The Three Apples That Changed Our World Op:Ed By Murray Legg, Co-Founder of Webfluential

July 17, 2024 2:51 pm Published by

Three iconic apples have profoundly shaped human behaviour over the centuries. It began with Eve’s fateful bite, symbolising our innate temptation for social status. Then came Newton’s apple, revealing the gravitational forces that exist between objects and people. Finally, there was Steve Jobs’ Apple, putting a powerful handheld window to the world in our palms – allowing us to seamlessly connect, purchase, and share our lifestyles like never before. 

From the garden to the orchard to the Apple store, this trinity of apples has converged in the rising phenomenon of social commerce. Their symbolic undertones of status, social influence, and mobilised consumer behaviour have manifested into a meaningful shift in how we interact with brands and make purchasing decisions today.

As someone immersed in the tech world, I’ve become fascinated by the convergence of community, technology, commerce, and creativity. This intersection represents more than just intrigue – it’s a paradigm shift in how we engage, influenced by the same temptations and forces that the three legendary apples set about. 

Our recent analysis of creator metrics on traffic, trust and conversion revealed social commerce’s powerful impact first-hand. Like Eve’s apple, the illustrated social status of the influencers we follow taps into our desires for mimicry and ultimately, product purchase. It delivers authenticity through the trusted voices and stories of influential creators that hold gravitational pull in our social orbits, and like Jobs’ ground-breaking devices, social commerce allows these influencers to mobilise consumer behaviour with incredible immediacy and seamless shopping experiences.

The Social Commerce Revolution

This transformation extends far beyond simply adopting new digital tools or chasing trends. It reflects a fundamental shift in how brands, creators, and consumers interact. The era of shopping as a passive, disconnected activity confined to physical stores or basic e-commerce sites is over. Social media has blossomed into vibrant digital communities and marketplaces where creators don’t just carry influence – they cultivate relationships, tell stories, and drive purchases directly through the gravity of their resonance and reach.

Consumers aren’t just buying products anymore. They’re buying into authentic narratives crafted by people they feel drawn towards. Creators have turned their social feeds into modern-day apple orchards, blending product showcases with personal storytelling to make every interaction shoppable and gratifying on a primal level.

Social commerce’s power lies in this perfect mashup of ancient tendencies and modern convenience: It delivers on our aspirational indulgences, through gravitational influences, and is seamlessly executed through engaging experiences aligned with how people prefer to make purchases today.

The Rapid Rise of Social Commerce

While the tendencies behind social commerce are rooted in humanity’s earliest eras, its recent growth has been staggering. Live-streaming commerce alone is massive, valued at around $774 billion globally. This scale underscores how adeptly social platforms can influence consumer behaviour by harnessing age-old psychological forces.

In South Africa, local brands aren’t just participating – they’re pioneering live-streaming as a way to transform passive viewers into active shoppers. By broadcasting engaging product experiences through trusted creator voices, brands are reinventing the customer journey as an immersive, instantly shoppable event. It’s that Verimark experience we used to watch on TV, with a “click to purchase” convenience right on our phone.

The opportunity extends far beyond live shopping, too. Shoppable posts that tag purchasable items directly in photos and videos are enhancing the act of scrolling our social feeds. What was once simple browsing of friend’s life experiences and enhanced photos, has become large-scale industrial level-harvesting, allowing consumers to effortlessly pick and purchase any digital apple that catches their eye.

Seizing Social Commerce’s Low-Hanging Fruit

While significant opportunities exist, the South African market has been slow to fully embrace social commerce’s potential. Many companies remain heavily invested in traditional media strategies despite digital’s proven ROIs and consumer gravitations. This adoption rate has partly been governed by internet access and online purchase comfort, but is being accelerated by competitive behaviour between marketplaces such as the recently launched, Temu and Shein.

Closing this gap requires a digital-first mindset, one focused on not just advertising alongside social content but embedding commerce capabilities directly within these authentic digital communities where consumers already cultivate relationships with brands organically.

Here’s how brands can start harvesting social commerce’s benefits:

  • Audit your digital presence and realign it with where consumers truly spend their time.
  • Partner with creator communities that resonate with your brand to amplify your narratives through voices that carry real gravity.
  • Measure your efforts not just by followers or likes, but by how effectively social interactions translate into tangible sales.

At Webfluential, we understood from the beginning that authenticity breeds influence. This philosophy has perfectly positioned us to cultivate social commerce, designing our platform to connect brands with creators who can help them grow naturally within digital communities through genuine storytelling and relationships.

Every interaction on our platform represents not just a digital touchpoint, but an opportunity for brands to blossom and bear new commercial fruit. Because in today’s world, the real temptation isn’t a single apple, but entire orchards of shoppable personal narratives waiting to be plucked.

The three legendary apples may have originated in different contexts across the centuries. But their collective impact on human behaviour has paved the way for an era where community and commerce not only harmoniously co-exist, but are becoming inseparable. For brands willing to embrace this reality, the opportunities are ripe for the picking.

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Beyond Viral: The New Era of Influence

July 12, 2024 12:21 pm Published by

Late one evening, in the dim glow of a single desk lamp, a marketing manager at a burgeoning brand discovers a mention on Instagram. It’s from an influencer, someone not yet on the mainstream radar but with a fiercely loyal following, sharing a candid moment that unexpectedly includes the brand’s product. This tag doesn’t just go viral—it sparks a conversation, a community, and ultimately, a transformative campaign that catapults the brand into the hearts and feeds of countless new customers. This isn’t a tale of serendipity; it’s the power of influencer marketing, meticulously leveraged and astutely executed.

In the fast-evolving realm of digital marketing, where algorithms reign supreme and consumer attention is the ultimate prize, influencer marketing emerges as the David against the Goliaths of traditional marketing channels. While it may not be wielding a sling; it is armed with authenticity, creativity, and the unmatched power of personal recommendation.

The Rise of the Specialists

As influencer marketing matures, a new crop of heroes enters the scene: specialist influencer agencies. These agencies have turned influencer marketing into a science. With a keen understanding of the digital landscape, they navigate the intricacies of influencer partnerships, algorithm changes, and campaign analytics with the ease of a seasoned sailor in familiar waters. 

Their expertise? Not just knowing which influencer’s aesthetic aligns with a brand, but also which influencer’s audience aligns with a brand’s target market. It’s like matchmaking, but the stakes are higher, and the romance is between brands and potential customers.

“In the dynamic world of digital marketing, understanding the pulse of your audience is key. Influencer marketing, when done right, isn’t just about reach; it’s about building authentic connections and sparking meaningful conversations,” says Albert Makoeng, Head of Sales at Nfinity Influencer, a part of the Nfinity Group which owns influencer platforms such as theSalt and Webfluential.

Building on the nuanced expertise of influencer marketing specialists, these agencies extend their value far beyond mere matchmaking. They equip brands with a sophisticated marketing toolkit. This suite of resources is meticulously designed to ensure that each campaign not only reaches its target audience but resonates with them, driving engagement and fostering genuine connections. 

Let’s delve into what one may find in their toolkit and why these components are indispensable to clients and pivotal for marketing success.

Technology Platforms: Central to the modern influencer marketing strategy, these platforms offer unparalleled precision in pairing brands with influencers. This precision ensures that marketing campaigns are sharply focused from the outset, maximising the likelihood of achieving desired outcomes.

Manpower: The human element remains irreplaceable. Agencies bring together teams of strategists, creatives, and analysts who apply their collective expertise to craft campaigns that speak to the hearts and minds of the target audience. This manpower is the driving force behind campaigns that not only capture attention but also inspire action.

Adapting: The capability to quickly adapt and execute influencer campaigns within increasingly tight timelines is becoming a crucial competitive advantage. Agencies and brands that can swiftly navigate these challenges are better positioned to capitalise on fleeting trends and moments.

Reporting: With a keen focus on accountability and optimisation, comprehensive reporting tools provide deep insights into campaign performance. These insights allow brands to fine-tune their strategies, ensuring continuous improvement and a robust return on investment.

Gone are the days when the success of a campaign was measured by gut feeling or likes alone. In today’s data-driven world, measuring ROI is paramount. Agencies and brands alike are delving into the nitty-gritty of engagement rates, conversion metrics, and audience growth to justify every penny spent. It’s not enough to create a buzz; the buzz needs to convert to sales, sign-ups, or whatever the golden metric of success may be for the campaign at hand.

AI and the Future of Personalisation in Influencer Marketing

“Following our insight into the metrics that matter, it is clear that the future of influencer marketing lies not just in numbers but in the intelligent application of those numbers. This is where artificial intelligence steps in, bridging the gap between data and human connection, and offering an array of tools for creators that revolutionise the way campaigns are conceived, executed, and analysed,” says Pieter Groenewald, CEO of the Nfinity Influencer Group.

AI tools are at the forefront of this transformation, enabling a level of personalisation and efficiency previously unimaginable:

  • OwlyWriter AI for content creation offers a unique blend of ChatGPT’s language model with proprietary content formulas, streamlining social media captioning and post generation to save countless hours.
  • ChatGPT stands out for idea generation and brainstorming, providing a basis for social media post ideas, blog outlines, and more, making it an invaluable asset for content strategy.
  • Dall-E and Midjourney bring a new dimension to visual content creation, generating original graphics and art with just a text prompt, perfect for social media graphics, blog illustrations, and more, enriching the visual storytelling aspect of influencer campaigns.
  • Podcastle simplifies podcast production with AI-powered recording and editing, making audio content more accessible and polished for creators of all experience levels.
  • Canva with its “Magic Design” features, accelerates the content creation process across platforms, ensuring brand consistency and enabling efficient content repurposing.
  • Synthesia and Murf present innovative solutions for video and audio content, allowing for the creation of AI avatars and human-sounding voice overs, respectively, enabling diverse content creation without traditional barriers.

Trends on the Horizon

Exploring what’s next for influencer marketing unveils key trends poised to transform how brands and creators engage with audiences. According to Groenewald and his team at Nfinity Influencer, here are just some of the developments shaping this dynamic field:

  • The rise of Nano and Micro-Influencers: With their authenticity and high engagement rates, nano influencers represent a growing trend, offering brands a cost-effective way to reach specific audiences.
  • Integration of technology: Beyond the utilisation of AI for personalisation and efficiency, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are starting to play more significant roles. For example, AR can enable shoppers to see how furniture would look in their home or how a makeup product would appear on their skin. Influencers can use these technologies to create more engaging and persuasive content that showcases products in real-life scenarios, enhancing the consumer’s decision-making process. By integrating AR and VR into their content, influencers can offer audiences a virtual try-before-you-buy experience. This not only adds value to the consumer journey but also elevates the influencer’s role from a mere promoter to an integral part of the customer’s shopping experience.
  • Financial empowerment through affiliate and referral programmes: Influencers are increasingly leveraging their platforms for direct financial gain, adopting affiliate and referral programs that align their earnings with their ability to drive real results for brands.
  • Long-term partnerships and authenticity: The shift towards longer, more meaningful collaborations between brands and influencers underscores the importance of authenticity in today’s marketing landscape.
  • Socio-political activism: More influencers are using their platforms to engage with socio-political issues, resonating with audiences who value corporate social responsibility. This trend reflects a broader expectation for brands and influencers to take stands on societal issues, contributing to a brand’s image as socially conscious and engaged.

“Influencer marketing continues to be a vibrant, evolving field. For brands willing to dive deep, the rewards are manifold: from forging deeper consumer connections to driving tangible results. As we edge further into the digital age, one thing is clear: influencer marketing isn’t just surviving; it’s thriving,” concludes Groenewald. 

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Budget Shifts, Market Lifts. The Rise of Influencer-Driven Growth

July 2, 2024 12:29 pm Published by

In the aftermath of the budget speech, it’s not uncommon to see businesses clutching their wallets a little tighter. The immediate reaction often zips straight to cost-cutting mode, where marketing budgets might be the first on the chopping block. Yet, cursory slash in marketing investment, as some savvy minds would argue, could be a classic case of being penny-wise but pound-foolish.

In the mix of marketing strategies vying for a slice of your revised budget, influencer marketing stands tall. It’s not just a matter of following trends; it’s about leaning into a measurable, data-driven approach that stands up to scrutiny just as firmly as any ‘hard’ marketing tactic. Gone are the days when influencer marketing was a gamble – today, it’s a science.

Albert Makoeng, Head of Sales at influencer marketing platform, Webfluential, says: “Unlike traditional marketing avenues, which may require significant upfront investments with uncertain returns, influencer marketing offers a more agile and measurable approach.” This is where a sophisticated software as a service (SaaS) platform becomes invaluable. It’s a far cry from the ‘spray and pray’ methods of old. Here, you have a dashboard that demystifies the journey from content to customer, spotlighting the paths leading to conversions and those needing rerouting.

The tug-of-war between survival instincts and the pursuit of growth is not new. The wisdom to discern between cost-cutting and value-creating investments is what sets resilient businesses apart. In this vein, insights from McKinsey & Company, are particularly salient. Articulating a compelling strategy for marketers facing budget constraints, McKinsey cites that by eliminating inefficient spend and reinvesting it in high-growth areas, resilient marketers will weather pending storms while also creating opportunities to rebound stronger. 

Recognising the fiscal shifts outlined by Minister Godongwana, where a net reduction in non-interest expenditure meets a cautious upward revenue revision, savvy businesses are already recalibrating their sails. It’s a clear nod from the 2024 Budget Speech that the winds of financial prudence are blowing, and with them, the need for shrewder marketing strategies that don’t just cut costs, but smartly invest them.

Amidst this landscape, influencer marketing emerges not as a luxury but as a linchpin for businesses aiming to navigate through economic ambiguity. With its ability to create authentic connections and drive consumer actions, influencer marketing stands as a testament to the power of prudent yet proactive spending.

Says Makoeng: “Humans naturally seek connections and value trust, especially in their purchasing decisions. Influencers, by sharing their genuine experiences and recommendations, tap into this psychological need, fostering a trust that traditional ads can’t replicate. This trust is the foundation of influencer marketing’s effectiveness, making it a powerful tool for brands to connect on a more personal level with their audience.”

“The versatility of influencer marketing allows it to transcend industry boundaries. Whether it’s fashion, tech, or finance, influencers can tailor their content to reflect the unique values and selling points of any product, making it relevant and appealing to their followers. This is gold in any marketer’s books,” says Makoeng.

This adaptability makes influencer marketing effective across all industries and maximises the impact of marketing budgets by targeting and engaging the right audience.

Here’s the deal on why a tight budget doesn’t mean you’re out of the game, especially when you’ve got influencer marketing on your side:

  1. Targeted reach: Influencers are like the sharpshooters of the marketing world. They’ve got the niche audience you’re after, which means less wastage on eyeballs that aren’t going to buy.
  2. Authentic engagement: Billboards don’t talk back, but influencers do. They create conversations around your brand, drumming up genuine interest that feels more like a recommendation from a friend than an ad.
  3. Agile campaigns: Influencer marketing campaigns can turn on a dime. Market shifts? Consumer behaviour changes? No stress. Influencers can pivot faster than a start-up in a Silicon Valley accelerator.
  4. Trackable ROI: With the tech that platforms like Webfluential offer, you’ll know exactly where your money’s going. It’s like having a GPS for your investment, tracking the journey from post to purchase.
  5. Content that keeps on giving: The content that influencers create doesn’t have a shelf life. It’s evergreen, it gets shared, and it lives on long after the campaign’s done and dusted, giving you more bang for your buck.

This is a clarion call for businesses to not just survive but to thrive – by making intelligent choices that will set them apart in the marketplace. 

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