Erin, Eliza, Taika, Colin? Which New Zealand social media influencer gives you the best bang for your buck? One recent study reckons it has the answer.
According to one well-known specialist agency, $10,000 will buy you anywhere from seven to 20 posts from as many as 14 paid influencers. The variation in posts is said to differ from the quality of influencers a would-be client would choose from.
But how do you determine the 'quality' of an influencer? Is it to do with follower count? The number of likes? The amount of media coverage said influencer gets?
In an attempt to quantify social media influence in a measurable way, MoneyHub, a consumer-focused online resource, has conducted a study on Instagram 'influencers' to determine how effective they really are.
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It did this by recording the number of likes an influencer received on posts dated 1 August 2018 to 31 October 2018. It then contrasted this to said influencer's total number of Instagram followers as of 10 November 2018 to give it a number indicating average engagement per post, or 'like ratio'.
"While it's arguable that 25,000 likes on a post is more 'influencing' than a post with 4,000 likes, the quality of the engagement can be deduced by looking at the total number of followers as a benchmark," says MoneyHub senior researcher Christopher Walsh. "A business is paying for results when using social media influencers, so we believe the percentage engagement on posts gives the best indicator."
A good example of this is to look at Shannon Harris (@shaaanxo) who currently has more than 1.5 million followers. Although she regularly attracts well over 20,000 likes per post, it's interesting to note that when you compare her to someone like Taika Waititi - who has less than half of what Harris has in followers - he still seems to be able to rack up just as many, if not more, likes on his.
For the purposes of the study, a list of more than 40 influencers was drawn up based on brand associations, media coverage and for some, a history of sponsored or collaborative posts. All influencers who were chosen fell into three broad categories (celebrities, experts, and bloggers/micro-influencers) and anyone who posted fewer than ten times over this period was excluded from the final result (ie: Lorde).
While most would be hesitant to classify actors, news presenters, or rugby players as 'social media influencers', the line between 'celebrity' and 'influencer' has blurred in recent years to the point where it's almost impossible to distinguish one from the other.
Is former New Zealand's Next Top Model judge Colin Mathura-Jeffree a 'celebrity' for being on TV a decade ago, or a 'micro-influencer' for being at the whim of luxury brands like Lexus? What about someone like Iyia Liu, founder of businesses like Waist Trainer and Celebration Box? Is she an 'expert' because of her entrepreneurial chops? Or a 'micro-influencer' because she's offering us a deal for three personal training sessions for $99?
Today, the sponsored post knows no bounds. Being a social media influencer is no longer exclusive to beauty bloggers, meme makers, gaming addicts and fitness fanatics. Even Hollywood elite aren't immune to the allure of making a few quick bucks on the side.
Walsh says the purpose of the study was to bring transparency to this "new, somewhat untested and unvalidated form of marketing spend", adding that while big businesses can afford to lose money on a couple dud sponsored posts, it's a very different story when it comes to small businesses who need to challenge the return on investment before being sold on social media influencer spending.
"We believe that any 'influencer' who fails to convert at least 3 percent of their followers into likes is at risk of becoming irrelevant. And based on accepted industry norms - and I think even social media advertisers would agree here - anyone below 2 percent is totally irrelevant for advertising purposes."
"In our view, social media does not appear to be a solution for fool-proof marketing spending; it remains an evolving niche that offers little insights into its short or long-term effectiveness."
Top 5 Most Influential
KJ Apa (@kjapa)
Followers (approx.): 13.2 million
Average engagement per post: 12.8 percent
Total posts (Aug-Oct): 40
Catapulted to fame for his role as Archie Andrews in TV series Riverdale, 21-year-old actor KJ Apa is the most influential New Zealander on social media, an accolade which surely has nothing to do with the incessant shirtless photos of him cuddling various dogs.
As of January 2019, he has well over 13.2 million followers and has worked with brands such as watchmaker Fossil and dating app Bumble.
Taika Waititi (@taikawaititi)
Followers (approx.): 642,000
Average engagement per post: 12.72 percent
Total posts (Aug-Oct): 18
Director, actor, and bonafide hunk Taika Waititi gives us the content we all crave: Thor content, Jeff Goldblum content, fashion content, relatable content. On the commercial side of things, he's recently posted a few ads for Samsung mobile which aren't exactly labelled as such.
Waititi's certainly not alone in doing this. MoneyHub notes a number of commercial social media posts failing to be marked as sponsorship (#spon), advertising (#ad) or collaborations (#collab) which is in breach of Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidelines on transparency around social media advertising.
Kris Fox (@itskrisfox)
Followers (approx.): 99,000
Average engagement per post: 11.27 percent
Total posts (Aug-Oct): 18
Category: Blogger / Micro-influencer
Kris "Big Dickuah Enthusiast" Fox probably fits the more typical mould of what we would think of as an 'influencer'. On YouTube, Fox posts rants, anecdotes, vlogs, and makeup tutorials; on Instagram, you'll find selfies, photos of Kris Fox, and selfies of Kris Fox taking photos of Kris Fox.
Represented by talent agency Johnson & Laird, Fox has done sponsored work for MAC cosmetics and Sky TV, as well as using social media channels to shout out favourite brands such as Boohoo and Lash Noir Ink.
Eliza McCartney (@eliza_mac_)
Followers (approx.): 86,000
Average engagement per post: 8.2 percent
Total posts (Aug-Oct): 15
Pole vaulter Eliza McCartney is an Olympic bronze medallist. When she's not busy flinging herself in the air, 22-year-old McCartney likes to snack on blueberries, dine on #nzbeefandlamb, and challenge people to drink more water. But apparently, her favourite thing is blueberries. Lots and lots and lots of blueberries.
David Farrier (@davidfarrier)
Followers (approx.): 68,000
Average engagement per post: 7.81 percent
Total posts (Aug-Oct): 109
As far as sponsored content is concerned, Farrier - star of Dark Tourist, Tickled, and occasional Spinoff writer - has yet to post any on his Instagram in the many years he's been around. But he does seem to be very open to the prospect.
Top 5 Least Influential
Jaime Ridge (@jaimeridge)
Followers (approx.): 48,000
Average engagement per post: 1.27 percent
Total posts (Aug-Oct): 129
It's been seven years since The Ridges debuted on New Zealand telly and then-teenage daughter of Sally and Matthew Ridge has grown up to become a 20-something-year-old stylist, creative, influencer, and fashion blogger.
Ridge's page is littered with content for commercial partners like Dior Parfums and Bondi Boost. Her low 'like ratio' seems to come down to the fact that despite having posted 129 posts in the time period recorded, her number of likes remained relatively low.
In fact, over the course of the study, MoneyHub found that less really was more when it came to posting: those who posted less than 20 times over the three months were found to have a higher rate of engagement than those posting more than 50.
Erin Simpson (@erinsimpson13)
Followers (approx.): 37,000
Average engagement per post: 1.41 percent
Total posts (Aug-Oct): 52
"There's only one influencer worth sticking with into the new year," my dear colleague Alex Casey wrote back in December. "Her name is Erin Simpson and she's a TV host, death metal enthusiast and homewares savant."
Sadly, I have some bad news for the biggest/only Erin Simpson enthusiast I know: despite touting everything from make-up, skin care, fitness, fashion, food, booze, and even vacuum cleaners, Simpson turns out to be a pretty poor influencer with just 1.41 percent average engagement per post.
Makaia Carr (@makaiacarr)
Followers (approx.): 49,000
Average engagement per post: 1.54 percent
Total posts (Aug-Oct): 141
Dubbed New Zealand's "original influencer", 39-year-old Carr is a classic example of how influencers came to be back in the day (ie: five years ago). They weren't former kid's TV hosts like Simpson or daughters of famous parents like Ridge, they were 'regular people' who attracted a following for doing things that were genuinely relatable. In Carr's case, that was exercising and losing weight.
Perhaps it might've been a different story a few years ago but it seems that Carr's clout with her followers isn't as significant despite touting deals with brands like HelloFresh, Fix & Fogg, and Otaika Valley. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Carr posted a whopping 141 times over three months - more than any other influencer on the list.
Shannon Harris (@shaaanxo)
Followers (approx.): 1.5 million
Average engagement per post: 1.67 percent
Total posts (Aug-Oct): 95
Shannon Harris is New Zealand's most popular YouTuber with a huge local following and even bigger international one, partnering with make-up companies like Smashbox and Clinique and launching her own beauty brand back in 2012. Harris was even listed in Forbes' Top Influencers list in the beauty category back in 2017 alongside long-established figures like Jeffree Star, Zoe Sugg, Michelle Phan, and Huda Kattan.
And yet, when comparing her follower-to-like ratio, Harris' average engagement per post ended being less than 2 percent. Why? It could be that the majority of engagement with Harris takes place on her primary platform of YouTube rather than on Instagram. Or maybe it's just that her 1.5 million followers can't be bothered liking the same photos of her every single day.
Colin Mathura-Jeffree (@colinmathurajeffree)
Followers (approx.): 10,000
Average engagement per post: 1.79 percent
Total posts (Aug-Oct): 31
Colin Mathura-Jeffree is a popular man. He goes to fancy shows, he hosts elaborate parties, and he gets invited onto silly podcasts to gossip and eat Nando's. He's a proud social media influencer and he does it with style, albeit perhaps not with as much influence as we'd like to think.
Jihee Junn is a staff writer for The Spinoff