Saskatoon

$100K for influencer to promote Saskatoon Transit could be smart, cheap option: U of S prof

A plan to hire a social media influencer to post “authentic content” could be a smart strategy that pays off for Saskatoon Transit, says one marketing professor.

Influencer campaign could be cheaper than mass ads and billboards

(City of Saskatoon )

A plan to hire a social media influencer to post "authentic content" could be a smart strategy that pays off for Saskatoon Transit, says one marketing professor.

"We all know we should take the bus, we just need a nudge," said David Williams of the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan.

He said a City of Saskatoon request for proposals (RFP) for an influencer experiential marketing campaign, with a $100,000 budget, could be a good investment.

"In terms of social media influence, it can be cheaper than running a mass campaign ad, and to reach that particular audience with realistic or more 'authentic' content, to show how [transit] fits in their lives," he told CBC's Saskatoon Morning

An influencer is often someone who has built their own online or social media following/content and can leverage that to promote brands such as Saskatoon Transit. In this case, however, Williams said it could be someone who doesn't have a big following, but creates a tailor-made campaign for the bus service.

Saskatoon Transit has increased ridership by eight per cent compared to 2017, according to the RFP, and hopes to encourage more people to hop on the bus over the coming years. In 2018, there were 33.7 rides per capita or 9.4 million rides, with a planned target of 62 rides per capita in 2045.

The city wants this marketing campaign to build trust in the brand and improve brand image, perceptions of quality and awareness of Saskatoon Transit, according to the RFP.

Some commentators have already weighed in, asking why money wouldn't be spent toward improving the transit service, rather than hiring an influencer.

"You can't market a bad product to make it better. It's best to get it right," agreed Williams.

He noted, however, that complaints about late buses or people waiting for delayed connections in winter, may also represent the times when things go wrong, rather than when the bus service is successful.

"When things go right, it's ignored. It's only when it goes wrong that it vents in the echo chamber of social media."

I'd pick an authentic person, carefully select them, not have a contest, thinking who would typify the user they want.- David Williams, marketing professor

For Williams, the ideal social media influencer for Saskatoon City Transit would be someone who lives in Saskatoon and uses a bus daily, rather than an outsider with a big social media following.

"I'd pick an authentic person, carefully select them, not have a contest, thinking who would typify the user they want."

The City of Saskatoon declined to comment on the RFP, since it is still open for applications until April 25.

"Our practice is that we do not comment in a substantive way on an RFP as we do not want to negatively impact the fairness element that is a pre-requisite for every public procurement process," it stated in an email.

with files from Saskatoon Morning

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