One takeaway from Instagram’s recent metamorphosis into Snapchat: beyond the stream of carefully curated pleasant-to-beautiful images, plenty of people like getting a sneak peek into what goes on behind that perfect #OOTD, #yogaeverywhere, #blessed, #amazingsunsets, #beautifuldestinations shot.
Call it lifestyle porn or a form of voyeurism, but there is something irresistible about seeing what everybody’s version of “normal” is like. Even more fascinating is seeing outtakes of the lives of social influencers—people you look up to—from comic book creators to street artists, fashion designers to professional travelers, and, yes, even the occasional rockstar and celebrity. On the other end, with the knowledge that everything you post on either Snapchat or Instagram will expire in 24 hours, it can be liberating to give people a preview of your everyday life as well.
With such compelling content available right at your fingertips, it’s not entirely surprising to find people veering away from such traditional media channels as print and television, and into social, mobile, and digital. Having worked with different start-ups in the digital landscape, Visual Amplifiers (VAMP) co-founder Aaron Brooks had seen how traditional advertising was about to kick the bucket.
“Fact is, people go where the good content is—and this is no longer on TV. Social influencers are the honey pot of quality content, let’s face it. They will win consumer engagement over traditional advertising every time,” says the Sydney-born entrepreneur. Brands are no longer able to keep up with their customers’ hunger for new content. Asserts Brooks, “Influencers are best placed for genuine product recommendations through compelling content creation. This is a digital world where if you’re not front of mind, you’re behind the times.”
In order to address this gap between brands and their customers, Brooks co-founded VAMP with Ben McGrath in Sydney, Australia in 2015. A successful digital start-up that connects brands with creatively talented social influencers to produce custom branded content, VAMP has since expanded into multiple markets including Singapore, Dubai, and Hong Kong.
VAMP’s technology platform is designed to make influencer marketing accessible to people, looking after the needs of both brands and social influencers. “There’s really not one without the other when it comes to a successful campaign,” says Brooks. Among their far-reaching campaigns include MasterCard, Airbnb, Pottery Barn, and many more. “We solve a key pain point by taking all the leg work out of the process, including things such as talent recruitment and product distribution. What we offer is full-service campaign management—tech is the enabler, but stellar customer service and smart strategy sets us apart from competition,” he says.
In an interview with Inc. Southeast Asia, the thought leader shares his insights into what makes for an authentic influencer marketing campaign in Southeast Asia:
1. The definition and the way people interact with celebrity is changing
According to Brooks, more and more brands now choose to work with influencers—“creatives, photographers, models, copywriters, editors, and marketers all in one”—over traditional celebrities.
“The ‘right’ influencers are not necessarily the most popular, the highest trending, or the most viral. Influencers are those who are a good brand fit—finding talent who can authentically represent your brand and exhibit exceptional creative ability over what a celebrity can achieve will give you the most effective ROI,” he asserts.
2. Quality content—and authenticity—is always going to be king
Authenticity—“that is, a voice that genuinely aligns with your brand”—ensures influencers hold engagement and that audiences trust them enough to act on their recommendations. “In fact, ‘power middle’ influencers, as we call them, have proven to be 16 times more effective than a celebrity when it comes to engaging with consumers on social media,” says Brooks.
The best content creators in the influencer industry are the new A-listers, according to Brooks. “Their higher engagement rates prove their stories are more compelling to everyday people than traditional celebrity,” he says.
3. There should be less branding, and more storytelling and creative narratives
Brands would do well to loosen the reins when dealing with social influencers, as giving them full creative control “hands down produces the best content.”
Says Brooks, “They are fluent digital communicators who know how to speak to their audience better than a brand ever will. You can still provide them with a brief, but too often we see brands erring on the side of caution by giving overly restrictive guidelines. Influencers understand their audience and know what their followers will engage with the best.”
4. Amplifying influencer-produced content in paid media is key
One of the biggest missed opportunities Brooks sees on a daily basis across Asia is “brands not taking advantage of utilizing influencer-created content in paid media.”
VAMP has seen “time and again that influencer-produced content in paid media achieves a higher click-through rate and conversions to sales than brand-produced content. We all know consumer targeting is tough to pin down, and reach in social platforms is an inexact science. A targeted media buy using influencer images and content provides an additional avenue to track and measure reach, if reach is the goal.”
5. The era of seasonal advertising has passed
By collaborating with influencers, Brooks says that brands will be able to forge stronger relationships with their customers than ever before. And VAMP’s social influencers are well-poised to enable brands to do exactly that.
“Think of VAMP as the bespoke Getty images for brands. We are Getty images-meets-programmatic. VAMP puts thousands of branded images into the pockets of customers, and profits into the pockets of the brands we work with,” says Brooks, adding that seasonal advertising is a thing of the past. “VAMP sources new content for morning, noon, night, and all the hours in between. Content from our influencers will no longer just feature on their feed, but will be the new templates for your brand’s digital ad units, sponsored posts, website headers, and eDMs.”