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Influencer Marketing: How To Find Your Advocates…And Your Detractors

Influencer marketing remains a buzz phrase in 2021. In fact, it’s unlikely that it’s going anywhere soon. What are the most influential factors for Gen Z when it comes to digital marketing engagement? Number of content shares? Likes? Followers of your brand. Surprisingly, it’s none of the above. While they are all good indicators of growth and visibility, among hyper-connected student audiences, it is social proof that has the most impact.

A recent report published by brand consultancy Takumi, which was conducted across the UK, US and Germany, discovered that 38% of 16-24 and 25-34-year-olds trust an influencer on YouTube more than a high-profile figure or celebrity. The thirst for authenticity and ‘real people’ in brand marketing has been building momentum since the dawn of digital. But with social media now the primary promotional channel for many brands, the thirst is becoming a necessity.  

How powerful is social proof? 

Influence is an important aspect of a brand’s success, and always has been. Now, though, being able to measure and act upon what people are saying about your institution is a huge benefit. It offers a significant advantage within the higher education sector where audiences are so prevalent in the digital space.

Even within their immediate circles your students’ opinions have the power to sway their peers’ view of your institution. Imagine what happens when those opinions are shared to larger audiences.

Unfortunately, the right influencers can be hard to find, especially in the international higher education space. It can be difficult to track where student customers are online, not to mention what they’re saying about your university. Often conversations are happening in different languages and within a group of avid friends and followers. 

When influencer marketing goes wrong

With growing proof of the impact influencers of on their Gen Z peers it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon. Still, the key is to remember that ever-crucial (if now slightly overused) word: authenticity. That’s why finding the right advocates is so important.

According Takumi’s research, “consumers are most concerned about ‘disingenuous endorsements.’” Indeed, the report states “26% highlight this as their top concern on YouTube, and 23% on TikTok.”

Last year, the UK’s Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) made national news for paying fashion, lifestyle and travel influencers to promote the university as part of their 2020 clearing campaign – despite many of them never having studied there. ARU defended the move, saying, “Our Instagram partners talk about how their university experiences and qualifications have helped to transform their own lives. Sometimes in quite radical ways. These posts, all written by the individuals themselves and clearly marked with an ‘ad’ tag, focus on the wider benefits of considering a university education.”

The backlash the university subsequently experienced underlines the key concern consumers stated in Takumi’s research. But with ‘brand agnostic’ influencers becoming trusted sources of information, it is worth the effort to find those authentic voices. 

Enter, Artificial Intelligence. The best online listening tools are much more sophisticated than their predecessors, which struggled on targeting, channel access and filtering. The latest technology can help overcome many of the issues institutions used to face with their social listening efforts. And with the addition of AI even barriers such as multilingual listening and accurate sentiment scoring can be overcome. 

How can you hit the right sentiment? 

Net Promoter Scoring (NPS) is a method of measuring customer loyalty, and is used to gauge the social media sentiment of a person or group. Universities can easily track students’ feedback with a survey, but an even more specific measure is to apply an NPS score to influencers in their key recruitment markets. 

Advanced social listening tools help to find the people who are talking about an institution, and make it easier to gauge the sentiment of a person or group. NPS surveys are typically asked at the end of an interaction with your institution, but by that time it can be too late to prevent the spread of negative sentiment from detractors. Listening and monitoring engagement throughout the student cycle empowers institutions to harness advocates and address detractors early on.  

Remember that your detractors are usually more vocal than your advocates, so finding and engaging with them to understand the issue is crucial. The true power in online listening is the ability to action concerns expressed by your detractors, and amplify the cheers of your advocates. By hearing and acting, HE institutions can make influencer marketing one of the most powerful tools in their digital strategy. 

Global Young Minds is changing digital student engagement forever. We combine 20 years of expertise in digital marketing for the international higher education sector, with access to the latest AI technology. Our passion is to help HE institutions supercharge their digital acceleration to connect with students all around the world.

Can we help you become a future-proof institution? Get in touch for a discovery call.