This is the second in a series of blog posts brought to you by OST Marketing. In this chapter, our Senior Account Director, Stef Lait will explore the integration of influencers into your brand and strategy, reflecting on why you should work with influencers and how to get started.
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For many brands, influencer marketing has become a staple in their marketing mix. Influencer Marketing Hub reports that 86% of marketers planned to invest in influencer marketing in 2019 and 39% increased their budgets during the year with, on average, an 83% year-on-year increase in budget. Over the past three years, Google searches for ‘Influencer marketing’ has increased by 1,500%, and the industry is now worth $6.5-10 billion.
Source: Influencer Marketing Hub, 2019, https://influencermarketinghub.com/influencer-marketing-2019-benchmark-report/
Why work with influencers?
Faced with declining organic social media reach, increasing social advertising costs and growing competition from lean and hungry start-ups, many brands see influencers as an exciting and cost-effective new marketing opportunity. And the facts generally support their view:
- 87% of shoppers say they have been inspired by an influencer to make a purchase – Smart Brief
- Influencer ads have been gauged as, on average, 277% more ‘emotionally intense’ than TV ads – Smart Brief
- Average earned media value per $1 spent on influencer marketing in 2018 was $5.20 – NeoReach
How to work with influencers
As with any emerging market, influencer marketing is experiencing growing pains. If you plan to invest in this sector, it’s important to be aware of the risks. Here are four key points to consider:
- Influencer Fraud
The rapid growth and adoption of influencer marketing has led to challenges around influencer fraud. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 64% of marketers deem influencer fraud a big concern. With large fees on offer, some influencers are tempted to buy fans, engagements or clicks, and many brands don’t yet have the data or knowhow to spot the fraudsters.
Similarly, there is often a lack of transparency around paid or gifted content, which has led to an erosion of consumer trust in influencers during 2018/19 and some high-profile ‘outings’ of prominent professional influencers and celebrities. Current practice is to post content with ‘#ad’ or ‘#sponsored’. If the influencer is trusted and the content is effective, such a disclosure shouldn’t hinder the impact of the recommendation.
- Declining engagement
Partly due to a rise in cynicism around influencer content and partly due to a much-reported (but denied) throttling of influencer reach on Instagram, many influencers have seen declining engagement levels during 2019. A recent study showed that the average engagement rate on sponsored influencer posts, for the first quarter of 2019, fell to 2.4% – compared to it reaching 4% in the first quarter of 2016. This isn’t a reason not to invest in influencer marketing but should be factored into future projections.
- Vanity metrics
To date, many brands have been quite naïve in working with influencers on the basis of their follower numbers or channel-level engagement rate. Far greater scrutiny is needed to avoid being duped by unscrupulous pseudo-influencers, of which there is a growing number. Only by tracking and monitoring detailed metrics, such as per-post engagement rates, bounce rates (for web traffic) and time on site can brands truly evaluate each influencer.
Which kinds of influencers should you work with?
Selecting the right influencers for your campaign is critical, so it’s important to categorise influencers according to the impact they can deliver for you.
Onalytica, the influencer relationship platform, has published a helpful list of influencer categories which may help you decide where to focus your attention. While your first thought might be to look at Celebrities, you may get better results from a broader-based campaign involving Industry Experts or Professional Influencers.
Although follower numbers are definitely not the only factor to consider when selecting influencers to work with, they offer a useful starting point. Here’s our quick guide to selecting influencers according to their reach, credibility and likely level of fees:
Once you have identified a number of target influencers, make sure you research them thoroughly before spending any more time (or money!). Dig into their engagement rate (% of fans/followers who engage with each post) and scrutinise who really engages with them. Are they really your target demographic? If they don’t align closely with your brand and goals, you should look elsewhere.
Influencer selection considerations:
- Find evidence they will deliver against your goals.
- What are the profiles of the people that follow them?
- What are the comments like on their posts and sponsored posts?
- Are they transparent with sponsored content?
Before you approach your target influencers, your first challenge is to set out your proposition for them. What can you offer them that is unique and compelling? Many influencers receive scores of offers from brands every week, so you need to make sure yours stands out from the crowd.
The long-term plan should also be considered. If you take an interest in them and their work, share their content and add your own insights to the conversation, you may find they will be happy to do extra bits for free and continue to add value to the relationship long after the initial campaign.