Interest in influencer marketing is growing fast with an increasing number of brands investing in this space.
According to a research study conducted with 200 marketers by Rakuten Marketing, ‘75% of respondents anticipated their spending on such influencer campaigns to rise over 2018 .’[i]
The same study observes that although prices for many influencer marketing posts have risen in 2017, it has deterred few marketers from investing in this space.[ii]
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer campaigns leverage the influence of people who have power over the purchase decisions of consumers. Such as celebrities, bloggers, vloggers, thought leaders, experts and user communities. Influencers tend to be perceived by their followers as authentic and impartial and hence tend to enjoy consumer trust.
Brands are turning to highly active and engaging influencers on social media platforms more than ever before such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and blogs to help drive their marketing goals.
So why are so many marketers hooked on this?
It is becoming harder to reach younger audiences with traditional advertising as ‘they tend to ignore advertising and prefer authenticity.’ [iv] Traditional advertising also struggles to engage the multi-tasking / multi-screening audience that uses multiple devices at once when viewing content.
Advertising on digital platforms is also losing reach as more people have started to use ad blockers. Also, a marketing effectiveness study from Nielsen indicates that ‘Personal Recommendations are more trusted than traditional advertising amongst consumers in the UK.’ (Nielsen, 2015)[v]
Brand partnerships with influencers have provided an oasis for consumer engagement for companies. They enable the brand to get into personalised conversations with audience through influencers that the audience trusts and considers authentic. They also deliver exposure to a target audience that is already interested and involved with the content and is likely to pay attention.
This means that influencer initiatives offer a high probability of the brand/message grabbing the attention of the audience. Additionally, the hard job of producing unique and engaging creative assets is taken care of by the influencers who constantly evolve their content to ensure they don’t lose their followers.
Several consumer and retail brands across the board including Nike, L’Oreal, ASOS, Estee Lauder, Diageo and Sprite have launched successful influencer campaigns recently. One such brand is Maybelline.
Maybelline works with several social influencers ranging from vloggers to celebrities. In 2017 Maybelline launched their first Influencer campaign by tying up with a male beauty influencer -Manny Gutierrez, a well-established Beauty vlogger with a following of over 4 million amongst men and women.
Manny conducted beauty tutorials using Maybelline products and authenticated his relationship with the brand by acknowledging that Maybelline was empowering men like him to enjoy makeup.
Throughout 2017, Maybelline’s Instagram account regularly mentioned an influencer, ranging from beauty to fashion vloggers such as Melissa Floresto, Shayla Mitchell and Nicole Alyse. ‘While the content was created by the influencers, the brand encouraged the influencers to use a specific hash tag #mnyitlook in their tagline.’[vi]
The brand went a step further by launching a nationwide campaign for ‘Big Shot Mascara,’ starring beauty influencers in Manny and Shayla. Maybelline also uses celebrity power of Gigi Hadid, their spokesperson who posts frequent Maybelline-centric content to her own Instagram account, where she has over 36 million followers.
(Maybelline’s Big Shot Mascara Campaign with Manny and Shayla)
As companies embark on influencer marketing journeys they are likely to encounter a range of challenges.
A different mindset: Influencer marketing often requires a change of mind set for brands. To be effective ‘an influencer campaign should have goals beyond product pushing’ (Rogers, R, 2017)[vii] and focused on what can be achieved from placing the brand in unique and authentic narrative created by the influencer.
Selecting Influencers: Start with a social market analysis and social customer profiles. With a bevy of influencers across mainstream and niche social platforms it is important to find the one that is right for the brand and your target audience. ‘At least three dimensions should be considered in the selection process.
- Context: Identifying influencers who are relevant for your target audience, campaign’s goal and brand’s identity. Creating influencer segmentation that link different influencers to different target groups and marketing goals could be useful.
- Effective reach: Having reach and engagement with the brand’s target audience is important in the selection process. Keep in mind that some influencer networks may be small but consist of highly engaged followers that more likely to act on a recommendation.
- Sentiment: ‘To be authentic the influencer must have a positive sentiment for your brand.’ (Bober, K & Kumar, S, 2015)[viii]
Influencer Marketing Costs: There is no set rate for influencer marketing prices. The influencer fee depends on the platform, performance and whether you are negotiating directly or through an agency.
‘For influencers with less than 100K followers this cost would be lower,’ (Chen, Yuyu, 2017).[x] Some agencies that link influencers to brands have started establishing cost per post models.
Measurement: The thinking around the right metrics for measuring the ROI of influencer marketing is still evolving. At a minimum the following metrics can be tracked by experienced social analytics and insights teams to evaluate campaign performance and the impact it is having on the brand:
- Reach: To measure reach, one must go beyond easy to manipulate indicators such as followers. A combination of followers and views can help estimate true reach.
- Engagement: ‘Rich engagement metrics such as comments, shares and likes’ will help gauge if the content resonated with the audience (www.influencermarketinghub.com, 2017)[xi]
- Brand Equity: Measuring impact on brand by looking at positive and negative sentiment, brand mentions, mentions of key buying factors will help estimate contribution towards brand’s equity.
4) Conversion: Measuring increase in web traffic, sales, sign ups to brand’s digital assets etc.
As influencer marketing is a fast-evolving space, companies should not shy away from experimenting, learning and adapting their approaches to establish what works well for their brands.
At the same time, they should be mindful of the fine balance to strike between safe guarding authenticity that powers the relationship with the consumer and promotional requirements. Therefore, it is important that the partnerships are genuine. Otherwise the campaigns can backfire both for the brand and the influencer if the integrity of the campaign is called into question.