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Influencers - Are They Worth It?

If you’re working in marketing or advertising, no doubt the word ‘influencer’ has crossed your ears or your lips. They’re a recurring hot topic of the social media and marketing world (sometimes for not-so-great reasons). And, while we love our social media here in the Caribbean, it’s hard to tell whether they have the impact that brands truly look for.

For starters, (outside of internationally known celebrities like Anya Ayoung Chee) most of the Caribbean’s influencers have what looks to be much smaller numbers. Take yoga and lifestyle Instagrammer Paris James. She’s got 12,000+ followers on Instagram, less than one-sixth of Anya Ayoung Chee’s. It might seem at a glance that the best option is the one with more followers, right?

But numbers only tell part of the story here. In fact, stories tell more of the story. That is, Instagram Stories, and the various other ways that influencers maintain a connection with their audiences using something called ‘parasocial interactions’. Instagrammers like Paris might not have follower numbers to rival Will Smith or Kendall Jenner, but what they do have is a heavily engaged following who she treats like her closest friends. She’s not trying to sell them yoga classes or accessories; she’s talking to her buddies about how her new yoga mat helps her, or challenging them to take their health in their hands. That’s, in fact, the most valuable thing about having an influencer in your corner.

But some of you might be asking, if they’re not trying to convince people to buy stuff, how are they helping people sell stuff? Well, compared to ads, they’re much more likely to get through to your target audience. After all, people don’t respond to actual ads the way they used to anymore. More and more people are buying ad-blocking software, and relying mostly on word of mouth to try new products or services. But you can’t ad block a regular IG post. This makes influencer marketing one of the best ways to make sure that you get your products and services in front of your customers.

SOURCE: Media InSite’s Social Listening dashboard.

The human touch does have some clear cons, though. One is that you have to give up some of your brand’s image to that influencer. You’re just not going to be able to vet every single post they make, or every single reply to a follower about the product. What if one of your influencer’s supporters hates the product and leaves a scathing comment? If they take too long to reply, it’ll feel staged. But if they reply immediately, you don’t be able to choose what they say.

But it does have some advantages, too. The biggest one, for us, is that you’ll have access to a brand new demographic of people who might not have thought about your product before (which also comes with more data to refine how you advertise in other ways as well). Let’s say you hired a Caribbean musician like Trinidad’s Jimmy October to rep your brand and connect with a more youthful demographic. But Jimmy’s music and brand maybe attracts other people that you didn’t expect, who are now in love with your product! And you can use the data from how his followers engage with your brand and market even stronger the next time.

So, the complicated answer is that it depends on a few things. One is whether you need full control of your brand. Or full trust the influencer you’re working with. Or have a really intimate product that you think needs a human touch to market, and are willing to believe that numbers don’t tell the full story of how to reach the most people. If those things describe you, then maybe do some digging in your own data to see which influencer might be a fit for your brand, and try something new!

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