After the final rose – finding fame and influencing people

Alison Brown | Group Account Director Social Media

Even if you’re not a fan of reality TV and orchestrated romance, it’s hard not to acknowledge the popularity of shows like The Bachelor.

Season three of the New Zealand franchise featured a bevy of Kiwi girls competing to win the heart of surf sports coordinator Zac Franich from Orewa. The finale revealed the last girl standing was Viarni Bright, an account manager from Mount Maunganui.

In the race to receive the final rose, the only thing that could keep up with the girls’ collective affection for him was his rise to fame on social media. A stranger to prime time TV before the show, Zac quickly amassed a following on Instagram of more than 21,000 people. Viarni’s Insta-footprint grew much like her love for Zac and by season’s end, her following had swollen to almost 30,000 people. Bachelorette runner-up and the main rival for Zac’s romantic attention, Lilly McManus, came a close second to Viarni in the social media stakes, clocking up a 29,000-strong following, reflecting her well-deserved status as a fan favourite. 

Creating influencers

Everyone involved in the series claimed their motivation for participating was to find love and no one is going to question the sincerity of Zac and Viarni who appear to be a genuine couple.

Equally undisputable are the huge commercial opportunities available to show participants who generate impressive social media followings off the back of their TV appearances. Win or lose, many bachelorettes from previous seasons have become brand ambassadors for everything from clothing labels to motor vehicles and various beauty and fitness products. While their reach pales into comparison with the likes of Kardashian-style social juggernauts, many of whom are US-based and have followers in the millions, their social media influence is real and brands continue to use them to connect with their desired audiences.

Season one Bachelor Art Green and his partner Matilda Rice have accrued 201,000 followers between them and even after two years’ together, show no signs of losing their status as social media darlings. Their Instagram feeds are peppered with sponsored posts and many of their weekend escapades up and down the country, with the odd trans-Tasman trip thrown in for good measure, feature products, events and destinations that brands have paid money to be showcased. This year, Colgate even cashed in on Matilda’s healthy social media profile, using her to front their Optic White toothpaste television campaign, timed to coincide with this season’s Bachelor series.

If Zac and Viarni are going to follow in Art and Matilda’s digital footsteps, they have a successful template to follow. There’s no question, brands, big and small, will be lining up to secure their social media endorsements. It should only be a matter of time before we see the ‘#spon’ hashtag creep into their Instagram posts – a sure sign of a ‘cash for comment’ style commercial relationship.

The smartest brands, however, will be looking to create more authentic relationships with social media influencers like Zac and Viarni. Long-term ambassadorial relationships are the most effective form of influencer marketing because they build up a stronger sense of trust and are generally, more authentic and engaging. That consistent level of digital word-of-mouth marketing can significantly influence purchasing decisions.

An emerging influencer model

Companies big and small are including influencer campaigns as part of wider marketing strategies to enhance their brand’s overall reputation. It should be noted that companies with big budgets don’t always use Tier 1 “celebrity” influencers, choosing instead to use “everyday” influencers with much smaller social followings to promote their products.

L’Oreal expertly executed this new model of influencer engagement in a UK campaign promoting a clay mask last year. They engaged a company that specialises in pulling together micro-influencers, people who aren’t rock stars on social media but still have the ability to influence buyer behaviour. They were all provided with product to review, resulting in social media posts that were nothing less than flattering about the clay mask and its benefits. The sheer number of people involved in the campaign created a snowball effective of positive publicity.

Is it worth the investment?

Brands must always do their homework before reaching out to potential influencers. This involves checking that the content they share is relevant to their business and the particular market segment they want to target. They must also investigate the level of engagement the influencer is likely to achieve that will add value to their brand.

There is always a level of risk when working with influencers as you are trusting them to get your brand message right on channels you have very little control over. Although at the upper end of influencer marketing (brand ambassadors and A-grade celebrities), the risk of potential brand damage is minimal.

It’s in the area of ROI that waters can get murky. For brands considering paying influencers to promote their products, they should set up some robust tracking and metrics to measure the success of influencer campaigns. Influencer programmes have their place in a robust marketing strategy – if executed well. Brands and influencers entering into these kinds of business relationships can both benefit financially. But like any romance, only those in it ‘for the right reasons’ are likely to go the distance and win hearts