Are you under the influence? I mean the influence of Influencers? Is your opinion swayed, controlled, effected or impacted by a person’s posts or people with a social media account whose official title is ‘Influencer’? In May 2020 media agency UM tracked more than 56,000 active internet users across 81 countries for its 10th ‘Wave’ study. They found that just 4% of internet users believed the information shared by influencers on social media was true. So is Influencer marketing real or a sting?
Influence: to effect, impact; control, sway, hold, power, authority, mastery, domination, supremacy, leadership; guidance, direction, pressure.
All marketing seeks to influence our opinion and behaviour, and professional Influencers are now commonplace in marketing strategy using a combination of organic and sponsored content for reach, authenticity and conversion. It could be said that influencers democratised advertising, replacing the conjured, homogenised and stereotypical image of consumers, with more diverse, authentic, less contrived versions of us.
But the Influencer landscape is no longer a simple question of finding and choosing someone to hold your product. There’s a myriad of considerations in the selection, relationship and strategy of Influencer campaigns, some of which I’ll explore here.
Why Use An Influencer?
At the core of the social media influencer industry is the variety of psychological and emotional reasons we’re influenced by experience and the opinion of others (see key instigators for human action).
The essence of influencer campaigns is the inherent value of a relationship.
An Influencer’s power is not solely determined by the weight of numbers behind their following, it’s determined by the weight of engagement and depth of relationship they have with the followers. The Influencer who is equally invested in responding to the individuals who follow them, as they are in generating content to present to them, is a far more impactful and therefore valuable influencer. Especially in the micro and nano influencer zone.
Their influence might be derived from the follower’s aspirational, charitable, cultural, causal or utilitarian motivations. It might be the desire to feel a belonging to a tribe, to make friends, attain status or feel powerful. Whatever the cause, the Influencer plays the trusted conduit to information and experiences their follower’s desire. Going forward, Influencers will increasingly specialise by industry, audience or cause and collaborate with other influencers and businesses to consolidate impact.
With so many platforms and Influencers vested in making this profession viable, there’s a lot of noise and promotion generated favouring this type of campaign. That doesn’t necessarily make it the right strategic or tactical marketing choice for everyone.
Brands engage influencers hoping they’re a conduit to followers who match the brand’s target, but the objectives behind an influencer campaign will motivate its strategy and tactical execution. Here’s the secret that Influencers don’t want you to realise: You and your friends, family, employees, customers, associates and suppliers are all ‘influencers’ because of your relationship with them. This audience could be the fastest and cheapest route to effect an influencer (influential) campaign. These are relationships and followings that you own and affect, hence employee advocacy is on the rise.
Harry’s Shave Club might be from 2014, but it’s still a good demonstration of how to implement this type of organic influence campaign (the tech behind this campaign has only improved but this is a good introduction). You might also enjoy their short-form videos, I know I loved this one.
There are different rationales behind Influencer campaigns but generally speaking, the Influencer attempts to tune into the follower’s motivations, to cause the desired effect for the brand.
Strictly speaking, Influencer campaigns are great for creating awareness, generating traffic/clicks/sales and collecting UGC (User Generated Content) that can feed your media. Put simply, you need to know what you want to achieve with your influencer campaign. This is critical in forming expectations and KPI’s with the Influencer.
The example influencer campaign undertaken by HandSkate.com to launch their smaller skateboards, provides another source of useful insights into the how and why of an influencer campaign, from the start-up stage through to maintenance stage. The example also identifies how a little paid media support can augment the campaign in a variety of advantageous ways.
This graphic overview from The Shelf is a useful guide to the broader uses of Influencer campaigns, you’ll notice ‘To Do What Everyone Else Is Doing” is not listed…:
How Does An Influencer Campaign Compare In Terms Of Cost And ROI?
In assessing comparative ROI it’s a question of evaluating what is the best tool to achieve the desired result? Generating awareness? Google ads, sponsoring local little league or radio? They’re all different mediums with their own distinctions. If your target is more engaged and you can better reach and impact with one medium over the other, choose that medium.
Though influencers, especially those on specialised platforms, can provide extremely granular audience profile data, broad statistics on Influencers can be difficult to compare or predict in this era of dynamic change and upheaval.
In a report by Social.Bakers.com Influencer Marketing Efficiency decreased by 41% between April 2019-April 2020. Influencer Marketing Efficiency is calculated by the average number of audience interactions on an Influencer’s post mentioning the brand, divided by the total number of followers and multiplied by 100. This number is then compared to a post published by the brand itself. An Influencer with higher engagement rates is likely to carry more ‘social authority’, increasing the likelihood of a successful sponsorship.
Average social media engagement rates are difficult to assess, but they’re in overall decline due to the constant state of flux in terms of political, technical, social and pandemic volatility. However, Rival IQ conducted a study in 2020 and determined average engagement rate across all industries is 1.22%, but these stats are often higher, around 7% with micro/nano-influencers.
When researching this industry, check the source of the information, question their agenda, and check the data’s date because trends have varied drastically even since 2019. At the end of 2019, they brought a higher ROI than SEO, content marketing or PPC advertising, but that changed by the end of 2020. Influencers became the victim of their own success driving prices up while the pandemic reduced budgets.
This lead brands to switch allegiance from big names with millions of followers to cheaper micro and nano-influencers who are deemed to have a closer relationship with their followers, albeit in much smaller numbers. You’ll find a good blog post about using nano-influencers from Planoly here. The earlier HandSkate.com example demonstrates how smaller influencers can have a more organic, authentic and engaged relationship with their followers. It’s worth checking the stats to see how your own extended network of contacts compares to the micro or nano influencer.
In terms of comparing marketing with Influencers versus other marketing strategies, data can provide some insights, but ultimately results are the best evidence. Compare the data from other platforms for the brand-driven and controlled creatives, against those achieved by the Influencer, ensuring you evaluate all relevant metrics, not just demographics and engagement ie. click-throughs, time spent, shopping trolley abandonment etc.
When using several Influencers throughout the campaign, establish engagement goals for the campaign as a whole, targeting the results of the combined activity of all the influencers for a more accurate assessment of the sponsored post performance. In any event, past performance is no indicator of future results, so you need to revert to marketing principles and make a considered judgement based on what you know of your product and target consumers.
Engagement rates are important, and while low engagement rates do not augur well for an Influencer, they’re not the only metric of value. This is where using the advertising options of a specialist influencer platform can improve engagement and results. The paid media amplifies the Influencer’s efforts, increasing visibility and engagement, with targeting based on a variety of granular data that can provide critical useful metrics and analytics for understanding ROI (see info below).
Measure the influencer impact regularly against engagement, website traffic, social following, share of voice and new influencer relationships.
Should I Do An Influencer Campaign?
I created this guide to Influencer marketing because people often ask me ‘should I use an influencer for my marketing?” My typical response is “Don’t ask me, ask your customers!” Ask your customers:
- Do they follow influencers and if so, who and why?
- When was the last time they made a purchase based on an Influencer’s influence?
- What is more influential, a recommendation by an influencer you know is being paid to promote or refer from a friend, family member or associate?
- Which social media channels they spend the most time on and why?
- Are they more inclined to spend their free time scrolling social media or listen to podcasts?
These questions, this research will guide your decisions on which influencers and platforms to use and what type of content to serve. We can find the answers to most marketing questions in the target consumer, but like everything in marketing, the answer isn’t black and white for all products.
The answer to whether an influencer campaign is right for you will require you consider the resources needed, predominantly in campaign management and content creation. The campaign and its components need to be creatively designed, budgeted, scheduled, resourced, produced, monitored and measured. Skyword, Contently and showcache might be useful resources in respect of content creation, storage and distribution, while Planoly is a great resource for scheduling and creating social media content.
How Do I Select An Influencer?
I’ve already highlighted that the strength of the Influencers relationship with their followers is the key selection criteria, so let’s take that as a given. But human talent can be difficult to manage so I’ll make a note here that the emerging trend of CGI Influencers (a computer-generated personality that you control), in the long run, might be more manageable than external or third party human Influencers…(just saying).
However, if you’re curious to engage humans, of utmost importance is that they share and reflect your brand values. When evaluating influencers to promote your brand, you want those that reflect your own brand’s personality, style, and aesthetic. Your choice will also be affected by your objectives eg. are you seeking a product ambassador, exclusivity in your product category, what type of structure do they have around how they execute a campaign, what availability do they have to commit to the content requirements of your campaign?
Begin by researching social channels looking for hashtags, blogs and the keywords you’ve identified for SEO, to identify top posts and hot topics in Stories and Reels relevant to you. Who is contributing to the conversation in a manner and tone that resonates with you? Monitor conversations in Clubhouse, Slack channels or conference agendas – anywhere issues relevant to your product are being discussed, then measure and participate to get on the radar.
Value-based marketing is on the rise, so selecting influencers purely on a product or audience fit might obscure other less obvious opportunities to be present, eg. consider influencers attached to causes that align with the brand values or product use. Mavrck influencer platform reports 23% of influencers prefer to work with brands who support the same causes. Be aware of potential sensitivities eg. Political or religious biases, but you can also align with influencers confronting difficult topical issues such as domestic violence.
Selecting Influencers is not just about the number of followers, you’ll need to compare apples with apples… Micro and nano-influencers can be a much more targeted approach if your audience analysis identifies they have a smaller but much more powerful audience of followers. For instance, if you’re the Chamber of Commerce is it better to align with an Influencer who has 1,000 business owners as followers, or an Influencer with 1,000 followers interested in a local hairdresser?
You can start your relationship with potential Influencers by linking back to their content from your blog to align your message with theirs, increase their rankings and get on their radar. Repost their posts with your spin and a credit to the Influencer. Retweet, like or crosslink to demonstrate shared interests and boost their audience. Ask your employees to interact with the influencers with links back to your content—all great ways to ignite a reciprocal relationship organically without having to ask for anything.
Of course of prime consideration will be your budget, and the ability to create compelling, credible content that’s authentically in line with your brand and reach and resonate with the audience you’re targeting. Some influencers create their own content; others will rely on you supplying the content, while others have a whole production team behind them. Each alternative has a direct correlation to the cost of involvement with the Influencer.
If you’re an SME just starting, it’s probably best for you to seek talented and skilled Influencers who are also relatively new, as they’re likely to work initially for product samples and collaborative initiatives. Influencers at this point may not be professional Influencers, they may be associated experts in your field with a following.
Naturally, you’ll want to check the number of followers, but the more important questions are who are they and where are they? Look for evidence of how the Influencer connects with their followers and how often. How often do they post, travel, have guests and plan for seasonal events? Are they on-trend and on topic in a timely way? The platform they’re on is an obvious critical factor as it must align with those in use by your target, but what type of content do they create, video, images, podcast, written publications? The medium will impact the scope and style of interaction they can develop in the content.
Who else of note is interacting with them, eg. other influencers or associates with brand-related value? Do they have longevity in their relationships with other brands (indicating successful results and a harmonious association)? Look for associations that might include other products that compliment your product, access to celebrity talent or other brands that you could join forces with for long term, ongoing campaigns.
Attaining an accurate audience profile of an Influencer can require discernment. For instance, a brand targets a female audience and is considering an attractive female Influencer with 100,000 followers, who promotes female-centric products. That all looks good until they notice impressions are seriously impacted ie. doubled when the Influencer is in seductive poses or almost naked, suggesting a large component of the Influencer’s followers are actually men following her for her physical appeal. If that’s the case potential sales of female related products could be less than if the audience were in fact, predominantly women.
I would also counsel to look for longevity or experience as an Influencer which will give some assurance your brand won’t be subject to rookie mistakes like failing to label sponsored content. Spread the word by using different Influencers on the social platforms your audience uses. One Influencer might be strong on Facebook, while another is strong on YouTube (both of which might be in line with your audience preferences) and compound the effect with paid media to reinforce the campaign.
Technology Takes Its Place In Influencer Selection
With so many variables and considerations in choosing an appropriate Influencer, technology has come to the rescue…of course. Many influencer platforms operate on different parameters with different facilities, some of which are mentioned below. AI and tech research is playing a bigger role in helping marketers in making judicious selections.
It can also gauge the sentiment of comments, draw conclusions about the audience and gauge reaction and engagement.
Perhaps most importantly, this type of technology can prompt or identify potential campaign ideas with merit in the early campaign creation stage based on the study of previous dialogue and engagement.
Livestreaming and shoppable events paired with influencers is a trend that’s been hugely successful in China for a few years but is only now making its way into the broader commercial markets. The combination of live TV with the appeal and audience following of big influencers is a proven update of the TVSN (TV Shopping Network) sales tool.
What Type Of Content Works Best In Influencer Marketing?
Relevance, context and timing are your key considerations, but whatever the media the content should be valued by the target people. Social media generally is a medium of discovery and persuasion – what are you feeding humanities hunger to discover and how are you persuading them to own some of it?
The notion of discovery can drive your intent, but your content will need to fit with the influencers content guidelines and the level of creative freedom they demand. What they post, where, when, how and why will be of significant interest to you, but to avoid being a micro-managing brand that compromises the appeal of the Influencer, ensure all these details are agreed upon in the engagement contract in advance.
Seasonal and event-based content can provide the opportunity for suitable context eg. Italy In A Glass providing their Cipriani Bellini to influencers enjoying the Italian Film Festival. This principle works in reverse when you provide the opportunity for your Influencers to participate in events and seasonal promotions you might be running.
Some industries are either more receptive/conducive to or supportive of influencer marketing and dedicated efforts in this respect are reaping the rewards. Fashion eg. Revolve Clothing where influencers drive 70% of sales; cosmetics eg. Estee Lauder who spend a reported 75% of their budget on influencer marketing or Gymshark with an estimated reach through influencers of 20 million consumers. These stats are the result of having been committed to a long term strategy.
Ongoing campaigns give the Influencer the opportunity to build a story around your product and integrate it into their platform’s organic existence. In fact, influencer campaigns should be totally integrated into the overarching marketing efforts of the business/brand.
Due to the close attachment followers can have with the Influencer, sometimes a ‘hit and run’ campaign can appear too commercial and detrimental to the campaign.
Beware of travelling on trends, I mean, are memes still a thing? Research might uncover hot topics or trends in behaviour that are tempting to jump into or harness for your purpose, but such things can be fleeting in this dynamic era. For example, this TikTok report identifies the top-performing topics for 2020, but when you consider the circumstances this data was collected in (Covid lockdown), the results are not surprising. Some might be sustained to an extent, but as the world evolves again this year, look for this year’s trends – or make one of your own. This link will take you to the top 100 # on Instagram, updated almost daily – that’s a great insight.
To inspire brand/product relevant content, give the Influencers insight into the product to help them build situations and creative executions that bring life to their representation of the brand/product. User Generated Content (UGC) from Influencer followers is increasingly becoming part of the campaigns and video is becoming the dominant format. A handy tool for video content is a platform I’ve mentioned previously vloggi.com, making video content for campaigns so much easier and cost-effective. This is especially relevant for small brands and start-ups with very limited budgets.
The audience dictates the medium. The medium is selected not by what others are doing but what your audience is using. Whichever mediums your audience is engaged with and using the most, be it Snapchat, TikTok, IGTV, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, Pinterest, Clubhouse or any other platform, choose the right tool to reach your audience in the right way, at the right time.
When it comes to content and impact, authentic is the keyword, and genuine enthusiasm for the product’s experience is what counts. Consumers are highly trained to spot a fake and they don’t respond well to them.
What Are The Legal & Contractual Requirements Of An Influencer Campaign?
When creating or producing content, it’s essential to agree in contract form issues of content ownership (read copyright) and other rights, entitlements and performance expectations. A template Influencer engagement contract can be a useful starting point, but the agreement’s details will be specific to individual collaboration.
The agreement will cover scope of work, quality, the number of posts, scheduling, content standards, brand guidelines, and agreement to work to brand-provided style guides, distribution rights and entitlements, reproduction entitlements, performance KPI’s and payment arrangements, to name a few. Performance-based rewards are an increasingly popular instrument that makes reliable data an essential component of your association.
If the Influencer creates the content, what entitlements do you have to use the material in other mediums independently? If you’re creating the content or paying for production or talent in the content, it’s wise to own it for potential future use. Rights and entitlements to the content created and used in association with your brand under the umbrella of an influencer campaign need to be clearly understood, agreed upon and recorded.
On that note, it’s a very good idea to actually read the T’s & C’s of the big social platforms like YouTube, twitter etc. to know their ownership entitlements of the content you post. It might surprise you to learn your giving it away. It’s also wise to have a proper facility to archive and serve your digital asset management platform eg. showcache.io because the social media platforms are not a storage facility for your marketing assets.
Influencer content that’s supplemented with promotional efforts and paid media will increase reach and engagement results.
How Do I Plan And Manage An Influencer Campaign?
Influencer campaigns can be planned and managed in several ways, but they’re time-consuming and require a good knowledge of what’s involved to get the maximum benefit from a campaign in a compliant manner.
In Australia, you could use the self-service marketplace of Tribegroup.co where influencers can pitch creative to your brief or talent/influencer management company BornBredTalent.com. But we operate to a global market so you could explore specialist influencer social media platforms such as The Shelf, Sway Group Impact or Tailify each of which area good sources of education on the finer points of running an influencer campaign.
I’ve identified several platforms and apps that are helpful in managing the scheduling, production, distribution and archiving of a campaign above in the section Should I Do An Influencer Campaign.
Conclusion: An influencer campaign might be right for you if you can find suitable, reliable and responsible influencers who are a good fit with your brand; if you can build an ongoing collaborative relationship where the brand and Influencer can be authentic in their association; and if you can deliver quality creative consistently in a timely manner through the Influencer.
Indications are that Influencers – broadly speaking – have a limited effect overall, achieving success where the connection to followers is deep, sincere and relationship-oriented.
As the UM research also asked which platforms people worldwide would describe as a ‘great place for someone like me’, non-interactive sites Netflix and YouTube came first and second (with 28% and 27% agreeing, respectively), with Spotify third on 27%. You could always evaluate streaming as an alternative for your brand-sponsored content….
If you would like to know more about how Influencers on social media and streaming content can work together to outperform pure influencer campaigns, contact Wanted Consulting – Reward Offered.