Are Influencers The Holy Grail Of Jewish Marketing? A Deep Dive.

Jewish influencer marketing is increasingly becoming a popular, powerful and versatile way to promote offerings spanning a broad spectrum. Proper planning and implementation is key to capitalizing on this potential.

With things changing so rapidly in the world of marketing, it is sometimes difficult to sort through which platforms to pursue. Often, it takes time for new platforms to mature and grow before a comprehensive and decisive decision can be made regarding their potential. Influencer marketing is an outlier in this regard.

While it is true that various forms of influence based marketing campaigns have been around for decades (and even centuries), the influence of the 21st century that takes place on social media has seen a definite and meteoric rise. The reasons behind this seemingly sudden and widespread growth are varied, but the primary factor is because it has shown to be an effective and cost-efficient way to meet marketing goals. It should be little surprise then that 75% of marketers stated that they are willing to increase their influencer spend. With so many of those in decision making roles for marketing spend seeing the value in influencer campaigns, the market is expected to balloon in the coming years. Predictions range, but conservative estimates slate more than $2.3 billion to be spent on influencer marketing by the year 2019.

Agencies and consultancies in the marketing space are also seeing the increased demand for influencer focused campaigns and are taking action to capitalize on this burgeoning market. Havas, one of the most significant media, marketing, and PR conglomerates has recently invested in an internal influencer division to ensure that their clients are at the cutting edge of influencer marketing.

As with any marketing campaign with a focus on the Jewish audience, there is a unique dynamic added to the mix and influencer marketing is no exception to this rule. Our experience has shown that when executed correctly, Jewish influencer marketing lends itself to better than the already impressive results for mass market influencer marketing. We believe this is due in large part to the tight-knit nature of the Jewish audience which creates a reverberating effect for campaigns. It is much easier to generate buzz beyond the actual promotion through word of mouth within such a concentrated community as opposed to mass market campaigns that are much more general and lose that domino reaction.

While influencer marketing has gotten a lot of buzz as well as impressive returns to back it up, it is important to note that there are those who believe that it is a bubble of sorts. These concerns range from transparency and measurement concerns to oversaturation of the market. We think that many of these are well founded and need to be taken into account when embarking on influencer based campaigns. With that said, we also believe, that as the market matures and more robust solutions for measurement, optimization and compliance come into the fray, we will see a further cementing of influencer-based marketing as an attractive option in the marketer’s tool chest.

The rationales out there explaining the general rise of influencers and in specific, the most popular platform, Instagram, is varied. For one, we see an across the board rise in video which is seemingly becoming the most well-performing form of content. Also, platforms like Instagram, which now allow for bite-sized forms (such as Instagram Stories) of content that fits well with our documented decrease in attention span. As a matter of fact, according to a study performed by Microsoft, the average human now has an attention span shorter than a goldfish! (Eight seconds for a human and nine for a goldfish.)

Influencer Marketing Phases

Advantages

One of the most notable and unique benefits of influencer-based marketing is the ability to reach a highly engaged and loyal audience. Whether it is influencers who share their life through photos and videos on Instagram or those who make vlogs and other related content on YouTube, the extent of the personal connection they create with their audience is impressive and unparalleled.

These audiences take recommendations from influencers to heart, and more importantly, they take action. In one study by locowise found that 75% of users take action after seeing a post. This is rooted in the amount of trust they have in a particular influencer as well as the desire to be loyal to their recommendations. Whether it be a purchase or app download, we see that adequately executed influencer campaigns perform very well and it is based on this foundational relationship that cannot be found in other mediums.

Another advantage of Jewish influencer marketing is the ability to negotiate and get favorable pricing compared to the returns on such spend. Depending on the nature of the offering and whether the influencer has an affinity to the brand, strategic negotiation can result in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Some of the most significant and attractive advantages to influencer marketing are magnified when employed in a Jewish marketing context. This is especially apparent when looking at the way campaigns of various types tend to travel once they hit “the airwaves.” Whether it be sharing among friends or on social media, in a tight-knit and interconnected community such as the Jewish one, there tends to be a snowball effect for campaigns.

On another note, with the increasing saturation of targeted media opportunities such as Facebook as well as the surge in the use of ad-blockers, it is getting increasingly difficult to reach your optimal customer in a meaningful way. Influencer marketing provides unique value in this respect as it is native promotion by nature and is appreciated by the influencer’s audience. It is important to note though, that too much of such advertising, especially if not in line with the influencers “core brand” and not transparently disclosed can have the exact opposite effect resulting in decreased engagement.

Disadvantages & Potential Pitfalls

Though there are significant returns to be had by working with influencers to promote your offering, there are some substantial potential disadvantages and pitfalls.

Some of the most common and significant challenges are examined below:

1) Off Message

An influencer that is off message from your brand or offering is a multi-faceted issue. First, an off-brand campaign will likely harm both the performance of the campaign as well as overall brand equity and consumer perception. Also, depending on the nature of the messaging, fallout can even extend beyond merely campaign performance and even rise to the boardroom and beyond depending on the size of the enterprise. For example, one only has to look at the damage done to YouTube as well as large advertisers who had ads displaying next to various forms of questionable content. This resulted in substantial loss of revenue as well as perhaps diminution of several brands overall image. To ensure that influencer partners are in line with your brand ehtos, an “influencer marketing” style guide might be helpful. Such a guide can help to ensure that influencers you work with stay true to the culture and priorities of your organization.

2) Oversaturation & Off Brand Promotion

Another common issue with influencer marketing arises when there is an oversaturation or constant off brand promotion of numerous different offerings. This is most often seen on Instagram. Influencers are approached with opportunities, and they find it hard to turn down the opportunity to make what can at times be substantial amounts of money. If the promotion is not well thought out and strategically managed, the influencers brand gets diminished. In the most extreme cases, we have seen drastic and wholesale drops in an influencers engagement from their audience because they, in essence, became a constant infomercial.

In addition to influencers who make the mistake of continuous promotion, there is also the issue of influencers who take on opportunities to promote something that is not in line with their brand. This will vary depending on the influencer. Many influencers can advance a wide range of products and services because by nature “their brand” is broad in nature. At the same time, an influencer who is not genuinely interested in what they are promoting will often lack the ability to portray the authenticity that is necessary for optimal performance of a campaign.

It is important to keep these two issues in mind when choosing influencer(s). An overview of the brands they work with, their style, level of promotion saturation and engagement are essential aspects to consider in the decision-making process.

3) Purchasing Engagement

Due to the stress put on engagement as well as the potential opportunities that come along with large audiences on social media, some influencers resort to questionable and even fraudulent tactics to meet these aspirational goals. These tactics most often take the form of buying an audience and engagement. For obvious reasons, this is harmful to potential advertisers who look at the vanity numbers without doing the proper due diligence and delving beyond merely the numbers.

Influencer Marketing Engagement Tip

There are various ways to know whether an influencer is purchasing engagement that range from manual reviews to more tech-focused solutions that analyze engagement. Brands of all sizes are dealing with this issue, including Sephora, which is trying to weed out a lack of authenticity and fake engagement from their influencer campaigns.

4) Difficult Personalities & Challenging Negotiations

One of the most frustrating aspects of an influencer marketing campaign can be the management and negotiation of the campaign. This is in part because of the unique personalities that often come along with influencers. Remember that these are people that stand out from the crowd for one reason or another and that is why they have a substantial following. This following can reinforce ego or other character traits that all human beings have to some extent. This can translate into a demanding and difficult influencer. Navigating these challenges correctly can make or break a campaign. This is a good segue into the next discussion regarding how to structure an influencer relationship as we have seen that established relationships with an influencer can have a substantially positive impact in this regard.

Direct vs. Agent

One of the most fundamental questions that must be answered when embarking on any influencer marketing campaign is whether to work with influencers directly or go through a marketing agency. As has already been said in regards to multiple pointers in this discussion, here too, there are potential advantages and disadvantages with each.

The two most significant advantages of using a third-party to plan, implement and optimize an influencer campaign are based on the established relationships they may have as well as the know-how and experience. The value of these links is magnified by the fact that often, they also have the power to shift additional clients to influencers who they prefer working with. Influencers are therefore more inclined to offer more attractive pricing as well as provide more value concerning promotion through both extra exposure and more enthusiasm. This combined with agency expertise should result in both a more seamless and efficient campaign as well as cost savings through the elimination of wasted spend.

The primary concern and touted disadvantage of engaging a third-party for influencer campaigns relate to increased cost. In actuality, as mentioned previously, established relationships often lead to more beneficial negotiations and firms with expertise in this area help to formulate highly effective campaigns. What usually results is a campaign that performs in a vastly more positive way. With that being said, if a client has established relationships and associated expertise, it is possible that campaigns can function similarly without an outside expert party. The challenge is keeping up to date on the fast-changing influencer landscape in a high niche market such as the Jewish audience.

While not standard concerning Jewish influencers, we are seeing an increase in influencers being managed by talent agencies. These agencies are adding more structure to the negotiation and execution process though there is less room for negotiation regarding pricing when dealing with such talent management companies. One of the largest of these management companies is Gleam, that is backed by Dentsu Aegis.

Applications Around The Globe & In All Categories

The categories of products and brands using influencer marketing campaigns range across the board. From tech-based offerings to food and everything in between, there is a practical use case to be found that has seen impressive returns.

Some specific sectors that have historically seen diminishing returns from traditional advertising, such as from print, should pay extra attention to the potential benefits of influencer marketing. Brick and mortars like restaurants, clothing stores, and supermarkets that are continuously losing market share due to encroachment from on-demand delivery services like Amazon and other E-tailers can gain a lot from engagement with the right influencer.

The goal is for the influencer to stress the value of the brick and mortar regarding experience, value, and price. In addiiton, combining that with their recommendations and encouraging their audiences to visit and see for themselves. While it can indeed be helpful to spice up the campaign with influencer specific promotions and special offers, these should be looked at as investments for long-term patronage from the influencer’s audience. We have seen great performance from local micro-influencers (explained in detail below) that can help differentiate local kosher supermarkets, restaurants (both fast casual and fine dining) and clothing stores.

Even those competing in the e-commerce world are using influencer marketing to gain share from the biggest player, Amazon. While not a traditional influencer personality, Buzzfeed’s Tasty recently partnered with Walmart and their subsidiary, Jet.com to gain access to Tasty’s young and highly engaged millennial audience. In a more Jewish focused context, Musselman’s partnered with Jewlish during the Chanukah season to capitalize on the infamous latke and applesauce combination.

The use cases for influencer marketing are practically endless. In addition to brick and mortars focused campaigns, we are seeing campaigns beyond consumer-based offerings as well. These include government focused campaigns in both a strategic communications role as well as general marketing in a tourism context. Take, for example, Israel’s recent campaign that brought six internet famous dogs to the country through Vibe Israel, a non-profit that focuses on strengthening Israel’s image.

In addition to the general market, we have used influencer marketing as an integral part of the marketing mix for a wide variety of clients as well. These range from multiple different categories as well as in our various practices, including Jewish focused public relations, general marketing, and kosher focused campaigns.

Various Platforms But One Leader

In the general market, there are many primary platforms where influencer marketing takes place, but in the Jewish market, the platforms of popularity are more limited. For the time being, Instagram is where the lion share of opportunity and influence can be found. Increasingly, interaction via Instagram’s Stories feature is taking engagement share from both first to market competitors like Snapchat. Also, the Stories feature is so popular that we see a cannibalization of sorts in regards to engagement on the traditional profile feed as well as Facebook’s other social platforms. To put the growth and popularity of the Stories feature into perspective; it is estimated that more than 200 million new users were added since the feature launched a bit more than a year ago. This is merely another indicator of how much content is out there and how important it becomes to have the platform that provides the most engaging experience.

While Instagram is certainly the most significant player in the influencer space, we are seeing a slew of podcasts entering the fray as well as a smattering of YouTuber’s which are usually influencers who built followings on Instagram and are now looking to diversify.

Strategy Over Vanity

An ongoing theme in practically all of our discussions about Jewish centric campaigns is the focus on the core components that are precursors for a successful marketing strategy. These same foundational blocks also apply when planning an influencer campaign. This is true regardless of whether the influencer campaign is part of a broader marketing mix or acting as a standalone tactic.

Identifying your optimal audience for the offering at hand is the priority. Once that has been accomplished, an intimate understanding of said audience should be undertaken. This will allow for the careful and well-grounded choice of the most effective and relevant influencer options. That is to say, which influencer captures the attention of the most significant share of your optimal audience. After selecting an influencer, strategic planning of specific objectives, messaging and promotional details should be made with a particular concentration on steering away from vanity metrics.

So, what should be written off as “vanity metrics”?

These metrics are those that do not translate into meaningful value for your organization’s bottom line. For example, there are countless outfits in the wild west market of “social media marketers” that offer to get businesses “likes” to their Instagram, Facebook, or other social media profiles. What often seems to happen is that these likes or other page engagements are bought and come from bots or users in countries that have little to no relevance for the businesses offering. The ultimate goal should be to get real engagement from relevant people that could become potential customers.

The Three R's

Another issue related to vanity metrics when discussing influencer campaigns are the all too popular contests. These take numerous forms, but they revolve around the chance to win something if followers like or comment on the businesses page. These competitions could translate into significant value if appropriately structured. At the same time, they oftentimes result in an increase in vanity engagement from users who have no relevance or interest in the product or service being offered.

Measurement & More Measurement

Gauging the performance of any advertising campaign is an integral component of ensuring that your spend provides for a positive return. This is true with influencer focused advertising as well. To accurately measure a campaign it is necessary to know what you are tracking. To that effect, specific objectives should be clearly delineated, and ways of gauging progress toward reaching them should be properly planned. In the world of influencers, goals range across a broad spectrum. Some of the most common are purchases, new user sign-up, and non-vanity focused engagement.

An Achilles’ heel of influencer marketing has always been the proper measurement of performance and subsequent optimization of campaigns. While there is a continuous stream of solutions to this problem coming to market on a daily basis, this is still an issue. We make sure to come up with creative measurement capabilities for each influencer campaign so that clients benefit from ongoing optimization of their campaigns. These range from unique promotional and influencer specific landing pages to specialized influencer measurement solutions.

The Value Of Micro-Influencers

In a discussion of influencer marketing, we would be remiss if we did not mention the value of micro-influencers. This term is not strictly defined, but usually refers to those personalities that have a relatively small yet marketable audience. It is important to note though, that an influencer considered substantial in the context of the Jewish market would often be considered a micro-influencer when taken in the context of the general market.

Depending on the specific circumstances, the potential value proposition of working with micro-influencers varies. For starters, in a study by L2, micro-influencers were found to provide more value in return for spend when compared to influencers in the “middle tier.”

In addition to the potential for better returns on spending, micro-influencers are often easier to negotiate with, provide more attention to the campaign and can even have a more loyal and engaged audience. Unilever has seen the value in micro-influencers and utilized a number of them for a campaign touting their margarine brand, Stork.

While we have certainly seen the ways that “more authentic” micro-influencers can be incorporated and provide unique value, there is still a substantial place for larger and more established personalities. Also, using larger influencers and micro-influencers in tandem can sometimes result in the “perfect blend.” This often takes the form of using more established and larger influencers for high-impact campaign launches, while having micro-influencers do more of the daily engagement.

Finding The Right Partners & Negotiation Is An Art

Influencers are no less than partners. The success of an influencer campaign truly depends on the dynamic and work of the personalities you work with. As mentioned, the influencers you choose should understand and believe in the brand or product they are promoting to ensure that campaign portrays authenticity for best performance.

In the Jewish market, there is substantial overlap among different influencers. That is to say that influencers are not strictly delineated to particular niches. While in the general market influencers usually promote offerings native to their category, whether it be food, fashion, fitness, etc.), in the Jewish market, influencers are more general and lifestyle focused and promote a variety of offerings across a broader range. Therefore, the influencer you decide to work with does not necessarily have to be native to promoting the category of product you have on offer. Instead, the focus should be on who the influencers primary audience is and how relevant it is to your offering.

Part and parcel to any successful influencer campaign is what can be the most challenging and frustrating part of the process. This is the negotiation phase. There are a number of reasons as to why this phase can at times be quite difficult. One of the primary reasons relates to the relative experimental stage that influencer marketing currently finds itself in. There is very little concrete guidance as to what market rates for influencer focused campaigns should be. To illustrate, a recent study by Rakuten established that 86% of marketers weren’t entirely sure how influencer fees are calculated. This confusion is exacerbated by the challenges relating to performance measurement of these campaigns. Without quantification of the ROI emanating from influencers, it becomes difficult to negotiate fees in line with the returns they bring. As stated in regards to the tracking of campaigns, this lack of knowledge, understanding, and transparency is hurting the overall maturity of the influencer marketing industry.

With these concerns at the forefront, we advise clients on ways to strategically mitigate these potential pitfalls. At the start, we can bring historical benchmark data from influencers and associated ROI’s as a negotiating base. Furthermore, especially in scenarios where we have established relationships with an influencer and have the power to shift spend in either a positive or negative direction, interests are much more in sync for a significantly more beneficial rate as well as a more robust promotion.

In addition to the negotiation specific dynamics and tactics to get mutually beneficial agreements with influencers, we have also seen a rising popularity in alternative, performance-based compensation structures. This shift from the once mainstream models as they vary greatly depending on whether specific campaign benchmarks are met.

For example, if a company engages an influencer to get new users signed up to their subscription platform, instead of a one time fee, the influencer would be paid on a Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). With such an agreement, the influencer and company’s goals are much more closely aligned and in certain situations could be substantially more profitable for the influencer. With that being said, there are issues that can arise with such a structure. The most common is where the offering at hand lacks in a significant regard, and the response is expected to be lackluster in the influencers opinion. In essence though, in such a circumstance, where the influencer does not believe in the strength of the product, whether warranted or not, it is better for both parties not to work together.

Negotiation is an art. We find that creativity goes a long way in this regard. With flexibility on both the end of the influencer and client, discussion tends to be a lot more fruitful and pleasant. It is also helpful to remember that at times, if substantial value is being offered to an influencer’s audience in terms of a contest prize, there is potential for promotion without an associated influencer fee. We have found that these opportunities are most abundant during the Jewish holidays and during peak vacation times.

One thing’s for sure though, for influencer marketing to cement itself as a marketing tactic with longevity in the marketers toolkit, there must be a steady decrease in a negotiation in the dark. A combination of hard and soft metrics should be considered to arrive at a fee with an influencer. These include the nature of the partnership – a one-off versus a long-term engagement; the size of the influencer audience and their engagement; the work involved in the content promotion as well a plethora of other scenario specific minutia.

Transparency, Authenticity, & Compliance 

In addition to the challenges that arise in the negotiation stage, there is much discussion around transparency, authenticity, and compliance with influencer marketing. Influencers are often hesitant to disclose relationships with brands for fear of criticism or feelings of resentment from their followings. After all, there is a delicate balancing act that influencers must undertake when trying to bring in maximum revenue while trying to avoid the over-saturation that kills engagement. Prudent influencers are aware that an audience can start to feel “used” if there is too much blatantly promoted content. At the same time, there are guidelines from the FTC that need to be followed concerning disclosure of paid promotional material. We, therefore, advise influencers who we work with on a continuous basis to be cognizant of the potential pitfalls of taking on too many partnerships.

With that being said, promotional content in moderation that includes proper disclosure can be quite advantageous for both the infleuncer in terms of an increase in “brand authenticity and in turn partners as well. In a study conducted by Traackr, use of hashtags like #ad has increased by more than 50% over the past year, and engagement with these posts has almost quadrupled; showing that transparency is rewarded. On the other hand, when disclosures are executed poorly, such as when the #ad tagline is hidden among different hashtags, a post will see 50% to 80% less engagement when compared to the same influencers’ non-paid posts.

Predictions & Going Forward

Based on the impressive performance and returns that we see for properly executed Jewish influencer campaigns, we expect that influencers will be in higher demand in the years to come. As more robust measurement solutions come online, we can expect industry transparency to improve and performance to get even better which will further expand the popularity of influencer marketing. At the same time, we expect that the influencer space will become oversaturated, which we already see to a certain extent in the Jewish market. This is because the big influencers are continuously growing their audience size while those that are smaller are having trouble winning the attention of a limited audience segment.

We also predict that there will be more of a shared risk between brands and influencers. This will take the form of alternative fee structures that are gaining traction beyond the influencer market and even entering the traditional CPC camapign category. These revised compensation models will be based on performance and focus on meeting campaign specific objectives and benchmarks rather than influencers charging based on the number of followers they have (vanity metric). As these agreements become more popular, we will end up in a more mutually aligned market where brands pay for the value they receive and influencers are compensated for the value they add. When incentives are aligned with brands and influencers, influencers usually work more diligently to meet campaign goals which lead to better results for the brand.

In addition to the new capabilities that performance tracking solutions will bring to strengthen the influencer market, we also expect the proliferation of solutions that allow far deeper levels of insight rather than merely top-line metrics such as impressions and clicks. This will be in the form of parameters that offer granularity in the same way Facebook does. Such improvements will significantly raise the potential and use case spectrum that influencer marketing avails itself to. These new developments will ensure that influencers become a valuable asset in the marketer’s portfolio of existing options.

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