Influencer Marketing - A Double Edged Sword - Amaresh Godbole

Guest post from Amaresh Godbole that talks about how Influencer Marketing should be done, where it has been done right and how Indian brands stacking up.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Amaresh Godbole for the year-end article series on various facets of Indian digital and social media. Amaresh who is the Head – Agency & Strategy, DigitasLBi India talks about how Influencer Marketing should be done with examples where it has been done right and how Indian brands stacking up.

Influencer marketing is now one of the key trends defining the digital marketing landscape alongside mobile and content marketing. Simply put, traditional ‘word of mouth’ has been galvanised with the emergence of social influencers.

It’s all about identifying and engaging with the people who create the conversations that can impact brands, products or services. Since they are individuals who are passionate about their topics, they not only pay attention to what’s next, they define the trends, and hence can be a double edged sword if not handled right.

It all starts with the communication objective of course. And based on that we need to identify the kind of influencers we need to reach out to, and the nature of the activity. ‘Influencers’ are often mistaken as a homogenous set, whereas nothing could be further away from the reality. Picking the right set of influencers defines the campaign’s success.


The marketing and communication objectives will help define which of these you need to leverage. For instance, if the objective is salience for a new product, a combination of social influencers and celebrities would help gain traction. Our Tata Nano social bidding war campaign using social influencers resulted in an earned media value worth15% of the annual digital budget. In these cases, it also helps to partner with blogger community platforms and conduct on ground events with digital amplification. And if media events with journalists can be seamlessly worked into this mix, it becomes a very potent combination indeed as we found out during the launch of Zest from Tata Motors.

If the aim is to build credibility or manage perceptions, then category experts and brand advocates are your best bet. For instance, for brands such as Johnson’s Baby and Clean & Clear, we have created ongoing programs of live chats on social media with category experts such as Paediatricians and Dermatologists. The Tata Safari owners community – SOUL (Safari Owners United League) invites them to special owners only events and experiences, and encourages community experiences and social sharing.

If we are looking to build exclusivity and badge value, then inviting select opinion leaders amongst social influencers for an exclusive experience will go a long way in creating desire amongst their followers. For Budweiser, we created momentum for the Bud Made Stage events, and drove opinion leaders to the event purely through influencer marketing with a ‘Please don’t tell’ RSVP mechanic (only ‘those in the know’ inviting others).

Some good work we’ve seen

  • Oreo India incorporated ‘daily dunks’ that crowdsourced the community’s memorable moments and turned them to creatively crafted dunks.
  • Viber sent out tabs with customized caricature wallpapers. Everyone was fascinated by the personalized caricatures and the tab. The brand was reaching out to as many as hundreds of people  and it got everyone talking.
  • Lenovo USA is collaborating with 250 global influencers across four categories to co-create content for their youinspired campaign where influencers are core contributors to the campaign.

Once we have defined the goals and influencer segments to be targeted, we define the short, medium and long term program goals. This helps build an ongoing engagement and meaningful relationship rather than a tactical execution.


Summary pointers

  • Amaresh GodboleRemember, we are dealing with people. The influencer community is connected. It helps to have fellow influencers on your team as outreach specialists, as they are tuned in to their mindset
  • In case of short campaigns, take suggestions and work with the influencers as a team. Their insights can be very helpful. Don’t hesitate to make minor modifications
  • Keep the engagement going even after the end of an activity, this helps build relationships. Building a personal connect with influencers goes a long way and their affinity for the brand increases over time turning them into brand advocates. Occasionally meeting up with them also adds value
  • An influencer activity is not just about the number of tweets/blogs received, it’s about how their content is relevant to our potential audience and whether it influences them
  • Set measurement expectations with clients beforehand based on objectives

Influencer relations can also go wrong, if not handled well!

a. Samsung faced a sharp backlash for coercing bloggers to write about them. Never coax influencers. The best way to ensure coverage is to get the influencers who are passionate and relevant, and arrange an experience or content which will inspire them to share. After that it’s best not to force the issue. While most people involved in planning are aware of this, it’s critical the teams on ground and in events are briefed accordingly.

b. Oprah once tweeted about Microsoft’s product- Surface using an iPad. The credibility of the celebrity was questioned and Microsoft was negatively affected. Just as one would do thorough research before picking a brand ambassador, it’s critical to research and ensure a celebrity resonates with your brand, rather than simply picking them for their follower count.

c. A disgruntled customer opted for promoted tweet to air his opinion about British Airways. Industry experts noted that it may be a new trend! This is the best example of consumers now having an open platform to air grievances. The biggest insight in customer service is that disgruntled consumers need to know they are being heard, for them to be patient and wait for a resolution. Leveraging social listening to identify dissatisfaction and rapid turnaround times (TAT processes) in responses can avoid such incidents.

Looking around the India landscape, some of the issues one can see across the board:

  • Blindly engaging influencers with large following without assessing relevance for the brand
  • Paying influencers to spam their following
  • Purely tactical engagement with no enriching experiences being delivered
  • Ignoring irate consumers on social media or rude responses
  • Lack of valuable reward mechanisms for brand loyalists

With more and more brands taking this route, each one needs to find a new way to engage with and excite influencers. It’s time to move past tactical initiatives. Unique content and memorable experiences will help build meaningful relationships with the right influencers.