My Biz

Submit content

My Account


Marketing Opinion South Africa

Decoding influencer marketing in SA: Challenges, strategies, and impactful insights

The world of influencer marketing can be confusing, especially in a dynamic market like South Africa. While it offers numerous benefits, such as reaching new audiences and building brand loyalty, the sector also presents several challenges. These include misunderstandings about what influencer marketing entails, a lack of standardised pricing benchmarks, inconsistent categorisation of influencers, issues with attribution, and an over-reliance on vanity metrics.
Dashni Vilakazi, member of the IAB South Africa Influencer Marketing Committee and Managing Director at The MediaShop. Source: Supplied.
Dashni Vilakazi, member of the IAB South Africa Influencer Marketing Committee and Managing Director at The MediaShop. Source: Supplied.


To fully understand and capitalise on the power of influencer marketing, marketers and brands must work from a baseline definition. The IAB SA Digital Influencer Marketing Committee of the IAB South Africa, a non-profit organisation dedicated to empowering the media and marketing industry to thrive in the digital economy, defines influencer marketing as ‘leveraging an influencer’s established audience and voice’ to achieve specific marketing goals. In essence, influencer marketing involves an influencer creating authentic content about a brand that resonates with the influencer’s followers, fosters trust and drives engagement.

The influencer ecosystem in South Africa remains distinct from others globally. This is why categorising influencers solely by follower count (in US and UK markets, these are referred to as nano, micro and macro) is only partially accurate. According to the IAB South Africa’s white paper on ‘Best Practices for Influencer Marketing in South Africa 2023’, South African influencers can be categorised into five tiers based on creator data. Importantly, very few South African influencers have more than one million followers, highlighting the need for marketers and brands to focus on audience relevance instead of follower numbers when selecting influencer partners for their campaigns.

Reach and impressions, often touted as key measures of success, can be likened to vanity metrics. A brief brand mention in a long video does not translate to true awareness. Instead, the IAB South Africa Digital Influencer Marketing Committee suggests using retention metrics to understand how many viewers were present when the brand was mentioned and for how long. Marketers should use a more holistic approach by combining reach and impressions with other metrics — such as engagement rate, cost per engagement and return on ad spend (ROAS) — to better understand campaign effectiveness.

Earned media value (EMV), a metric that measures organic brand exposure and that is most often associated with public relations, is especially useful as it provides marketers and brands with the peripheral value an influencer can bring to a campaign, including shareability and additional user-generated content (UGC) by an influencer’s audience. Unlike other marketing channels, influencer marketing involves a unique cost factor — custom content creation. Therefore, comparing costs directly with other channels without considering this content creation overlooks part of the peripheral value an influencer brings to a campaign.

Another metric that is perceived as important is sales. It provides information on the efficacy of the marketing channel by estimating the return on investment, how influential an influencer and their content are, how aligned the influencer’s audience is to the brand, and how authentic the participating influencers are in convincing the audience to drive a call to action. Despite this, sales figures paint an incomplete picture. A closer analysis of conversion data can help marketers and brands understand the influencer’s effectiveness and audience alignment. A high-converting campaign will reflect an influencer’s ability to convince their audience and drive desired actions. Marketers and brands should also remember that factors such as product value, customer journey and economic circumstances also play a role — and cannot be controlled by the influencer.

First party data

As a next step towards further unpacking the influencer marketing industry in South Africa, the IAB South Africa Digital Influencer Marketing Committee is collaborating with the organisation’s Research & Measurement Council on a survey, collecting data about pricing, costs, spend, reach, and more. Using the Research & Measurement Council’s regulatory framework of monitoring, managing and utilising first-party data, the goal is to compare the collected data with the best practices outlined in the Committee’s white paper to begin a conversation around benchmarks and determine an understanding of media spend and return on investment, amongst others. This will allow the IAB South Africa to provide the industry with well-researched and benchmarked data that is localised to the South African context and compare influencer marketing as a channel to other media channels that marketers and brands can leverage in their marketing strategies.

Collaboration is key to unlocking the full potential of this burgeoning industry. Stakeholders — from brands and agencies to influencers — all have a vested interest in establishing best practices. Stakeholders can create a more standardised and effective influencer marketing landscape by participating in initiatives such as those spearheaded by the IAB South Africa. This benefits everyone: brands gain clearer campaign measurement, agencies can offer more strategic guidance and influencers can operate within a transparent framework that fosters trust and strong partnerships.

About Dashni Vilakazi

Dashni Vilakazi is the managing director of one of the biggest media agencies in South Africa called The MediaShop, which has received the Top Agency award for the past 12 years and the Media Agency of the Year award in 2023. Vilakazi is an accomplished professional who is skilled in marketing and corporate strategy with more than 20 years of experience as a head of marketing for leading financial service companies. She has worked in Lagos, Hong Kong, London, New York and India for companies in the financial services, FMCG, telecoms, QSR and retail and beverage sectors. Vilakazi has a master’s degree (cum laude) in business, is a thought leader and public speaker and has lectured at the AAA School of Advertising and Red & Yellow Creative School of Business. She also co-hosts a radio talk show with Michael Avery on Thought Leading Marketing Trends on Hot FM and Fine Music Radio.
Let's do Biz