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Insight: Ensuring authenticity in influencer marketing, according to INCA’s Arthur Altounian

27 July 2021

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Staying indoors for prolonged periods after COVID-19 has hit Southeast Asia has led to a dramatic digitization wave in the region—as households turn to the internet for work, play, and shopping. 

This also means a rise in new habits—e-commerce and video gaming experienced record highs—and new social media platforms such as TikTok surged in popularity. “As our digital activity changes, so do platforms’ features and algorithms. The pandemic has accelerated e-commerce, live streaming, gaming, digital interactions, as well as given rise to new social trends such as audio, as evidenced by the invention of Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, and Facebook’s new audio feature called ‘soundbites’,” Arthur Altounian, APAC Client Development Director at INCA explains.

While staying safe and healthy from the coronavirus remains top priority for consumers, the growing sentiment of quarantine fatigue is taking its toll on users as daily interactions start to take on a monotonous turn. So where do brands fit in the picture? 

It is absolutely essential for brands to remain as a force for good and solidarity during these times and in doing so, leveraging the opportunity of reaching hyper-engaged audiences in an instant. “There is more opportunity than ever for brands to appear in front of audiences who are indoors, resulting in new marketing and content opportunities for brands to explore,” Arthur shares.

But when all brands are competing within the same digital space, how can brands stand out? They may find the answer in tapping influencers to create rich, authentic content that ties in with their business objectives. The influencer marketing industry in SEA continues to thrive, valued at $638 million in 2019. “Influencer marketing has become a juggernaut regionally, as it enables brands to organically engage with their target audiences, drive attention, and build trust, via individuals who have cultivated a certain level of influence online”, Arthur mentions, adding, “Hence, despite the disruption it has on global businesses, the pandemic has also spurred new opportunities, especially as social media and mobile usage continue to skyrocket, and influencers will remain a very relevant marketing asset for brands.”

With COVID-19 heavily impacting businesses, brands who want to stay afloat may want to get creative in driving figures – but how can marketers ensure that they are working with the right influencers for their business?

Overall, influencer marketing remains a critical channel for brands to reach audiences in a very authentic and creative way, delivering significant ROI and a complementary solution to media, creative and PR activities. But the rapid rise in influencers has also seen a trail of controversies where brands have called out fraudulent practices, such as artificially inflating followers and engagement to secure higher rates or free products.

Arthur speaks with adobo Magazine on how brands can effectively ensure fruitful collaborations with influencers, and how they can weed out fraudulent practices to connect with authentic creators that are most relevant to their brands.

How should brands measure the effectiveness of influencers today? What makes a good influencer?

While the quantitative KPIs such as likes, shares and views can be easily tracked and analyzed, understanding the overall ROI of influencer marketing campaigns may also require delving into the qualitative data.

But going beyond that, the reality is that whenever brands partner with an influencer, they are paying for access to their audience. Therefore, it is the followers that will determine the results of the campaign, not the influencer.

Information such as their follower’s age, location, and engagement will either make or break the success of campaigns. For example, if an influencer has an audience that skews to an age group that does not match the brand’s target audience, the campaign will not see effective results even if the influencer has a large following.

Yet, the quality of the followers should not be an excuse to overlook the influencer’s credentials, niche, as well as their overall brand image. These need to be vetted carefully to ensure brand safety.

What are the most important ROI metrics brands should look out for in gauging their influencer campaigns?

Running an influencer campaign can be a trial-and-error process. It is highly essential that brands clearly define their business goals to understand which ROI metrics are the most important for them.

After defining what success looks like, brands will have an easier time ideating and executing the right content that will get them there. Brands will also be able to easily identify relevant creators or influencers, leverage on their creativity to deliver a campaign that will truly relate to people.

Is it enough to measure insights on each social platform’s analytics page? (ex. Facebook analytics, Instagram analytics) Are there gaps or loopholes that marketers are prone to falling for when relying on these in-platform analytics alone?

While the social platform’s analytics page is a good source of insights, independent platforms and tools can provide complementary insights to facilitate decision-making.

Additionally, there are several insights that cannot be obtained from an analytics page. For example, brand requirements, cultural sensitivity, trust and creativity. Therefore, direct connection with KOLs remains vital.

INCA takes measurement further than just tracking social metrics, with the capability to measure traffic and link to sales and contribute to attribution modeling.

Just how prevalent is fraud in the influencer industry today?

A 2019 global study by HypeAuditor on behalf of A Good Company found that there are approximately 58 million fake users in APAC, with India and Indonesia constituting the largest segment. INCA also estimates that 15% of all influencer ad spend is consumed by fraudulent activities. 

Fraud within influencer marketing is not new, and its prevalence in the region has created concerns around brand safety. This is pushing advertisers to identify better methods to mitigate the risks of working with content creators effectively.  For example, it is paramount for brands to do their due diligence prior contracting with influencers, ensuring clear requirements, deliverables, considerations, as well as the do’s and don’ts.

INCA addresses five main gaps in the current influencer marketing landscape, namely:

  • Identifying the most suitable talents for their campaigns through data, insights and experience.
  • Vital information to help brands make informed decisions, such as market landscape, competitors activities, trending ideas and content that resonates with the brand’s target audience. 
  • Influencer and content activation – the heavy lifting of day-to-day content production, logistics, contracting, payment.
  • Optimization and distribution services to expand reach and engagement beyond the influencer campaign for both paid media and paid social 
  • Measurable and tangible insights to help them understand how they performed and how the campaign can improve. 

INCA works with brands by advising on putting the right metrics in place to identify the right talent. INCAtech, our proprietary AI platform, connects brands with creators through data and AI while helping their campaign planners make the most informed decisions at every stage of the whole influencer marketing process. 

We first help brands identify creators, be it publishers, influencers, celebrities, or organizations producing and distributing impactful, safe, and relevant content. 

Through web crawling and APIs, we gather content and creator data. In that way, we can match creators to brands, provide social listening and competitor, brand and communication strategy insights, and highlight the most relevant creator and content type that will best resonate with the target audience.

While many other platforms tend to focus on influencers from one channel (such as Instagram) we have integrated most social and web channels in our platform. We believe that relevant influencers can be found across various channels, and they all play a critical role in delivering a brand’s messages.

INCA’s platform addresses some of the issues from traditional influencer marketing practices, such as purchasing followers that are bot accounts, or ‘engagement pods’, where groups of influencers conspire to interact regularly on each other’s posts. 

AI-driven solutions are helping advertisers verify the authenticity, credibility and suitability of influencers for brands and address influencer fraud. INCA’s proprietary platform INCAtech uses data to inform every decision along the way, including assessing an influencer’s profile, content, authentic followers, engagement, competitors, audience sentiment, and audience demographics. 

These technologies have automated key indicators of influence to enable brands to feel more confident in their partnerships. 

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