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From Kylie Jenner to Whinderson Nunes: the key role of Digital Influencers in Latin America

In an interview with LABS, the regional lead for Latin America at Socialbakers disclosed the rising importance of influencer marketing strategies for brands - especially in the region

With over 150 million followers and the post of best-paid influencer on Instagram, Kylie Jenner knew exactly how to take advantage of this status in order to leverage her makeup brand, Kylie Cosmetics. Crafting engaging content towards her audience, spread over several distribution channels, Kylie Jenner is a trusted voice for millions of Millennials and Gen Z followers who are eager for new trends and have a strong relationship with social media. Kylie Jenner, Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian… you name it. Probably the most famous case when it comes to this topic, the Kardashian-Jenner’s family has made room for a trend that doesn’t seem to be fading away anytime soon: the power of digital influencers. 

Kylie Jenner’s post on Instagram about a product’s launch of her brand, Kylie Cosmetics. Image: Instagram

Whether drawing attention to a matter, discussion, or to a product or brand, what drives the success of an influencer marketing strategy is an important, yet simple premise: trust. If years ago, we’ve turned to our friends or family when looking to buy a new pair of sneakers, unable to decide by ourselves between Nike and Adidas–now we have extra help. Who’s to blame? Social media. 

“We definitely see brands working more and more with influencers as they are a “trusted voice” for consumers. Socialbakers data shows that influencer sponsored ads grew by more than 150% in the last year, while the use of #ad more than doubled. This shows that influencer marketing is clearly working for brands,” says Adrian Bravo, Regional Lead for Latin America at Socialbakers. A global AI-powered social media marketing company that offers a marketing Saas (software-as-a-service) platform, Socialbakers has in its portfolio brands such as McDonald’s, L’Oreal, and Desigual, which use the company’s tools for social media marketing on several platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and more.

But if the role of the influencer in marketing–someone who can influence the purchase intention and consumer’s behavior–was actually already there for many years, the rise of social media took it to the next level.

The era of micro-influencers

Despite the staggering success of Kylie Jenner; according to a Socialbakers report, the majority of influencers today are actually micro-influencers, accounting for over 80% in Asia, Europe and Latin America, and over 75% in North America. 

The micro-influencer classification stands for those who hold less than 10K followers. Unlike one might think, fewer followers can be, in some cases, way more effective for a brand strategy. Data from the study show that, while macro and celebrity influencers can take a brand towards large and diverse audiences, as well as raise great awareness, micro-influencers are the ones who have close relationships with their audiences, reaching not only higher engagement, but also better conversion rates.

A pivotal strategy for brands worldwide, a particular market has been seeing the influencer marketing trend to surf a rising wave in the last few years: Latin America. While North America has the most macro and celebrity influencers, with one million or more followers, the region holds the record for having the most micro-influencers among all markets. 

A rising trend, and far from peaking

“For brands, influencers will become a great channel for product discovery and branding for specific communities, mostly younger audiences, and niches,” says Bravo.

This behavioral shift is certainly not happening unnoticed: not only companies are well aware of it, taking into account the importance of comprising an influencer strategy for their brands, but the platforms where all this is emerging are also playing an important role.

Instagram is one of the best examples: the platform launched the Instagram Shopping feature precisely to offer an immersive storefront, letting consumers not only discover and explore products, but also buy directly through the link inserted. 

Instagram Shopping tool. Image: Instagram

“2020 will be the year that social commerce takes off, as more and more customers make purchases directly from social media platforms instead of heading to a shopping site’s app or to an online store after discovering a product on social media,” Bravo highlights. 

As for the brands, influencer marketing and social commerce’s potential is catching the eyes of marketing executives and drawing growing amounts of investment. In the US, more than 70% of companies’ CMO’s expressed they would increase the budget in Influencer Marketing during 2019, with Instagram playing a special role in the strategy.

One of these brands is the beauty giant New York-based Estée Lauder. Betting heavily on this strategy, the company is addressing 75% of its marketing budget to digital marketing, but mostly to social media influencers, according to what revealed the company’s CEO Fabrizio Freda during Estée Lauder’s second-quarter earnings statement. “These investments are mainly now in digital. Seventy-five percent of our investment now is in digital, social media influencers, and they’re revealing to be highly productive,” the executive stated. Although one of the major beauty companies worldwide, Estée Lauder decided to address the investment not only to big celebrity influencers such as Kendall Jenner and Karlie Kloss, but has also worked with micro-influencers on its YouTube and Instagram channels, as disclosed the information from Adweek.

Estée Lauder campaign featuring nutritionist and micro-influencer Dana James. Image: Youtube

The Latin American Role

When it comes to Latin America, the role of influencers is proving to be even greater. “In Latin America, people whose purchases are driven by influencers, sum up to 64%. In North America, it’s 39%, and in Europe, 36%.” Bravo explains that, as Latam is the region where shopping decisions are more pushed by influencers, companies operating here have a great opportunity to partner with them in order to create authentic connections with their audiences, leveraging the levels of engagement and driving purchases.  

In Latin America, people whose purchases are driven by influencers, sum up to 64%. In North America, it’s 39%, and in Europe, 36%.

Adrian Bravo, Regional Lead for Latin America at Socialbakers

Precisely because of this power of creating authentic connections, an influencer-based strategy leads the conversation when it comes to consumer trust. Data from Socialbakers show that, in Mexico, 83% of the respondents have more confidence in digital influencers regarding recommendations, against 17% that have more trust in TV celebrities. Argentina and Chile also follow the same path: while, in the first, 73% of respondents claimed that prefer digital influencers when the subject is shopping advice, in Chile, this number stays at 72%. 

In Brazil, Latin America’s major economy, the surge of digital influencers have also been on the rise. With almost 1 million influencers, according to a survey conducted by the global influencer agency SamyRoad, that has already worked with brands in the likes of L’Oréal, Coca-Cola, and Adidas – as well as with major Brazilian companies like Natura and Oi – the country counts on important names like Whinderson Nunes, Maísa Silva, and Kéfera. 

Whinderson’s account on Youtube, has, since 2016, the largest number of subscribers in the country, which currently accounts for about 35 million. Not surprisingly, he also has the lead among the top Brazilian influencers on Instagram–with almost 30 million followers. Recently, the top influencer starred a Black Friday’s campaign, along with major celebrities, to the big Brazilian retailer Magazine Luiza, in a live show broadcasted by media giant Grupo Globo in its main TV channels and social media. Magazine Luiza claimed that this was the greater Black Friday of history.

Brazilian Youtuber Nina Santina, known as Niina Secrets, has starred an influencer campaign that got as far as to her own wedding. Teaming up with leading beauty company M.A.C., the digital influencer was invited by the brand to create an exclusive new lipstick color, that was first revealed in her wedding ceremony. “Currently, I have partnerships with amazing brands, of which one day I was just a consumer and fan. This recognition is as incredible as the opportunity to bring my followers a product that I believe in and that delivers a little bit of myself,” the Youtuber told the women’s magazine Claudia

Digital influencer Niina Secrets using for the first time her lipstick made for M.A.C during her wedding. Image: Instagram

The bridge connecting these digital influencers with brands and consumers is content. “Latin America has the highest rate of people whose purchases are driven by influencers. Nevertheless, the ROI percentages are higher through brands where the influencer has been selected according to audiences’ preferences, and the quality and relevance of the content they produce,” explains Bravo. It’s through the quality and accuracy of this content, that these digital influencers are capable of building strong bonds with their audiences, extending these bonds towards the brands they partner with. And trust is the strongest connection that brands can have with consumers.  

“As we have seen in markets like the US and Europe, global brands are already investing huge budgets in influencer marketing. Mexico already has its own selection of influencers, from the top beauty influencer Dulce Candy to make-up artist Josué Luquín and leading brands are already leveraging their audiences and their engagement to drive interactions and purchases,” Bravo highlights.   

When it comes to Mexico, Socialbakers’ report reveals that influencer searches have largely surpassed the searches for digital marketing in the country. From 2014 to 2019, influencer searches increased by 107%, while digital marketing reached a shy 30% growth. 

Whether social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook will remain strong over the years, it is something hard to predict. But what seems to be certain is that consumers will keep looking for trusted voices, to connect with brands rather than just buy products or services. And to this end, digital influencers are this trusted voice amidst an ever-growing noisy market with a multitude of brands.