In­flu­encer Sea­son

AS AD­VER­TIS­ING PE­SOS SHIFT TO THE DIG­I­TAL REALM, NICHE MAR­KET­ING AGEN­CIES LIKE SQUAD SO­CIAL ARE FIND­ING NEW WAYS TO EARN YOUR HEARTS AND LIKES.

Esquire (Philippines) - - MAN AT HIS BEST - By AU­DREY N. CARPIO art­work by Sean EiDDEr

WHEN THE TERM “IN­FLU­ENCER” started be­ing bandied around a few years ago, folks from tra­di­tional me­dia—writ­ers, I guess you can call them— scoffed, yet were se­cretly en­vi­ous of this new genre of liveli­hood. Here were peo­ple who seem­ingly made their pres­ence on so­cial me­dia apro­pos of noth­ing. They knew how to dress, where to eat, and they could Cross­fit like a beast. They took photos of their end­less beach trips, or their ba­bies, or their ba­bies on a beach trip. They had fol­low­ers—like, thou­sands of them—be­cause peo­ple are suck­ers for the as­pi­ra­tional, the hash­tag-blessed life. Some of them may be ac­tual mod­els/chefs/de­sign­ers

IRL, but oth­ers, it seemed, cu­rated them­selves to on­line star­dom with only the help of an IG hus­band and a knack for flat-lays. Mar­ket­ing agen­cies on the so­cial me­dia tip took no­tice of this and “in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing” was born, just around the same time tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing like print ads (which keep mag­a­zines such as this alive) started to fal­ter.

KC Mon­tero, con­sum­mate host and for­mer MTV VJ was one of its early adopters, or in­sti­ga­tors, hav­ing started two of his own com­pa­nies be­fore be­ing pi­rated by the guys at Virus, a dig­i­tal agency that was founded in 2008. KC was behind the #Pac­quiaoPos­i­tive cam­paign that was launched on Twit­ter in 2012, when Twit­ter it­self was still highly in­flu­en­tial. Fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of the boxer dop­ing, KC tweeted: “Break­ing news: it’s true.. I can’t be­lieve it!” Rhian Ramos, KC’s girl­friend at the time, tweeted back, “OMG. #Pac­quiaoPos­i­tive? I didn’t no­tice be­fore.. but now.. it kinda makes sense.” Thus be­gan a con­ver­sa­tion among sev­eral celebri­ties, 14 of whom were paid to sow in­trigue, but even more who jumped in, hav­ing no clue. A few days later, a TV ad dis­guised to look like a high-pro­file press con­fer­ence fea­tured a somber-look­ing Manny about to ad­dress the wild spec­u­la­tions. “It’s true, I’m pos­i­tive….” here some­one brings out a pot­ted plant… “with malung­gay!” Re­ac­tions were mixed, from peo­ple tweet­ing that they felt duped, but mostly, peo­ple got the joke.

Fast for­ward to now, when au­di­ences are way savvier when it comes to iden­ti­fy­ing paid pro­mo­tions and spot­ting viral cam­paigns (but strangely, not fake news), and they gen­er­ally go along for the ride. KC joined Virus to form Squad So­cial, its in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing arm. With KC’s show­biz con­nec­tions and Virus’ re­sources (ie. two en­tire of­fice floors of mil­len­ni­als on com­put­ers), they plan to take in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing to new levels of en­ter­tain­ment and en­gage­ment this year, mov­ing well be­yond the spon­sored post or blog en­try. “The last thing in­flu­encers want is to be ac­cused of ‘bayad ka,’ so they might as well em­brace it and be en­ter­tain­ing. Any­one can sniff out a fake,” says Miguel Que­sada, Virus pres­i­dent and CEO.

What makes an in­flu­encer in­flu­en­tial? “It’s not just about how many fol­low­ers you have,” says An­dre Tani, Virus man­ag­ing part­ner. “Some­times they may have a very niche fol­low­ing with less than 5,000, but this could be more ef­fec­tive, given the ob­jec­tive of the client.” In­deed, I would be more in­flu­enced by a post from David Ong (IG fol­low­ing: 3,819) about small batch gins over a post from Anne Cur­tis (IG fol­low­ing: 6.5 mil­lion) of in­stant pancit can­ton (girl, we know you don’t re­ally eat that. We’re cross-ref­er­enc­ing Er­wan’s page.) You’ll no­tice too there are sig­nif­i­cantly less likes, shares, and com­ments on these prod­uct place­ments and half-assed en­dorse­ments than there are on her self­ies or videos of Anne just be­ing Anne. Huge so­cial me­dia pres­ence does not al­ways equate to ac­tion, but at the same time, a sin­gle post on one or mul­ti­ple chan­nels that reaches mil­lions will still cost less than what a client would spend on a TVC.

“With all of this hap­pen­ing, it’s very im­por­tant that we make our posts and cam­paigns and videos stand out,” says KC. “Let’s have a good time, make peo­ple re­mem­ber what we’re do­ing.” His sense of ab­sur­dity is in­fec­tious, or at least it aims to be— in­flu­encers and clients he works with are given li­cense to go a lit­tle crazy. Miguel ac­knowl­edges that only some­one like KC could get a hot girl to fake a nip­ple slip. Rather than merely en­dorse a prod­uct, the in­flu­encer should cre­ate some­thing of value for the au­di­ence, whether it’s a silly prank, or an in­for­ma­tive se­ries on life in­sur­ance. Their cam­paign for In­su­lar Life led to the first ever pol­icy sold on­line in the Philip­pines, through an e-com­merce plat­form Virus cre­ated. Nat­u­rally, the in­flu­encers they pre­fer to work with rarely come from the big net­work stu­dios with their big tal­ent fees.

“With Face­book and In­sta­gram Sto­ries, ev­ery­one is mak­ing an SDE of their lives of the past 24 hours. Ev­ery user is em­pow­ered to be­come a con­tent cre­ator now,” says Miguel. “We’re em­brac­ing this evo­lu­tion of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing.” Now ex­cuse me while I start my live feed, try­ing on dif­fer­ent kinds of or­ganic homemade fa­cial masks. Oh wait, that’s just baby vomit. #Blessed!

HERE WERE PEO­PLE WHO MADE THEIR PRES­ENCE ON SO­CIAL ME­DIA APRO­POS OF NOTH­ING. THEY KNEW HOW TO DRESS, WHERE TO EAT, AND THEY COULD CROSS­FIT LIKE A BEAST.

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