Know your audience podcast: S1. Episode 5: Influence

With the digital proliferation taking place before our eyes, the influencer isn’t going away anytime soon. And this offers us another way to get to our audience in an authentic way.
In this episode, Paul Kelly talks about the role of the creator and how they have kept up with the transformative digital content world and harnessed the power of the true influence of an audience.
Paul looks at how brands can unpack this and grow the size of and connection with their customers.



Dr. James Piecowye: Welcome to know your audience, a marketing mini cast that explores how knowing an audience can unlock greater insight. In this episode, we unpack the terms influence and influencer. With the digital proliferation taking place before our eyes, the influencer isn’t going away anytime soon. And this offers us another way to get to our audience in an authentic way. 

One of the words that constantly gets thrown out today in the world of marketing is influencers. So, what are we talking about? 

Paul Kelly: A bit of a chuckle layer on the word influencer? Because I think it’s such a polarizing topic, right? Like so many people, whether you’re in media or marketing, love it or hate it. And, you know, before we talk about the difference, I think, as a channel, it has its place, and I think that’s become a why thing, why does it have its place? because these people have a credible voice with their audience. And when the two things can match up well, you know, so it might not necessarily be somebody who’s a mom blogger advertising, you know, maybe like extreme sports or something like that, because that just won’t work. But when it’s aligned, and the values are aligned, it can be truly powerful. Why is it true, truly powerful? Well, it goes back to the concept of influence, rather than ‘ers’. And I think that’s what audience first is about, is being able to influence an audience. And so the better way to think about it is influence rather than influencers. And the ‘ers’ part is something, actually, that we might talk about first is the creator. 

And the Creator is the person who makes content, obviously, they spend considerable time building an audience, this takes a long period of time if you buy an audience, I mean, you can, you could potentially do that, you know, buy ads, buy followers, all that sort of thing. It doesn’t last, never lasts, the numbers always speak for themselves with that type of stuff. This is really people who build a big following and a true following that is, that’s people who regularly engage with the content that they create and that they then cultivate a community around that content. This is the really most important part of what true influence is that it has a community that builds around it. 

And we talked a couple of episodes back about people attracting other people, social proof, etc. That has, in this context, that’s a community forming, what’s a community in this regard, this is like a group of a big group, when I say a group, I’m talking usually in the hundreds of 1000s, if not millions here, of people who regularly engage, they’re the first people to comment on a YouTube video. They’re the kinds of the audience that shares the content, you know, we go right back down to the principles of digital content creation of the 99/1 rule, which is 1% of total platform audience creates the content 9% truly engaged with it. 90% consume it passively. I’m talking about the 9% here, who, whose numbers are vast, who form a community around that 1%. And the best creators are able to form this and cultivated community from their content. So first of all, they’re making something that’s really interesting to an audience, they found a niche, or they found a mass scale, it doesn’t matter here, but that creator has created something that people want to be a part of, and that becomes measurable, but also in it’s a little bit intangible, I guess, in some in some degrees, but it’s also something that should be the yardstick of what influence is because if somebody’s willing to form a community of like-minded people around something else, then you’ve got influence. That’s helping people feel like they’re a part of something. 

James: That’s the goal of marketing then isn’t

Paul:  Yeah, yeah, completely. And if you start to look at it, you know, it doesn’t matter the medium and this is the really important part of this, like it doesn’t, you know, we think of influences as you know, high fashion, selfies in front of…..

James: Instagram, Twitter, tik tok, I’m trying to sell you the latest hair product. I’m thinking Huda Beauty, I’m thinking,

[et_bloom_inline optin_id=optin_5]

Paul:  Yeah, well, I mean, that’s it. And then Huda Beauty, who, you know, we’re based here in the Middle East, and that’s another great example of somebody who built an audience and then have transformed that into a global multinational brand, with very specific knowledge of her audience, and what they were looking for in terms of beauty products. So I think that’s a great homegrown success story of this very principle. I think there’s a lot of other people out there that give influencers a bad name. But if you put that to one side and think about creators, and once you understand a creator and how they build and maintain an audience, then you start to understand how that audience your how they do it, first of all, and then also, second of all, how, what that audience what their behaviors like how that might fit your wanted state as a brand or product or again, creation. 

I think, you know, if you start to look inwards to the Gulf, you can start to also measure this stuff in really tangible ways. So, one thing that we’ve done at D/A is actually measuring this stuff. We looked at the top 2800 creators on Instagram. Why Instagram? Well, it’s one of, it’s one of the biggest platforms in our region. There are other platforms, obviously. But typically, most people gravitate, no matter what their background, ethnicity, language, etc, they gravitate to Instagram. The other platforms tend to segregate by age and everything like that. From those 2800 people in 2020 alone, there were 1.5 billion engagements. So comments and likes. 

James: 1.5 billion? 

Paul: Yes, in the Gulf alone, {it’s extraordinary} and 6.1 billion video views. So it’s a billion with a “b”.

{a lot of data points}. 

Yeah, but what that does, right is okay, so that those 2800 people have generated that amount of interaction, that interaction happens at very different scales, obviously, you have the massive people, the people who maybe drive a lot less than high quality, but more engagement, etc. That type of reach is something that old media and old media measurement etc, just can’t get their head around. And to their detriment, some have, New York Times is the best example globally, I think, and maybe Washington Post, and that’s largely due to their great ownership, and, you know, forward-thinking ownership and things like that. But I can’t think of one in our part of the world that has responded well, to this shift of power of audience away from a traditional method of newspapers, for example, particularly I’m talking about here, who just, you know, without, without any kind of government support, and things like that they can, they can’t survive, there’s no model behind it. And that’s because there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what the audience is and what they want and how they want to engage with content. And basically, this is where we start to be able to measure that influence so you know, old media, etc. never really has had a great grasp of measuring, you know, anything other than their circulation, right? or they listenership or their viewership method is no greater, deeper understanding of okay, of this audience of these true engagements, what quality of those, how many spam followers, is a TV just going in the background, we don’t know all this stuff, right? 

We can start to understand this stuff on digital. And this is where we start to understand the power of true influence. And it’s really what’s really, really important about this is the time it takes to build an audience, naturally, you know, it doesn’t just happen. It’s got to be repeated, you know, repetition, consistency over a long period of time. And that’s why when we begin to understand how these communities and audiences form, we understand how true influence plays a role in this and then how that audience might behave in the future and things like that. And it really comes back down to how those people will then behave in other parts of their life. So you can watch the patterns, you can start to understand the behavior, you can start to understand what it is getting back to the last episode, we talked about ambient feedback, it’s how we pull all that together to understand really the patterns of behavior among people and the creator is the best example of that, because everything is genuine, in terms of how they built their audience, that is, you know, and we’re not again, there’s a bit of qualitative assessment here because he’s sort of some wheat from the chaff in terms of what we’ve just talked about in terms of the stereotypical influencer versus a content creator, Who’s just doing a great job of building and understanding that audience. 

James:  The takeaway from this episode is that the best way to understand people, our audience and ultimately consumers, is to understand their behavior. influencers, as content creators become yet another tool, but a focus tool in our arsenal as they allow us to connect more deeply with a focused audience. 

You can get in touch with me across the socials: @thejamescast  or [email protected]

Paul: And get in touch with me, Paul,  through or otherwise email me at: [email protected]

Thanks for listening