Michael Ramsey shares his view on whether influencers are genuine
Influencers flood our feeds. In fact, it would be difficult to go through a whole scrolling sesh and not come across at least one perfectly edited photo of an influencer gazing off into the distance, caught mid-laugh as they casually hold a product from a brand who has probably paid hundreds – potentially thousands – to feature on their page. You know the ones we’re talking about.
There are so many influencers out there that provide amazing inspiration and motivation and they have the opportunity to help people and causes on a potentially massive scale. But do you ever wonder how many are truly genuine?
In the article below, we interview Michael Ramsey. Michael is the Founder of the cardio-infused pilates company STRONG and is a wellness influencer himself. Having a window into both the world of marketers and the world of influencers, we asked Michael about his opinions of and experiences with influencers and how true their edited presentation of reality actually is.
Q: Can you tell us how influencers are shaping and changing the wellness industry?
It’s CRAZY how much influencers are shaping the wellness space. It’s almost a prerequisite now to have a social media following when marketing yourself as a service offering to an online community, or selling to a mass audience. When we look at the LARGEST Australia-based fitness communities, what and who do we see? CENTR – Chris Hemsworth (42m Instagram followers). SWEAT – Kayla Itsines (12.6m Instagram followers). Keep It Cleaner – Steph Smith (1.5m Instagram followers). Sarah’s Day (1.1m Instagram followers, 1.45m Youtube subscribers). Ashy Bines (1m Instagram followers), just to name a few.
We also now see some of the biggest wellness products in the world spending the majority of their marketing budget on influencer and ambassador marketing. Consumers now associate health and wellness products with many influencers, and brands rely on paid influencer marketing to hit sales targets. This might seem bizarre to some, but when you think about the way in which we consume media in 2020, it’s really not that strange. To put it plainly, you’ll get twice the amount of people viewing what Kayla Itsines is having for breakfast on her IG story than you would on channel 10 during prime time for the MasterChef finale. Why on earth would a marketer spend money on TV advertising when they can put a direct ad up on an influencer’s story that sends the consumer straight to the online store for purchase. It’s also far easier to track results and measure ROI.
Q: As a well-known influencer in the wellness industry, do you believe that – in general – influencers are more committed to sharing valuable, reliable information and recommendations with their followers?
A: “Influencer” is a dirty word these days that’s predominantly associated with privilege and lack of credibility. This is because MOST – and I’m not saying all – but most will take the money regardless of the quality of product and/or value of information.
As a marketer and business owner who’s relied on influencer marketing in the past, I’ve spent a huge amount of time (and money) in the space the past 5 years. My experience has been varied. Some take a keen interest in the product and put real effort in delivering the correct messaging because they genuinely believe in the product. But the sad truth is, most do not. They simply follow the brief, post the product and take the cash. Quite often you’ll see them posting a competing brand the following month. It’s always best to include non-competes and establish long-term partnerships.
Q: Do you think influencers are effective at persuading people? Or are people more sceptical now of the intentions behind promotions?
A: The effectiveness is certainly becoming less and less as the consumer is seemingly getting smarter and seeing through the bullshit. There is, however, a small percentage of influencers who do it really well and promote their favourite products authentically, generating a solid ROI for brands. For the most part, though, it’s getting tougher and brands must now rely on paid social media advertising.
There are so many instances where influencers will intentionally avoid brand-association but still take the money for a post. A good example is where you’ll see somewhat of an organic post and at the very end of a long-winded caption, the influencer tags the brand, as discreetly as possible, as an attempt to hide from their audience that it is a sponsored post. A good marketer will avoid these cash-grab collaborations and work on long-term mutually beneficial relationships.
Q: Do you have any examples of when you have helped someone or a group of people through your platform?
A: Absolutely! One of the best things about having a social media following is the being able to use your reach for positive influence. A great example is 3 years ago I raised almost $20k for Beyond Blue as part of a Run Melbourne ambassador role. I called upon my F45 community at the time to band together and run for a good cause. This snowballed and everyone aligned in running, connecting and donating what they could towards Beyond Blue and the initiative at hand.
There have been so many of these little initiatives over the years which have brought my friends, staff, clients and community together. We all have some responsibility to assist others less fortunate, or simply disconnect from our own personal desires once a while and help others that need it more.
Q: What are the positives of using influencer marketing?
A: Plenty of positives!
Leveraging a whole new audience is key (also why a lot of influencers work together).
Brand alignment is a HUGE benefit for any company with the right kind of influencer on board. So many influencers now double as brand ambassadors. Linking your brand values with influencers values can be very powerful.
The ability to link an online store or website directly to a post/story has a much better chance of sales conversion.
The ability to track data – i.e. followers, reach, conversion, likes, views.
Staying Relevant – Good influencers are early adopters and will help keep people engaged with new products and the latest & greatest of what’s out there.
Q: Do you think that there is a negative aspect of companies heavily using influencer marketing as a tactic?
A: Absolutely. Companies can come across quite disingenuous. I’ve had this at my gyms before when we’ve used too many athletes in our marketing. There’s the connotation of “that gym is only for famous people or really fit people”. It also begs the question; if you’re paying so many people to use your product, then is it really a quality product? I think you need a nice mix of good PR and genuine reviews.
Q: How do you use influencer marketing within your business STRONG?
A: When looking at brand ambassadors from a HQ perspective, we only consider athletes and creatives (no reality TV stars, fitness models, etc.). We like sports that require physical & mental toughness as it coincides with the STRONG method of training. My dream ambassador would be someone like Daniel Ricardo. We’ve given complimentary training to some smaller Melbourne-based influencers for general exposure and PR but would never consider remunerating them.
Q: Has that changed during COVID-19?
A: Yes. At this stage, we’ve pulled all marketing expenses and are playing a conservative game whilst trying to weather the COVID storm. I’m in talks with management for some bigger sporting-based ambassadors whom we’ll work with once we can operate again in Melbourne.
Q: What do business owners have to be careful of when using influencers as a marketing tool?
A: It’s important to check the analytics of an influencer. Many have a substantial amount of fake followers, buy their likes and views, and are in engagement groups which means basically none of their engagement is genuine. There are free programs now where you can see who is genuine and who is full of shit. It’s a really interesting exercise as you’ll find out ¾ of the influencers you follow are actually frauds – not even kidding!
Q: Being familiar with other influencers in the health and wellness space, to what extent do you think people portray their true personality and beliefs on social media?
A: Ahhh very little, unfortunately. Most – not all – post what they want people to see and believe. Instagram is by no means reality. I know so many who pose as positive healthy people, who are actually internally not in a great place. It’s sad in a way but I try not to judge. It is slowly getting better though; there’s been somewhat of a rise in authentic, non-filtered content which is now cool and praised.
Q: Do you feel certain pressures as an influencer or do you think there are certain pressures on influencers in general? Do you think this can have an impact on your mental health?
A: There is a huge pressure on influencers to act responsibly and say/do the right things. I think when there’s a large segment of people watching you on a daily basis it can cause unnecessary pressure, particularly if you’re not being your authentic self. I’m sure living that life day-to-day would have some impact on your mental health over time.