Influencers are the hand-raisers, networkers, artists and storytellers of today. They’re bloggers, journalists, industry experts, fashionistas, academics, and celebrities.
Influencer marketing has gone mainstream — 92% of consumers trust people’s recommendations over brands (even if they don’t know them), and 70% of shoppers are looking to independent bloggers, friends and family, or even strangers, for trusted information about products — expressly because these influencers are not tied directly to brands.
Influencer Marketing 101
Influencer marketing is relationship marketing. It’s a proven method for brands to connect with consumers who are increasingly turning away from traditional media by using influential personalities or “brand advocates” whom consumers follow and engage with on social media to create visibility for a product or service. Marketers cultivate relationships with influencers in order to spread the word about their company or product. The influencer is generally tasked with creating unique, engaging, authentic content (social video, live streams, images, graphics, blogs, GIF’s…) and then sharing that content with their followers and subscribers. In turn, their friends and followers may also share that content with the people they connect with, and so on and so on. In some cases, influencers simply amplify a brand’s message (a sponsored post). Marketers may reuse and repurpose that content in any number of ways — on their own website, social media sites, and more.
Influencer marketing also has the ability to beat ad fraud and bots (now at 50% of ads), ad blockers (26%+ in U.S. and growing), banner disinterest (<.17%), increase SEO (25%+), and more. It’s targetable and trackable, and the ROI on influencer marketing is astonishing — 11X the ROI of other forms of digital media.
“Influencers can help us tell stories that we cannot do by ourselves.”
“We have always tried to find influencers who want to work with us and want to share their adventures in our products. Mercedes-Benz is always focused on authentic stories told with the products and, in most cases, told from the influencer’s point of view.” (Mark Aikman, GM Marketing, Mercedes-Benz U.S. via Digiday)
“It’s no longer about brand-first. It’s about giving consumers content that adds value to their lives, and in return adds value to us.” (David Beebe, VP Global Creative & Content Marketing, Marriott International (in an interview for Contently)
Link to Video: Marriott International “24 Hours in Istanbul
“We’ve arrived at a tipping point where marketers are very good at distributing content, but not very good at creating content that is worth distributing….On social networks, brand-generated content is seeing the lowest engagement rates now than anytime in 2013 and 2014.” (Content Marketing Institute)
Two-thirds of marketers report content promotion as their main reason for using influencers.
Influencer Marketing is Exploding
Over 80% of marketers are planning to run influencer campaigns this year, and 60% plan to increase their spending. Influencer marketing will also climb to 50% of digital marketing budgets for online shopper marketers.HuffPost Business predicts that influencer marketing will be responsible for $100 million in holiday sales in 2016 and will soon surpass TV as the most effective advertising medium.
Influencer marketing agency Mediakix has forecast that influencer marketing will grow over 1,000% in 5 years — from $500 million in 2016 to $5 billion to $10 billion in 2021.
Much of this growth has been made possible by talent agencies, matchmakers, networks and platforms, who have simplified and streamlined the unwieldy process of finding, vetting, engaging, managing, paying and measuring influencers. As a result, marketers have been able to expand beyond one-on-one negotiations with celebrity influencers and “mega influencers” or “social celebrities” (over one million followers or subscribers) to larger campaigns with “power middle” influencers (100,000–250,000 followers), and now “micro-influencers” (500–10,000 friends and family).
Here’s the puzzle…
According to Augure’s “State of Influencer Marketing” report, when asked to name their greatest challenge in influencer marketing:
- 73% state identifying the right influencer
- 69% site finding the right engagement tactics
- 53% say measuring performance
- 32% say keeping track of influencer activity
- 26% say automating the process is an issue
According to a SoftwareAdvice report most marketers are using predictive analytics software to post ads, listen and monitor social networks, post current events, and offer incentives, but only 32% are using the tools they have for predictive analysis for influencer marketing.
Influencer platform GroupHigh found that: “84% of influencer research is carried out manually searching social media platforms and forums.”
Micro-influencer platform Mavrck, found that 35% of the marketers they surveyed are still managing their influencer marketing efforts manually — with spreadsheets! 30% of brands have their agency manage the process, and the remaining 35% use a combination manual, agency and an influencer platform.
Influencer marketing platforms have increased by 85% year-over-year, growing from 33 to 75 platforms (and counting) just since last year . “The supply of influencer marketing platforms is outpacing adoption.” So it’s a puzzle as to why the majority of marketers are still going low-tech on influencer marketing when clearly, in order to take advantage of the medium and remain competitive, marketers need to adopt the tools and technology available now. There are better options than manual searching and spreadsheets in 2016. This includes celebrity agencies, full-service platforms, self-service platforms (SaaS) and hybrid combinations of these. (IZEA, SheKnows, HashtagPaid, Reelio, TheShelf,TapInfluence, GroupHigh, Famebit...) Most brands and agencies who are established in influencer marketing are already using a combination of these types of partners.
Meanwhile there are some issues to consider for marketers who are fairly new to influencer marketing:
8 Influencer Marketing Points
1) Competition for Influencers: Expect a rush of marketers competing to secure influencers.
2) It’s About the Relationship with the Influencer too: This month, a new influencer marketing platform recently called me with a pitch that was completely dismissive of their influencers. Poor form. In most cases, influencers do not work “for free,” or for “free products or events”, or for the chance to “meet a celebrity”. Today’s influencers are busy small business owners. They support their site, and often pay for photographers, videographers, stylists, travel, etc. Successful influencers are constantly working on their craft.
According to influencer marketing platform GroupHigh, agencies are most likely to contact bloggers, but over 69% of bloggers prefer to hear directly from brands. In my experience, influencers may prefer some partnership with the brands they align with, but work well with qualified intermediaries who speak for the brand. It’s a “win-win” when a brand involves an influencer or “pulls back the curtain” giving the influencer the opportunity to share the news or experience with their followers.
“Influencers need to be treated as partners not targets.” (Stanislas Magniant, Online Communications Director, Coca-Cola, Western Europe)
“If you have not met your influencers, you are doing it wrong.” (Andrew Gill, Director, IBM UK)
3) Learning Curve: For marketers venturing into influencer marketing without a full-service platform or agency, it can be incredibly time consuming. Anticipate weeks of trial and error.
Leading influencer network #HashtagPaid started out with a hybrid of managed and self-service, but realized that their tool was only as good as the marketer using it. They now run fully managed, turn-key Instagram programs (plus Snapchat and YouTube), ensuring that each of the influencers on their platform have signed on, been vetted and that they’ve established a professional relationship with them.
4) Control: In order to generate authentic, engaging content, marketers have to trust the influencer and give up control. This can be tough at first.
5) Resist the Urge to Simply Sell: It’s a turn-off. Provide value. Influencer advertising is “native” advertising and shouldn’t disrupt the consumer process.
6) Who’s in Charge? Influencer marketing has become cross-functional, with PR, consumer marketing, shopper marketing, and SEO all stakeholders. On the agency side, it’s PR, social, digital, creative and media…It’s still new and in a state of flux.
7) Issues with Multiple Networks “Representing” the Influencer: Apart from celebrity and mega-influencers, exclusivity is rare. Despite that, influencers are finding themselves touted as being “represented” by influencer networks without their knowledge or approval. In turn, marketers are surprised when they reach out to these influencers and receive a lukewarm reception.
8) Quality Engagement is #1: Measurement has evolved from vanity metrics (impressions, views, followers) to deeper analytics (engagement rates, comments, brand sentiment, sales, and conversions). Savvy marketers are learning that while a celebrity or mega influencer may have a massive follower count, their followers may not be engaged. The real creators will have engaged followers — and longevity.
Influencer marketing — it’s gonna be so ‘Yuggee”.