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A degree of influence

Instagram has recently trialled a scheme whereby it conceals the number of ‘likes’ on any given post.

As you can imagine, there has been outrage. Those of a fake tan disposition have taken to social media, ironically, to lament the blood, sweat, and tears they pour into their oh-so-perfect posts. 

Director of policy for Facebook Australia and New Zealand, where the move is being trialled, Mia Garlick, said the change was made with the intention of freeing Instagram users from judgment and helping people to focus “less on likes and more on telling their story”.

The move will dramatically change the commercial, and cultural, landscape of the social media platform, but does it really matter that Instagram is doing away with ‘likes’? After all, surely it’s the quality of content rather than the quantity of ‘likes’?

But what is an influencer, and can they really be effective in the B2B world? To find out, I spoke to Miguel Neves, a social strategist for events professionals. “Everyone is an influencer or has the potential to be one,” he says. “This is true for B2C and B2B, although B2B does not have the general appeal and viral potential. When we talk about influencers we're really talking about people with an engaged following on social media that have the ability to influence purchasing decisions among their followers. Influencers productise their followers and offer brands creative ways to partner that benefits the brand.”

In what way can influencer marketing be used in the events world? “Influencers can be used to influence destination and venue selection and also potentially to sell event registrations,” Neves adds.

“Most of the current creative output focuses on fam-trip reporting in Twitter or Instagram posts and videos (mainly on YouTube). With the structures already in place for fam-trips prepared for press and buyers, it makes sense to focus on these ‘camera-ready’ occasions. There is also a growing trend for inviting influencers to actual events so that they create a report on social media.” 

A law was passed earlier in 2019 that meant that those being paid to post on social media had to identify, clearly, that it was a sponsored post. I ask Neves how he sees the influencer trend developing. He says: “These are the early days of influencer marketing in the events industry. The rules are not always clear, but most influencers are now openly divulging any financial agreements with suppliers, usually by adding ‘#ad’ to their posts. 

 

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“While many industry stakeholders remain sceptical, influencer marketing makes a lot of sense to me. Many companies, venues and CVBs have low engagement across their social media profiles, yet they   consider social channels as an important marketing tool. Partnering with influencers and having their product showcased to an engaged and relevant audience is an efficient way to get industry attention from industry stakeholders, including buyers. 

“It's not a replacement for developing an engaging presence on social media, one that promotes personal connections and one-on-one conversations, but it is a good complement and it can definitely boost their own social media presence.”

To learn more about how influencer marketing works in the B2B world of events in practical terms, I spoke to Mariska Kesteloo, founder of Word of Mice and former president of MPI Belgium.

“You must first assess the client’s needs and plans, and above all understand the target audience,” says Kesteloo.

“Using influencer marketing is often underestimated by brands. You cannot just use it on its own. It requires you to be active across social media. Companies are interested in using influencer marketing, but most are not ready. And certainly not every company will have the capacity. Influencer marketing needs to be a long-term strategic choice to align with your other marketing activities, online and offline.”

Offline? This is where the need for Instagram ‘likes’ seems less of an issues. Kesteloo continues: “It’s important to understand that influencers do not only operate online, but they can present in live environments too, such as at IBTM or IMEX. However, influencer marketing does remain at about 80% online.”

What should you be looking for in an influencer? “Does the person have the right audience?” explains Kesteloo. “This is the most important part, but the quality of post must also be high. The more experience the influencer has in the industry, the more trust the audience will have in them. When it comes to followers it is not the quantity, but the quality.” 

Let’s talk money: is influencer marketing costly? Kesteloo says not at all: “It’s far cheaper than people realise. Mainly because being an influencer is not a career in itself, people are keen to do it. However, maybe in three years’ time things will have changed and more established B2B influencers will be sought after and be able to command a higher fee.

“The influencers who work nowadays do not gain sufficient income, therefore the majority work as event planners at the same time. I predict this will change in the near future as budgets will increase.”