Size matters – but not like you think it does

Influencer marketing is a fast-growing channel, with more brands choosing to work with influencers to promote their products in a more authentic way. Some sources indicate that 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals over brands. As a result, 70% of brands have increased their social media spend in 2017. But influencer marketing is changing, with marketing professionals looking at ways to maximize ROI.

Enter the micro-influencer – an influencer with a smaller and more loyal following, typically in the thousands.

It’s one thing for a celebrity or influencer to mention your brand. It’s a completely different thing to get people talking about your brand following an influencer they consider a peer. Research conducted in the US indicates that the engagement rates of micro-influencers are 60% higher than influencers with over a million followers.

Another study reports that consumer-to-consumer word-of-mouth generates twice the sales of paid advertising. Consumers acquired this way had a 37% retention rate.

Micro-influencers offer

  • Targeted audiences with followers that share a similar interest to the influencer.
  • Affordability, even when you use several micro-influencers, the cost will likely still be less than a single celebrity.
  • A more authentic voice. Unlike a brand or celebrity with a social media manager, micro-influencers post their own content and reply to comments. Being an influencer is usually secondary to their fulltime job, so authenticity is a greater priority. They are hyper-aware of their loyal audience, not their fame.

Choosing the right micro-influencer for your brand

Regardless of the size of your business, you can still benefit from including influencers in your marketing plan.

Start with a hashtag search on social media. Words, product names, pay-off lines relevant to your product or market will help you find relevant influencers.

If you’re looking for a blogger in your city, a simple Google search will point you in the right direction. The more specific your search, the greater your chance of finding the right match.

Keep these factors in mind when choosing your micro-influencer:

  • Do they post regularly? Consistency is key when maintaining a social account that is engaging.
  • Are they creative with their content? Sharing content on different platforms and in various formats allows an influencer to engage with their (and by extension the brand’s) followers in interesting ways.
  • Does their audience align to your target market?
  • Do their fans engage with their content?
  • Does their brand match yours?
  • How will you compensate them?

Getting the best results

In South Africa, marketing professionals across brands are using the same pool of influencers, missing out on fresh perspectives and new, possibly more engaged audiences. The average social media user is aware of this, and may even unfollow or block prominent influencers due to their frivolity and lack of authenticity. Micro-influencers could be just the thing your brand needs to break through the noise.

Here’s how brands can make the most of their User Generated Content (UGC)

People buy from people. Even in the online space. 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal references. Users trust each other to speak their minds and share authentic experiences

What if brands could let users do the talking, engage them when they are not shopping or redirect positive sentiments towards brands, products and services? That is the power of user-generated content (UGC).

UGC is created by consumers, influencers and social media followers and can be anything from photos and videos to blogs and social media posts. Brands can then use UGC to create credible, authentic content to promote their brands.

75% of consumers will share positive brand experiences and 70% are more likely to make a purchase after a good brand interaction. UGC is virtual word-of-mouth that can break through branded pop-ups and reassure purchase decisions. It also has greater sharability as people are more likely to share content made by their peers.

Here are 7 tips to find UGC relevant to your brand:

  1. Know what you’re looking for

To find the perfect match between brands and UGC, brand values and content sentiment must align. Know what you want the UGC to achieve. Do you want to entertain, inform, build awareness or promote products? There’s a lot of noise out there and for UGC to break through, it must be truly compelling. Look for unique moments, styles, angles or illusions – anything that catches your own eye.

  1. Take stock of existing consumer content

Be clear on the attitudes and behaviours of your audience and the type of content they share spontaneously. Searching by interests, occasions and hashtags is a great starting point.

  1. Identify consumer trends

Brands can become catalysts in the creation of UGC by initiating hot topic conversations. An unassuming comment or call-to-action can spark a flood of UGC. The key is to maintain an unbiased position of active participant.

  1. Promote the use of hashtags

Consumers attach their own hashtags to the content they create. For them to use a brand’s hashtags naturally, it has to be memorable and reiterated at each touchpoint. A strong call-to-action or competition that benefits the consumer, can ignite trending hashtags and shareability.

  1. Meet consumers where they’re at

UGC is inspired when consumers are out and about. Physical store locations can encourage UGC and reiterate hashtags. With a bit of creativity, brand engagement can be prompted at each turn, from the dressing rooms or cash register, to a strategically placed photo-friendly spot.

  1. Keep the control

Brands have little control over the sentiment of UGC. In a controlled environment like an event, everything from the atmosphere, the products consumers engage with and the content backdrop can be controlled. A small parting gift can give consumers much to post about long after the event.

  1. FOMO

Influencers have the power to drive awareness and inspire followers. Consumers who engage with content created by influencers are more likely to engage through fear of missing out.

  1. Acknowledge and reward

By posting UGC on social media, brands can show their appreciation and recognise contributors as co-creators. This can attract more UGC from those who want to be part of the brand story.

With so many potential content creators out there, brands that harness their follower’s brand love have the world of opportunity to gain and share authentic and powerful content.

Build an unapologetically customer-first strategy

Today’s consumers are quick to see through brands that don’t speak to their needs, will ignore intrusive pop-ups and will expose poor customer experience.

Imagine you’re at a party. The resident creep finds you and tells you about their life, even thought you didn’t ask. A company with a brand-first approach is that creep at the party, selling their product ‘at’ customers, whether it meets their needs or not.

Research shows that customers notice when brands put their customers needs before profit.

The brands of tomorrow will be unapologetically customer-centric. This is how they are doing it.

Understand who’s got the power
Dropping a brand-first approach requires a shift in mind-set. Marketers need to understand who really has the power of information today. Customers are more connected and more in control than ever before. People have the power to make or break a brand on social media by sharing customer service across platforms at any time. Consumers are leading the conversation about brands – whether marketers like it or not.

Equip your team for the future   
A shift to a customer-first model could mean a complete organisational and technological transformation in business.  To provide a memorable customer experience, you may have to do away with silo operations, different reporting structures, narrow incentives and no clear accountability.

Develop a brand voice
Moving to a collaborative model under one strong brand voice is key. A seamless customer experience is one where every part of the journey has one brand voice across each touchpoint. A strong brand voice is authentic, solves problems and delivers on promises.

Know thy customer
Data is an important piece of a customer-centric puzzle. It allows marketers to develop insights and predict customer’s behaviour – from what they’re likely to buy next, to understanding what truly influences their decisions. Marketers need to centralise this data to create a 360-degree view of the customer to develop the company-wide accepted persona of the target market.

Brands leading in customer experience have gone one step further from data to using behavioural economics to move beyond generic assumptions to a more nuance, segmented understanding of customer motivations.

Understand the customer journey
Adopting a customer-first mindset will change the way marketers create and serve content. A customer-first content strategy is about adding value to a customer’s livevs rather than pushing product. A starting point is understanding the end-to-end journeys your customers take to making a purchase.

Marketers need to manage channels of communication holistically by serving personalised information at the right frequency. Serve to deliver a coordinated conversation rather than intrusive pop-ups they’ve already seen ten times.

Users are humans too
Adopting a customer-first strategy comes down to one important insight: behind every user is a human. Treat them as humans you have made every effort to understand. It pays to do so. Leaders in customer experience have more dominant market positions and stronger revenue growth.

Change is long over due. It is no longer a unique selling point or a matter of faster growth – it’s a matter of life and death for your brand.

The 2018 digital race is on

From Salt Bae ‘spicing up’ his video with 2.4 million views in 48 hours to Taco Bell destroying a Snapchat record with a filter that turns people into tacos, breakthrough creativity in 2017 has set the bar high for the year ahead. The race is on for digital marketing in 2018 – but in what direction?

Countless updates across the digital spectrum can quickly dilute your marketing efforts as you haphazardly try to check all the boxes. The headless chicken will certain not win the race. The goal is to stay focused on trends that will keep your brand on course.

The surge of internet penetration in South Africa is fuelling online consumerism and the boom of e-commerce sites like Bidorbuy and Takealot. Local internet users are spending more than five hours a day online on PCs and tablets, and three hours on mobile phones. Here’s what you need to know to get ahead in the digital marketplace.

  1. Think mobile-first, think ‘on-the-go’.

Smartphone acquisition has leaped from 52% in 2016 to 63% in 2017 and mobile continues to drive on-the-go consumerism. Breakthrough mobile-first strategies are essential to spot, meet and exceed ‘on-the-go’ needs with personalised real-time relevance.

  1. Intrusive ads must fall

Consumer patience is wearing thin when it comes to unsolicited ads. High data costs in South Africa make consumers even more intolerant of bothersome and irrelevant pop-up ads, auto-play videos and excessive retargeting, particularly on mobile phones. Refer to Google’s Better Ads Standards and Best Practices Guide to create a better overall ad experience.

  1. Content in context is a must

Online attention is scarce and contextual marketing is essential to be seen and heard in the online space. It considers the who and how of online searches and places timely content where it adds optimum value. To create personalised and on-point messages that don’t fall on deaf ears, be sure to take the user’s needs, habits and goals into account.

  1. Give digital content a human heart

Good content gains attention but great content drives behaviour. It speaks to the heart, from the heart, and is highly shareable. To create action-inspiring emotive content, first identify the human element of your brand and craft authentic stories around how the product or service improves real human lives.

  1. Embrace the supremacy of video

Video is the most powerful engager, tutor and brand storyteller around. Consumers are much more likely to make a purchase if they’ve seen a video of product benefits in action. Video is the future of content marketing and it’s about time the “video is expensive” stigma is exposed. Consumers don’t expect Hollywood blockbusters but will shut you down in seconds if you fail to deliver valuable content. The video wave is hitting South Africa and some are already enjoying the benefits.

  1. Hit the mark with on-target marketing

Programmatic advertising continues to improve with ever more sophisticated algorithms that automate and fine-tune online ad spend. Refine your aim with consumer-centric media buying strategies that gets your ads in front of those who have shown an interest in your products or actively seek similar offerings.

The digital marketplace is in a constant state of change and determining the right course can be challenging. The key is to meet your consumers where they’re at with a product or content offering that improves their lives. The race is on and digital-first strategies that are agile, on trend and on point, will break through the noise.

This article originally appeared on for #BizTrends2018

G&G Digital launches breakthrough photography and videography services

G&G Digital has officially launched photography and videographic services that break through the noise and hit the creative and strategic mark for clients. The dedicated content team aims to create images and video that drives action with engaging rich media for use across all digital channels.

Consumer attention is scarce and a first impression can be the difference between being engaged with or ignored. In an ocean of online videos and photos, there simply isn’t room for mediocrity. Brands must use every media form to break through the ordinary and expected.

Consumers buy with their eyes and are lead by how brands make them feel. Captivating videos and professional photos cue quality and credibility. Research shows consumers are 64% more likely to purchase if they’ve seen a product video.

Videos are pure engagement power
Video is the most powerful engager in a brand’s arsenal. It ignites emotions, builds trust and doubles exposure time. Videos can easily explain complex concepts and is increasingly preferred over reading. Sharing product videos and how-to tutorials on social media will increase reach and support the sales process.

The G&G studio consists of first-rate camera and lighting equipment and post-production facilities. G&G offers everything from brand narratives and animations to corporate videos. The team manages the full production spectrum from concept and scripting, to directing, cinematography and post-production.

Images should demand a double-take
Photography is a strong sales driver and there is research to prove it. Sites with striking imagery receive 94% more views than those without. High quality photography not only stops consumers in their tracks, it portrays a brand’s image, professionalism, credibility and individuality.

G&G are passionate about creating images that not only meet, but surpass its client’s brief. With state-of-the-art photographic equipment, experienced in-house photographers offer high quality lifestyle, product, portrait and social photography that best represents the brand. The team is also proficient in post-production editing and re-touching.

Get your brand in front of G&G’s lens and start telling brand stories that get a return on investment.

Get ready to pay to play with Influencer Marketing

Marketers have fallen in love with influencer marketing. It enables them to leverage authentic content about their brands, increase awareness and drive traffic to their digital platforms.

At the end of 2016, analysts predicted the explosion of influencer marketing in 2017. Ten months in and it has lived up to expectations. Influencer marketing is ubiquitous, from A-list celebrities to thought leaders and brand advocates.

That said, influencer marketing has its frustrations many and marketers are questioning if they can really get a ROI.

What’s more, research shows that 47% of online consumers use ad blockers. The digital space is clogged with ads and branded content, it’s no longer feasible “to just get it out there”.

74% of mobile users find pop up ads extremely annoying, with 50% of them refusing to return to the pages with pop ups.

This is where influencer marketing may have an edge in creating brand awareness and driving sales. Brands are still able to advertise their content in a more subtle manner and with the added impetus of the influencer’s endorsement.

Facebook makes Influencer Marketing easy
Good news is that Facebook is making it easier for brands to run paid promotions for influencer marketing. Facebook has developed a new update that will allow influencers to turn their paid content into sponsored posts.

How? The influencer tags the brands they’re working with and then advertisers boost those posts directly without needing to share them.

The benefits:

  • Marketers can choose to authorise which influencers can tag their brands in their page settings
  • They can now measure the effectiveness of influencer posts
  • They will have access to stats around reach, engagement, total spend and CPM of each piece of content.
  • Facebook is giving back media control to advertisers as they now only pay influencers for their content, not media distribution
  • Marketing teams can run media campaigns on their own, without the complicated process of gaining access to an influencer’s account

Facebook also makes it more expensive
While Facebook is making influencer marketing slipstreamed, marketers and influencers need to prepare to spend more on Facebook.

The worry is that Facebook’s algorithm will gradually suppress influencer posts if brands don’t boost them. In the past, brands were using an influencer’s follower base for organic reach. Now brands will have to pay for visibility.

The influencer marketing model is becoming less about followers and more about how deep brands can reach into their pockets. Influencers will have to rethink their business model beyond just their followers.

So why spend extra? 
When it comes to Facebook, every update, including this new influencer product comes with the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good: Facebook made it easier to run paid promotions and measure success.

The Bad: Marketers and influencers will have to spend more to reap the rewards.

6 lessons marketers should take from 2017

2017 was another digital #PersonalBest – revving up paid media ads to $580 billion. From Salt Bae ‘spicing up’ his video with 2.4 million views in 48 hours; to Taco Bell destroying a Snapchat record with a filter that turns people into tacos; or MasterCard’s sound meter app for sports fans to measure how loud they are. The list goes on. Digital truly has the power to revolutionise your brand overnight. Salt Bae gained overnight fame that did wonders for his restaurant chain from one video that went viral.

Key learnings from killer campaigns and impromptu UGC videos suggest that creativity is the key ingredient to success. It is time for digital pace setters to chew on the most significant digital marketing takeaways, to position for unrivalled success in the new year.

Honour the 3C’s – Customer, Content and Context
The customer should be at the centre of the digital experience and expects real-time one-on-one’s, personalised replies and transparency. They don’t like aimless wondering and want a clear call to action. Don’t repay their attention with irrelevant content – ever. They space out when they see pop-ups and banner ads (some just lose it) – so ensure super valuable content meets them where they’re at. Content ‘in context’ is the new king.

Ride the mobile wave
In South Africa, fast-growing mobile penetration is begging marketers to make “mobile first” strategies a key priority. Anything ‘mobile’ is becoming second nature and fuelling on-the-go consumerism. Get your flag in the ground and start spotting and fulfilling on-the-go needs – even if you have to invent a few yourself.

Prepare for the video storm
Video is consumed by the truckloads on YouTube and now across all social media. The booming uptake of video on Facebook and Instagram is a clear statement that video content is not only viewed, but shared. It is high time to break the “video is expensive” stigma and get with the program. Consumers don’t expect Hollywood blockbusters but will shut you down in three seconds if you fail to deliver a compelling hook and valuable content. Whatever your goals with video (which should include going viral); remember that content quality trumps video production quality every time.

Cut to the chase with data analytics and data visualisation
There is an insane amount of data out there that grows daily by 2.5 quintillion bytes – three guesses how many zeros that is. What will really bake your noodle is the fact that 90% of all data – ever – has been created in the last two years. For consumers, that’s an enormous pile of hashtags to dig through. To get your brand on top of the pile, start thinking differently about big data. It is only useful if you can extract valuable insights and a competitive edge with data analytics and data visualisation. The latter referring to charts, graphs, bars and maps to help you connect the dots and make quick decisions.

Make the influencer circle bigger
With too much choice stressing them out, consumers are calling for guidance from online peers and objective experts. Get authentic brand advocates rooted in your brand strategy, especially on social media. Celebrity endorsements are immensely influential but don’t overlook the potential of brand advocates in your community. Ordinary citizen influencers, who have acquired online fame for their topic authority, personality or lifestyle, often have the credibility to sway consumer decisions, especially during crisis.

All hail algorithms
Programmatic advertising is on the rise with increasingly sophisticated algorithms to automate and optimise online ad spend in real time. As a result, marketers are shifting from site-centric strategies (basic metrics like page views and time spent) to audience-centric media buying strategies that places your ads in front of those who have shown an interest or are actively seeking similar offerings.

Companies new to the digital space shouldn’t be intimidated by the medium but rather dive in headfirst. Personal passion and boldness goes a long way when facing the unknown and marketers should create “digital first” strategies that are agile, on trend and breakthrough.

How smart marketers use data, not assumptions

Google reports in its latest Think With report that data has become central to the strategic approach of the (successful) modern marketer. Not only has data come front and centre for those at the helm of the marketing strategy – it’s become a key deliverable measured by those they report to.

We all knew data would replace assumptions and marketers keen to forcibly make an impact would shift their thinking to align – here are the numbers to prove it.

Two-thirds of leading marketers say their executives value data-driven insights over gut instincts. The ripple effect of this is substantial. Executives will look for fine-tuned and intelligent insights, supported by hard data gathered from a plethora of marketing platforms. It would be remiss to say marketing is becoming exact in any way, but it’s certainly becoming more scientific.

Executives will also look for the skills and insights that accompany a data-driven mindset in hiring future marketers. As much as the approach has changed from the top down, so too must it change from the bottom up.

Leading marketers are 1.3 times as likely to have a documented data and analytics strategy. It’s clear to see those getting it right are getting it right for one reason – they’ve pioneered a data-based strategy in their organisation. Naturally, data is then used to determine KPIs for paid media. It’s building a house on solid ground, and solid maintenance thereafter.

The prevalence of an integrated marketing and advertising technology stack is 1.5 times more amongst marketing leaders. A data-centred approach is unachievable and hardly imaginable without embracing an integrated and automated marketing approach.

The right software that can accurately measure user behaviour across channels and devices is critical – or a digital marketing partner who can bring it to the table.

A staggering 93% of marketers agree that collaboration across marketing and analytics teams is essential to driving results. It seems the overarching (if unstated) theme of the report is equal parts transparency and collaboration. A further 75% of marketers say the biggest challenge to using data insights is a lack of education and training, highlighting the need for crystal-clear understanding and buy-in from the outset.

This extends to open access to data, which more marketers believe is necessary to improve business performance. The key is a team-based approach, with a dynamic mix of skill sets, a worthy and willing digital marketing partner and a common goal: the use of data to liberate, educate and grow. Assume nothing, measure everything.

Read the full Think With Google report here.

The future is here, and it’s still social

Everything these days is fleeting – news, trends, technology – but one thing that has endured since inception, is social media. And indications are it will be around for a long time.

World Wide Worx and Ornico recently released the 2018 Social Media Landscape, reporting on the growth of social media in South Africa, and how it’s used by individuals and brands.

Notably, 87.5% of local Facebook users access the platform from mobile devices – up from 85% last year. This is in part the result of Facebook Lite, a version of the Facebook app some mobile operators provide without data charges.

Twitter may have seen a small decline in the US market, but it has increased elsewhere. Locally, it remains the social platform of choice for accessing influencers, news and thought leaders. It is also interesting that Twitter use is generally at its highest during business hours. The notion that “Twitter is dead” is clearly unfounded.

In 2016 the top 100 South African YouTubers had an average number of 37 000 subscribers. In 2017, this has increased to 250 000. Local YouTubers are getting it right, and people are flocking to the video-sharing platform to get information.

Both Instagram and LinkedIn showed steady growth, but Instagram’s was dramatically slower than in previous years.

Despite being perceived as a dull and boring professional network, LinkedIn remains one of the most important social networks in South Africa. Outside the entertainment world, active users on this platform are the most influential people in social media in the country. The numbers indicate that small business participants are using the platform as actively as big corporates.

Instagram is still seen as the most powerful social network in terms of user numbers, but it is slowing down significantly – partly because of data requirements of users. The peak time for people being active on Instagram is between 17:00 and 19:00.

Being data-intensive, the Snapchat community is mostly restricted to teenagers in affluent households, and the platform hasn’t taken off locally.

In terms of brands and marketers utilising social media to reach existing and potential customers, 97% use Facebook, 90% are active on Twitter, and LinkedIn and Instagram both stand at 72%. YouTube has shown a slight increase to 68%.

And when it comes to advertising, Facebook leads the way with 86% of brands finding value for their money, followed by Twitter (45%), Instagram (40%), and LinkedIn (35%).

It is clear that brands need to play in the social space if they intend to remain relevant to a market that has a need for instant gratification but wants to avoid information overload. Digital advertising when done strategically can be cost-effective and agile – particularly in comparison with traditional options. The internet offers a vast audience unrestricted by geography, and there are so many opportunities for brands to break through and reach their market.

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The power of content marketing

Content remains one of the most effective ways to generate organic sales. If you know how to do it right, it will have untold rewards. The key insight is to keep evolving your content with what users are engaging with.

Don’t be precious
Clients so often (understandably) sweat over each and every syllable of a piece of content. If your client is too precious, content marketing will be slow to show results. Headlines should be bold and unique to grab attention. Angles shouldn’t be overthought. Experiment, watch what works and be agile as you move forward. A client-agency relationship built on trust will ultimately be solid ground to encourage a less precious approach.

Interest first, angle second
To retrofit content marketing into specific brand messaging is not ideal. The most effective way of producing content that has legs is to first seek out what your audience is interested in. Then find ways to (appropriately) engage in the conversation. Ideate, experiment, observe and iterate.

Say something
Even in B2B marketing, no one wants to be bored. Every brand should have a personality evident in all content. Content must have a point of view – know this going in.

Use what you’ve got
If possible, internationalise and localise your content for different markets. It’s an easy way to scale, without using extensive resources. Translate (well) if you have to.

Don’t be ageist
Shift your view of content marketing from a ‘new form of marketing for people who hate ads and want to read about stuff’. This is no longer the case. Content marketing works well for all age groups and will engage with anyone who wants to learn, broaden their mind and expand their sensibility – from Millennials to Baby Boomers and everyone in between. What’s critical is to understand who the consumer is, and then use age-appropriate dissemination tools to reach the right person at the right time.

Build a team
A dynamic mix of skill sets is the most effective way to market branded content. Writers, producers and client liaison should feed off each other, and pass the baton at just the right moment. This means concept and creation handed over to channel and distribution, to testing and optimisation, then on to analysis and feedback. Everyone should know their roles and excel at them.

For both client and agency, a shrewd and enlightened approach to content marketing means you won’t just be educating the public, you’ll be gaining useful insights into your business and brands. Experiment, try new versions, let go of what you think you know and look forward to qualified leads as a result.