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How to choose the right influencers for your brand

Posted by Nicole Glover on October 17, 2019 at 11:03 AM
Nicole Glover

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Influencer marketing can extend your social reach (or laser-target your message), but only if the influencer you partner with is a good fit for your brand. Here’s a few expert tips to help you find the right partners, as well as a look at six of South Africa’s top influencers.

Social media is a major disruptor in the business world. It’s changed the way we communicate, it’s changed our relationships with each other and our customers and most importantly, it’s given rise to an entirely new branch of the sales and marketing tree. 

An interesting development from social media marketing is the birth of social media influencers.

It’s important to note that being an influencer doesn’t mean you’re a celebrity - however, you can be both a celebrity and influencer simultaneously. Think Kim Kardashian or Rihanna vs. Marcus Sheridan (the Sales Lion). Kim and Rihanna are both celebrities and influencers, however, Marcus is a business leader and an influencer based on his authority as a businessman.

So what exactly is a social media influencer?

A social media influencer (or thought leader) is a user who’s demonstrated their authority (knowledge and expertise) and credibility within a certain industry or market. Influencers have acquired a large, dedicated audience (following) who look up to them. Because of this, they’re able to use their influence to persuade their followers based on their perceived authority.


Social media influencers | Kim Kardashian-West drinking FitTea on her Instagram

Image source: Izea (example of product placement used in influencer marketing)

Most marketers would agree that it’s not the followers that matter – but rather the engagement. With that being the case, one of the most important outcomes of the research is the engagement rates amongst influencer categories.

Founder of Red Flag Media,  Lara Utian-Preston, says “Influencer marketing is the fastest growing marketing practice and media channel worldwide, expected to become a $10bn market by next year. Furthermore, 60% of 18-34 years old in Africa say that their purchase decisions have been swayed by influencers on social media.” 

Leading data and technology company in influencer marketing, Humanz, created a report called The State of Influencer Marketing in South Africa 2019, to give more insight into this trendy marketing method. In the report, they categorised the South African influencer industry based on their potential reach as per their followers on Instagram and Twitter. Some interesting insights from this report are that:

  • Nano and micro-influencers receive more genuine engagement rates than more high profile influencers in South Africa.
  • For celebrities, A and B lister influencers, the engagement of post that features the #ad is lower but remains high for nano and micro-influencers.
  • Fashion, fitness, and lifestyle are the most popular topics for South African influencers but don’t have the highest engagement rates.
  • Less than 10% of micro-influencers have worked with brands, despite being considered more trustworthy by consumers and thus having better engagement rates.

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Image showing the rankings of influencers by number of followers. Source: Humanz

Why should your brand pair with influencers?

Building relationships with social media influencers will add value to your marketing efforts in numerous ways. It is important to identify if your brand even needswork with an influencer at all. If it doesn’t make sense to do so, then don’t do it.

A social media influencer will help your brand produce authentic content which leads to organic conversions. Influencers have put countless hours and energy into earning the trust of their audience, and the proof is in the pudding. According to Social Media Explorer, an online social media advice centre, “92% of customers actually trust recommendations from strangers (i.e. influencers) over brands.” 

When you partner with an influencer whose audience matches your unique buyer persona, you’ll effectively be reaching a dedicated audience who actively opted-in to following and engaging with that influencer. It’s important to determine what’s best for the brand means knowing what your audience quantitatively and qualitatively. This means researching the data matching  your chosen influencer, and ensuring the message the influencer portrays is authentic, so that your audience can engage and relate with your brandin their lives.

Smallbiz Genius created an informative infographic on influencer marketing and its impact. Some key insights from this part of their infographic are that 81% of marketers who used influencer marketing to build brand awareness in 2018 found it to be effective. Not only do marketers believe in influencer marketing, but brands as well. Another key insight from this infographic is that 73% of brands included in the research have allocated budget specifically for influencer marketing, and 54% of brands saw an increase in their leads and revenue from influencer marketing.

How marketers can profit from working with influencers

When selecting an influencer, it’s important to get the right influencer for your brand. Having an influencer campaign should be treated with the same amount of effort and strategy as marketers have done before with traditional marketing methods. Authenticity is key -  while people understand that a good deal of content by influencers is sponsored, but it still needs to look organic and authentic. We worked with
YouTuber Sibu Mpanza for our campaign for the new Suzuki Swift, and saw amazing results. This is because the car integrated seamlessly into his life, and the content he produced was relatable for his audience.

You’ll have the opportunity to reach this entire audience in a way that you were never able to before - you’ll have their full, undivided attention. You do, however,  need to ensure that the influencer you partner with has the right audience demographics and psychographics for your product. For example, if your company produces healthy snacks, you might want to partner with an athlete like Castor Semenya to reach her audience - however, if your company produces cigarettes, Castor and her audience probably aren’t a good fit for your product.

Social media features, such as tagging and shoppable tags, make it possible for brands to measure social mentions and engagement when an influencer posts about a product on their social media. This means that you’ll have a good idea of whether your strategy is working and quantify the partnership’s ROI.

How partnering with influencers can help boost your marketing ROI

Smallbiz Genius’s infographic tells a compelling story of the power of influencers. In 2018, companies who used influencer marketing got a 520% return on investment. When it comes to a platform, YouTube remains dominant with better engagement from influencers although Instagram is where marketers have spent the most money, investing over $5 billion worldwide on influencer marketing in 2018.

Influencers dedicate a good eight or so hours per week to content creation and are highly responsive to comments from their followers. Where a brand may not have the resources to be monitoring their social media platforms in real-time, influencers sure do. Forming a partnership with an influencer will tap into this responsiveness. Social Media Explorer writes, “by collaborating with influencers, brands can establish a social presence with less ‘maintenance’, allowing consumers to connect with brands without necessarily communicating directly with them.Finally, connecting with an influencer will help your SEO by providing valuable backlinks from a trusted source.

Consumers respond more positively to influencers than to paid ads

Smallbiz Genius’s infographic shows just how consumers have reacted to influencer marketing in the past few years. A key insight from this part of the infographic is how much users dislike ads. In 2018, 47% of online customers had some form of an ad blocker. Influencer marketing is needed to reach these customers as it provides them with content from people they trust. Consumer trust is critical to the success of any business and its marketing efforts and influencer marketing can help increase trust. The infographic shows that 74% of consumers use social media to make buying decisions and 49% of consumers rely on the recommendations of an influencer in their buying decision.

6 examples of South African influencers who show real ROI

1. Mihlali Ndamase

Beauty and lifestyle content creator, Mihlali Ndamase, is one of the few  South African YouTubers to hit 100,000 subscribers, with an impressive number of Instagram follower - 517,000 to be exact. In 2018, she became the first official face of Daniel Wellington South Africa, the famous Swedish watch company. She has been in a number of campaigns for brands such as Bernini SA, essence cosmetics, and Superbalist.


2. Siyabonga Beyile

Founder of The Threaded Man, a leading online portal for the modern African man to stay up to date on fashion and original style, 25-year-old Siyabonga Beyile is a force to be reckoned with. He collaborated with Vaseline Men and rapper Ricky Rick to create an amazing campaign highlighting his heritage, and how it’s made him the entrepreneur he is today.


View this post on Instagram

Today I get to share a project that I have wanted to do since I started my journey with @thethreadedman. I have always wanted to shoot a documentary that shows that I can do and be the best at what I do because of where I come from and the women who have fought for me in my journey. Today at 7pm I premier part 1 of my documentary titled Umfana Othungiweyo🙏🏽 Watch it live on YouTube at 7pm this evening and I promise you everything will makes sense 👌🏽 Thank you to my incredible team especially @aevisualsza for making sure that the vision in my head could be translated accurately and also @vaselinemen_sa for backing me since day 1 of this project❤ Link is in my bio , see you at 7! #StartStrong

A post shared by HRH Siyabonga Beyile (@siyabeyile) on


3. Kefilwe Mabote

A young girl from Soweto has become one of the top influencers with a half a million Instagram following. Kefilwe Mabote is one of the few influencers who has worked with high-end luxury brands, having collaborated with the likes of Prada, Macallan, Lamborghini, and Cartier. She won Glamour’s Digital Influencer of the Year award in 2018, and has more than half a million Instagram followers.



4. Maps Maponyane

Maps Maponyane is one of South Africa’s favourite personalities and influencers, having worked with brands such as Investec and Mercedes Benz. He is a big influencer in South African men’s fashion, having won an SA Style award, and GQ’s Best Dressed Man in 2011. He currently has over 800 000 Instagram followers.



5. Suzella DIY

Julia Anastasopoulos a.k.a Suzelle DIY is an artist, illustrator, designer, and actress, whose do-it-yourself YouTube series went viral in May 2014. She has more than 137 000 followers on Facebook, 95 000 followers on Instagram, and 143 000 subscribers on her YouTube channel. She has her own own merchandise line, which includes Christmas cards, and has written a book.

6. Nomzamo Mbatha

Academy-award nominee Nomzamo Mbatha has become more of an activist than an influencer. Although she’s one of the brand ambassadors for both Audi and Puma, with 2 million Instagram followers, she’s been an advocate for mental health, and was one of the many hosts of the Global Citizen concert in December 2018.



The four R’s of influence:

1. Relevance: The influencer is sharing content and developing a following relevant to your business, and the particular market segment you want to target. Focus on the relevance to your brand’s market and audience. Identify where micro-influencers can come in - allowing you to use less money to reach more people, even if it's 10k more, therefore increasing your ROI.

2. Reach: Targeted reach shows more ROI. Identify the number of people you could potentially reach through the influencer’s follower base that would bring value to your business. Having a lot of micro-influencers to tweet about your brand using a certain hashtag actually has more reach than one big celeb tweeting once about your brands.

3. Resonance: The first two Rs play hand-in-hand to create resonance. The potential level of engagement the influencer, as well as how the influencer interacts with the brand, can create with an audience that’s valuable and relevant to your brand.

4. Reputation: Finally, keep in mind that you need to choose an influencer whose reputation is on a similar level to that of your brand - it’s pointless partnering with a celebrity whose influence completely overshadows your brand to the point where their audience doesn’t remember the connection between the two. Partnering with influencers can make your campaign more memorable, so long as it's for all the right reasons. Be careful to only partner with an influencer who shares the same culture and values as your brand.

In order for the relationship to be mutually beneficial, you should only reach out to influencers who tick off all four of the R’s of influence according to your business goals.

As marketers, it is crucial to prove your business’ ROI. Measurement of your campaigns is the most productive step you can take to increase your marketing impact. Take our free digital audit to find out where your brand is doing well and where there's room for you to improve your digital marketing ROI.

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Topics: Media

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