How UK brands can harness international influencers

How UK brands can harness international influencers

Influencer marketing has become one of the most popular and fast-growing channels for marketers. We explore how British businesses can use influencer campaigns to raise their profile and boost sales overseas. What are the risks and limitations of this strategy for brand marketers? 

Numerous studies have confirmed that consumers are now more likely to trust the recommendation of a friend over and above traditional advertising. This is the reality in which British marketers operate. The rise of influencer marketing is therefore entirely logical, with almost three-quarters of brands turning to private individuals to promote products and services. 

Lisa Targett is the UK general manager of Tribe, an influencer marketing platform founded in Australia and now operating worldwide. She believes that influencers offer major benefits to brands looking to raise their profile and boost sales overseas.

Trust influencers to tailor your message 

According to Targett, one of the most useful advantages for UK brands is that overseas influencers will personally tailor a brand’s messaging to the market they’re operating within.

“Most of the businesses using influencers are online, direct-to-consumer global brands,” she says. “It’s important for them to use local influencers to tailor the messaging of their product, direct to local consumers by market.”

By engaging a local individual to promote a specific product in an overseas market, brands are able to overcome the challenges of running an expensive above-the-line campaign in an environment with its own languages and customs. In other words, the influencer will be able to communicate with the target audience on its own terms. In some ways, this becomes an exercise in ‘localism’, whereby an outside organisation builds a partnership with a local business, benefiting from its on-the-ground knowledge and expertise.

“Leave it to the creators to show you how best to engage their audience – don’t unnecessarily art direct,” says Targett. “You could be missing out on really interesting insights generated by your customers about how and why they love your product.”

Case studies: Topshop and Selfridges

Tribe is in the process of setting up a campaign with British clothes brand Topshop to promote its range of denim internationally. Targett explains why this campaign lends itself to influencer marketing. “Denim is loved worldwide, and Topshop is available for global shipping. The campaign is all about celebrating everyday people all over the world, enjoying their Topshop jeans.”

The ubiquitous nature of denim seems to lend itself naturally to an international campaign driven by micro-influencers. “This is about everyday people the public can relate to, who are highlighting the range of options and price accessibility,” explains Targett.

Tribe is also working with Selfridges, the upscale British department store, which is seeking to connect with the global luxury market in the Middle East. “Selfridges is portraying a personality – and promoting its brands – in a different light to its ordinary marketing activity, by using influencers alongside traditional media.”

User-generated images created by micro-influencers engaged by Selfridges using the Tribe platform to promote Mother's Day.

User-generated images created by micro-influencers engaged by Selfridges using the Tribe platform to promote Mother's Day.

Fewer followers means greater engagement

Tribe’s platform opens up the influencer concept to a mass audience, bringing brands together with individuals on a global basis. By downloading the app, anyone can become an influencer, or ‘content creator’, after a vetting process. The idea is to give brands as much choice and control as possible in how their products are portrayed – even on the other side of the world.

“Social media transcends borders. Audiences connect wherever they are with the brand and with influencers,” explains Targett. “You are tapping into the interest, rather than the location of the influencer. Brands can leverage this globalisation.”

As such, rather than relying on celebrities, Tribe almost exclusively works with ‘ordinary’ individuals, or micro-influencers. “We define micro-influencers as having 3,000 to 10,000 followers,” says Targett. “This level of individual has proven to provide the most engaged audience, particularly at the lower end of the scale.”

Targett explains that contrary to what one might expect, micro-influencers with fewer followers are more valuable for brands. “The smaller the audience, the higher the engagement rate and therefore the more potent the influence,” she says.

Influencer Akvile Lesauskaite created her own illustration via the Tribe platform to promote the Selfridges Mother’s Day campaign.

Influencer Akvile Lesauskaite created her own illustration via the Tribe platform to promote the Selfridges Mother’s Day campaign.

Choose the right platform

Making the most of an influencer campaign means choosing the right platform – there is a broad choice for brands these days. However, with its focus on images as opposed to text, Instagram is the platform that most effectively overcomes international language barriers for UK brands.

Other platforms are worth exploring, however. Russia’s most popular social media platform, VK, is now the sixth-most popular website in the world, clocking up more than 85 million daily users. Meanwhile, China’s WeChat has a colossal 900 million daily users, with Weibo boasting a not-unimpressive global audience of 340 million.

These platforms represent highly lucrative markets for UK brands. When choosing an overseas influencer, it may be possible to arrange a contract whereby an influencer will distribute the agreed content across all their social platforms, instead of just Instagram or Twitter for instance.

Akvile has been nominated by a website as one of Lithuania’s top global influencers.

Akvile has been nominated by a website as one of Lithuania’s top global influencers.

Beyond the attribution problem

One of the challenges of influencer marketing – either domestically or overseas – is getting reliable data about audience demographics and return on investment (ROI). After all, marketers are usually keen to target their messages at the right audiences for the product or service.

Targett concedes that influencer marketing is relatively new, and it can be difficult to get solid statistics. “This is a new media and the metrics are still developing. We don’t currently have the same data as for other, more-established media.”

However, she explains that ROI accumulates because of the relatively lower cost of creative assets and the speed with which these can be deployed. Having said that, it’s important for marketers to bear in mind that influencer marketing involves a different set of relationships.

“It’s really important to remember you’re partnering with real customers, not media publishers. Although, as a marketer, it may be important to measure influencer marketing in line with other marketing channels, it does require a varied approach in terms of dealing with influencers as you would typical suppliers.”

As such, influencers offer strong benefits for UK businesses looking to expand overseas. While it might not be possible to always pin-point the sales impact of your influencer activity in as much detail as for other media, brands can be sure that using overseas individuals to promote products and services can overcome many of the traditional hurdles associated with advertising in non-domestic markets.

James Richards
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