THE MALE INFLUENCER LANDSCAPE
As much as it pains us to say it, there’s quite a clear cut divide in influencer marketing when it comes to gender. 68% of influencers are women and though we’re forever proud to see it as a female-dominated space, in which against the grain women can actually earn more than men for their content (in some cases over a third more), there are a few points to consider when working with their male counterparts.
We’ve split these into authenticity, theme and audience, three areas which we feel have been neglected when working with male influencers, simply based on the assumption that they’ve got it as good as the girls. For brands, it’s essential to make sure these aspects are aligned with your own ethos and standards; authenticity is an obvious one, but unfortunately accounts are rife with growth hackers, some of which are harder to spot than others. Thematically and demographically, you need to make sure you’re collaborating with the right type of influencer, who can perform in line with your expectations. For influencers, this is where an understanding of the male consumer is essential and where we think male influencers have played a bit of copycat. It only takes a glance at the most male-followed brands on social and an understanding of behaviour to know that it’s much more than looking good and reaping the compliments.
Get it verified
When bloggers started gaining traction, there was a certain belief that the bigger the following, the more impactful the content. Yes and no. On the one hand, if you’ve got a big audience, that must mean that you’re doing something right; naturally you’ll attract the attention of brands with the potential to monetize your content. But flip the coin and what that gave rise to was the introduction of growth hackers and bots to artificially grow and give the illusion of substantial followings, but with none of the actual conversion seen from an organically cultivated audience. With all this came a healthy dose of competition where men felt they needed to play catch up to make their mark. Consequently, several introduced inorganic growth tools and it should come at no surprise then that authenticity in the male influencer landscape can be somewhat hard to find.
Pretty much everything can be bought on social media these days: followers, likes, comments, etc., so it’s no longer as simple as checking their engagement rate or their overall following growth. Where once dramatic spikes in following threw up red flags, smooth curves aren’t a surefire way to guarantee authenticity. Look at the follow/unfollow rate and whether this really seems realistic; we don’t think it’s feasible to follow and unfollow 1000 accounts daily. In addition, there is a somewhat notorious WhatsApp group in which a core group of male influencers all prompt members to comment on their newly posted content - if you take the time to look at the comments on a male influencer's feed, the majority are often from their peers rather than follower engagement. Audience demographic will give you good insight into whether they’ve got a genuine following; if there are a few unrelated countries or cities coming up, this can often be a giveaway that a bot has been installed.
Of course, there are exceptions but we know from experience that several significant male influencers have ‘bought’ their followings – you only need to Google who exactly. We’d advise against working with them because you won’t see the conversion rate you’ve paid for and be expecting. Put simply, there are A LOT of disingenuous accounts out there in the male influencer space; make sure you’ve verified your talent with an authenticity disclaimer which covers both you and them. For any influencers that have used bots or growth hacking tools, we wrote an article here on how to regain your audience’s trust; it’s not the end of the world but you’ll have a fair amount of groundwork to bring them back around.
Content to catch attention
When it comes to male and female consumer habits, understandably they’re noticeably different and thematically, this is where we feel the male influencer space has somewhat fallen short. Look at BrandWatch’s analysis of accounts with the most male audience on Instagram – Monster Energy Drinks, Red Bull and NFL – and you can quickly ascertain that a man’s focus is most often pulled towards adrenaline, skill and performance. A pretty picture and a few tags on where you bought your outfit probably won’t get you the same traction as that of a female counterpart. That’s not to say it’s not of interest to your audience, but evidence shows that men look towards role models of a different kind, doing different things.
We think it really splits into micro and macro here and where the latter tends to blur the lines between influencer/celebrity. Fame coined through skill – sport, cinema, music – commands stronger authority with a male audience than just “looking good”. With bigger followings, there isn’t a straight line to be drawn between celebrities and influencers, particularly when as mentioned, male influencers with larger followings aren’t always genuine. The entertainment space is one of the most notorious for advising talent to buy a following; so don't assume that a blue verification tick means anything than confirmation that they are most definitely the talent, rather than a fan-account.
Look to the other end of the spectrum and this is where it gets really interesting in the male influencer space. What we’ve found is that the smaller male influencers, who have a niche skill rather than just an aesthetic, are the ones with the strongest engagement ratio because they’re putting out content which is of interest to that gender. In a recent advertising survey, men preferred ads made with a distinctive creative style, whereas women preferred those depicting a slice of life. To succeed, male-orientated content needs to resound with a generalised male perception of talent – i.e. that of performance based skill and not just echoing successful content once produced by female influencers.
Ask the audience
We also think it’s worth bearing in mind that a male influencer’s audience won’t always match your assumptions, though we’re not encouraging you to assume in any way. What we mean is that in some areas, particularly age and gender, you may find that their audience is weighted differently to initially expected. Bear this in mind when finding influencers for your target audience; though your brief may match that of the influencer himself, his audience may see differently.
Where women look to their peers, male role models often tend to be older, so adjust your search accordingly. Similarly, male influencers can tend to have an unexpectedly high female audience who are unlikely to convert on some campaigns. That said, do consider female influencers who feature their other halves frequently if the purchaser for your product is likely to be female. Despite the product not being specifically for them, if you’re looking for sales, you need to target the purchaser and not the end user. This obviously depends on the campaign in general, but it’s worth noting that your audience and influencer aren’t exact replicas.
A new direction
Now this article isn’t in any way meant to discourage you from using, or indeed being, male influencers and nor is it to assert the authority of females over their male counterparts. However, we do think it necessary to shine the light on where the male influencing sector has its shortfalls and how both brands and influencers can improve upon this.
But we also think there’s a greater shift going on here with the direction and purpose of influencer marketing, which will in turn affect both the organic and paid content that we see on our feeds. Women paved the way for influencer marketing and men followed suit; what that’s done is shown brands the power of this division of paid marketing, but audiences are now going to need to see more. We believe that across the whole influencer landscape, both male and female, a demand for impacting content that’s influencing positive change, and not just product sales, is knocking loudly on our door.
In Keith Weed’s words, head of marketing and communications at Unilever: “in terms of influencers’ value to brands, whether the spend was worth it, 2017 was the year of spray and pray. 2018 is where it gets more meaningful.” To influencers, realise the audience’s attention that you hold and use your channels as a platform to open discussions, speak out and ultimately, influence for good; it will be about putting greater emphasis on end purpose rather than initial product. For brands, explore the power of influencers in greater contexts and not just as one-post wonders; build stronger relationships which embed the influencer and their audience into your brand for the long-run, rather than just temporarily engaging for spiked sales and engagement.