Influencer marketing is evolving in New Zealand and it could be extremely effective for small businesses.
Using famous people to advertise products and services is not a new idea.
But the internet and prevalence of social media have taken the concept to a whole new level, giving companies more reach and influence than ever before.
Research shows that consumers are heavily influenced by bloggers and actively look online for recommendations on products.
Dow Design group account director Simon Wedde says influencer marketing is the way forward and can be highly effective for smaller businesses.
It is a way for them to get their story out quickly, particularly if they can link their brand with influencers who have the same attitude, style and point of view as the company.
"There's a big opportunity for small companies to seek out brand ambassadors or brand supporters, people who get really enthusiastic and understand their brand," Wedde says.
While few companies in general would be able to afford the five to six figure sums reportedly demanded by high-profile celebrities like the Kardashian family, there are far more influencer options for businesses on a tighter budget.
The rise of social media stars and web-famous bloggers and vloggers mean businesses can find extremely influential people with extensive networks who are not necessarily famous in the mainstream.
These people tend to be highly attractive to advertisers because they are more engaged with their audiences.
However, truly effective influencer marketing ultimately comes down to a company's story and brand.
Wedde says social media is forcing businesses to think seriously about what their brand is and the level of transparency around what they are doing.
"That's a good thing. It's almost like a democratisation of brands."
James Polhill is the founder of influencer marketing agency Populr, which links companies up with some of the most prolific influencers in the country.
He says influencer marketing is much more than just a famous person posting on social media about how much they love a product.
For Populr, it is also about creating a conversation around a product or service.
For example, an influencer will start a conversation about a product or service on Instagram by interacting with fans, or encourage fans to post pictures of themselves with a product for competitions.
"Social media is a two-way conversation and that's where the power lies," Polhill says.
"Suddenly you've got celebrities or athletes, or entertainers talking about your brand, not your brand talking about your brand."
The rise of influencer marketing has come with a call by some industry players for more clarification from people when they have been paid to promote something.
In New Zealand, the Advertising Standards Authority code of ethics requires advertising material to be declared as such.
Recent examples show blatant, undisclosed product placement does not go down well with followers.
Several Super Rugby players, for example, have tweeted and Instragrammed photos of themselves with My Food Bag packages with no explanation.
Some followers suggested the players received the items for free and it turned out the players were brand ambassadors for the company.
Earlier this year the Kardashians were called out for not disclosing paid product placement Instagram posts as advertising, leading to the sisters adding "#ad" on their paid posts.
Polhill says it is therefore imperative from Populr's perspective that influencers are matched with products they truly love in order to deliver the best returns for businesses.
"The minute it starts to [appear fake], the guys don't want to push it, the girls don't want to endorse it. It just doesn't work for anyone."
Article by Tao Lin for stuff.co.nz
Featured in The Press (Christchurch), Manawatu Standard (Palmerston North Manawatu), The Dominion Post (Wellington), Waikato Times (Hamilton Waikato)