyday lives and hear their voices and opinions on social media. It is a millennial-led phenomenon, (and we have heard, a booming business) as more and more brands seek to tap tastemakers in order to promote their products. We talked to two online personalities and a social media manager who share their thoughts about how brands seek out influencers and how people can tell if they are the real deal.

Building trust
Irene Aserios, also known as The Mindanaoan, has been a blogger for 10 years, and she says she did not consciously pursue the path of being an online influencer.

“It just sort of evolved. I’m grateful to have gained regular readers and subscribers and they have wanted me to recommend certain services, products, destinations etc. So I did. Then certain brands took notice.”

She cannot name some of the brands she has worked with as an influencer due to non-disclosure agreements, but hints at a giant telecom company, an airline, a hotel booking website. What she can name is Islands Souvenirs.

“To be honest, I don’t want to be tagged as an influencer. I leave that PR term to brands,” avers Rod Magaru of the Push Award-winning The Rod Magaru Show. “Since I started blogging, I always aspired to be a storyteller, where I share my personal life, letting my followers know about the things that I personally like, and what brands I think are worth spending our hard-earned money on. In that way, I always want to be impartial and fair in all the posts that I share.”

Rod has worked with a lot of big brands such as Jollibee and Globe Telecom.

“Globe has been my blogging partner for years, and I like our relationship because it fits with what I had in mind when I started talking about brands. First, I have to believe in what they are offering to the public. Their approach to consumer relationship is very professional, and I like the way they value their influencers as partners, not just someone to post things about them.”

To this, Irene adds, “My rule of thumb is (to) work with brands that you actually use and like or end up using or liking. It can be risky to recommend something you haven’t really tried.”

How to be you po?
Brands reach out to them through several means.

“They usually either send me a message via my website’s contact form or via my social media pages. I also receive messages via websites and apps that bring brands and influencers together like Intellifluence, FameBit and Influenster,” Irene says.

“Initially, brands or PR will email and inquire if I am interested in the campaign they are working with. Interest should always be my utmost reason in accepting a campaign. I have to believe in the campaign first. It’s not all about money. Truth is, I can do a campaign for free, if I truly believe in its cause. That’s my social responsibility, I guess, as a blogger,” explains Rod.

AJ Sanchez, who works in Influencer and Media Relations Management, acts as a go-between between brands and these online personalities because he has built good relationships with both. He says he started out by doing his research on who to tap for a certain client.

“There are several things I look for when I am searching for the perfect people to tap for a campaign. First, I look for the right people to tap, the ones who can fit the brand. I can’t give a gasoline company a food blogger, for example. Then I check the engagement rate. It is not enough that they have many followers, because they can be bought these days. The same goes for “likes”. I look for comments on the feed because, so far, comments can’t be bought.”

She agrees that the number of followers is not enough as people are now more in tune with their digital surroundings and they’re more social media savvy.

“It’s easy to detect if someone really is an authentic influencer or not, just based on certain things like the ratio between the number of followers and the likes a post receives or if the influencer is caught using a fake photo or checking in a wrong location or if the influencer doesn’t really ‘live’ the lifestyle he or she tries to promote.”

Rod and Irene agree that with the leveled playing field that social media brings, anyone can be an influencer. Irene adds, “If you really think about it, technically, everyone can influence everyone else. When it comes to influencer marketing, however, not everyone is created equal. Influencers are individuals that truly have influence over potential customers and can really prompt them to buy or at least entertain the idea or possibilities concerning a product/brand.”

For his part, Rod says, “I think anyone can be an influencer but not everyone can drive after sales. To be influential, you must have a good reputation about the things you decide to promote. Plus, interaction is important too. Your readers must engage with what you share and it’s not just about good photos.”

With great power comes great responsibility
Ethics comes into play too, Irene emphasizes. “Because of demand, the influencers’ rates may only continue to increase and there’s a possibility that the brand would just help cultivate a pay-to-play advertising model but with unclear ROI results. Unless they can really count on the influencers to actually use/live/embody the brand — and hopefully not post about a direct competitor — there can be a risk of brand devalue.”

It even goes beyond, to how they actually use their voice even in things that don’t concern brand marketing, she says.

“In my humble opinion, anybody who incites hate, bigotry, racism or cyberbullying isn’t worth following. If an influencer does something good without the need for too much fanfare or publicity, then he or she is worth following. An influencer should also know how to use social media for social good and freely and willingly help uplift the digital community.”

The big shift
Rod has been blogging for eight years and says he has seen the shift from traditional marketing to multimedia.

“I understand that brands evolve in reaching their target market. While I believe print delivers well, the audience tends to shift to more accessible platforms. Influencers now become the key players in conveying brand recall. Online presence became the game changer. Brands love to partner with influencers because contracting with them is now timely, personal and relatable, which consumers prefer nowadays.”

There is an advantage with microinfluencers that big celebreity names don’t have, analyzes Irene. “They sometimes command better engagement and have more relatable content. I feel this is because microinfluencers’ numbers are way smaller than compared to a celebrity’s so they exert extra effort in the content they produce. They produce more compelling stories in a more authentic voice. They are more passionate, more personally invested in their craft.”

This is seen even in the West, as she is currently based in New York to study social media marketing. She discloses, “I have met New York bloggers who tell me that they do not attend events unless they’re sure to receive cash and products. Lots of people also passionately follow certain influencers (or tastemakers) and brands acknowledge that they have truly changed the game.”

The next step, AJ says, is “vlogging” or video blogging. “As we know, people have become more visual and lazier to read. Video gives them a platform to see immediate and authentic reactions to products or experiences. You can actually watch the content producer try the product out and that gives it has a higher impact.”


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