Online Influencers: A Caveat

by | Jan 9, 2015 | Aviation, Marketing with Empathy | 0 comments

So, you’ve started marketing using online influencers? Congrats! 

Hopefully you’re using online influencers for the right reasons—because you realise online marketing is all about leveraging the power of others; because you realise “real people” are more powerful at crafting stories, trust and relevancy for your brand than any creative campaign; because you realise the winning recipe in this era of fragmented media is not “just throw more money at it”—instead of the wrong ones—because you’re desperate to get instant results; because everyone else is doing it; because your agency told you so.

We’ve crafted a short marketing guide for airlines in Indonesia on how to use online influencers.  It’s useful for anyone in marketing who’s interested in engaging influencers, even if you’re not in Indonesia and not in aviation.  The presentation’s at the bottom of this post.  Feel free to skip to it, but if you have an extra minute, go through the next paragraph for an important caveat.

A caveat on using online influencers

A friend of mine has 35K followers on Instagram.  If you’re active in the Instagram scene in Indonesia, you probably not only know of him, you’ve probably met him in person.  He’s one of those rare individuals who has the innate ability to connect with anyone.  He doesn’t have the biggest number of followers online, but one look at his engagement scores, you know that he’s a bonafide influencer.

Brands have noticed this too.  My friend is currently travelling on an all-expense paid trip to a different continent, courtesy of an international airline.  Other brands have engaged him in the past, from apparel to sports drinks.  My friend’s quite happy to work with brands as long as they follow the usual etiquette in engaging influencers.  But were the brands happy working with him?

“Yeah, he’s alright,” says one Head of Digital Marketing. “The pictures he took didn’t look that different from other Instagrammers.”

I was offended when I heard that.  This was my friend he was talking about.  My friend is a guy who’s passionate about what he does, who manages to build a significant Instagram presence while keeping his soul-grinding day job, dealing with Jakarta’s infamous traffic, and maintaining a work-life balance with his wife and child.  He’s a guy who sticks to what he believes. He believes that the spirit of Instagram is community, and he has turned down serious money when asked to support a brand that would go against that spirit.  If he was born in a country without Instagram, it’d be like if Musashi was born in a country without swords.  How could anyone be so dismissive of him? 

Hopes and expectations

I remember sharing a panel with a COO who said that the problem with social media is expectations.  I couldn’t agree more.  Only 15% of marketers said they can show the impact of social media on their businesses using quantitative approaches, and only 40% of marketers can demonstrate any impact qualitatively. (source: The Wall Street Journal)

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?  That means 6 out of 10 marketers have no idea whether or not their social media activities are complete waste of time and money.  I hope they’re not the ones working for your brand.

6 out of 10 marketers are clueless when it comes to showing the impact of their social media activities (tweet this)

This ambivalence is the root cause of many online marketing #fail. This is the reason you’re still not 100% about getting on board with “this whole social media/online influencer/internet thing”. This is the reason why the previously mentioned Head of Digital was so dismissive of my friend (he doesn’t really know what he’s doing, he hopes the influencer would do his job for him, and he gets dejected when that didn’t happen).  This is hopefully NOT the reason you’re spending more on digital this year (digital ad spend increased by 75% in Indonesia in 2014, highest in the region but is it spent wisely?).

not a valid online strategy

Getting your measurements right is the first step.  Achieving success in online marketing will take some experimenting.  Any proper experiment starts with getting the metrics right.  Without the right metrics your strategy would be devolve to “lets see what everybody else is doing, and do that, only slightly less worse.”


If you have your metrics in place, then another congratulations is in order. Since only 4 out of 10 marketers can show how social media can impact their business, that means you’ve beaten the odds! (or you’re one of our clients, which is a delightfully acceptable cheat)

If you have the right measurements set up, that means the following presentation is truly useful.

*at the moment of writing, this presentation is featured by Slideshare on its frontpage. If you have a friend who works in an airline, forward them this presentation before their competition finds it.*

image courtesy: Tobias Zierof

Ghani Kunto

Ghani Kunto

Director at empathic.MARKETING
Author & speaker on consumer behaviour and empathic marketing. Experienced in mobile and financial industry. Specialised in Southeast Asian culture, youth marketing and fandoms.
Ghani Kunto

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