Influencer marketing is having its moment.
Whether it’s a tagged pair of shoes in an Instagram post, or an “unboxing” video on Snapchat, brands are fighting hard to get their products into the hands of social media celebs who can move the needle on their sales numbers.
The Rise of Influencer Marketing
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, over one-third of marketers have a standalone budget for influencers in 2017.
It’s easy to see the appeal as influencer marketing can deliver 11 times higher ROI than traditional brand marketing. As influencer–brand partnerships begin to reach mass adoption, what metrics should markets be looking at? Today’s infographic is good primer on the state of influencer marketing.
At first glance, influencer marketing sounds like a strange concept, but it’s a natural evolution of content marketing over social media platforms. To understand influencer marketing, it helps if we step back and look at the big picture of how content marketing actually works.
Content Marketing: Fighting for Feed Space
Most social media platforms have the same format – content posted by people is arranged into a customized “feed” for you to consume. Content marketing is simply the process of getting users to follow your brand on platforms so your content appears in their feeds.
In the earlier days of social media marketing, people were more actively seeking out accounts to follow, including brand accounts. Today though, many platforms have hit a growth plateau, so unless your brand already has a large, engaged audience, it can tough to gain any traction. To add a layer of difficulty, many platforms (particularly in the Facebook ecosystem) now restrict the reach of brand accounts in an effort to get them to spend money on advertising.
In short, reaching people (including your opt-in audience) is much harder than it used to be.
The Human Connection
The algorithms that rank posts in your feed are looking for something specific: engagement. And let’s face it, a brand posting about their product is not going to be as exciting as a well-connected personality showcasing their life. It’s the latter example that shows up first in social feeds, and that’s one major benefit to working with an influencer.
As well, peer opinion is a powerful force in purchase decisions. If a content creator is truly influential, they can provide a massive boost to a brand’s profile that would be very difficult to manufacture through other marketing methods.
Smart marketers are always looking for ways to target the right demographics to maximize the efficiency of their spend. Because influencers already have a measurable and observable audience, you can hone in on a specific type of consumer. If you find similar influencers in other regions, you can scale out a campaign in a very effective way.
Bigger brand are often looking for macro impact, and shell out big bucks to work with top tier celebrity influencers, but brands can take a more grassroots approach and partner with content creators at the city or even neighborhood level (often for a fraction of the spend). This is referred to as “micro-influence”, and is a fast-growing segment of influencer marketing.
How Does Compensation Work?
Compensation can take a few forms, but many influencers work on a pay-per-post basis. Experienced influencers will often be happy to receive compensation through referrals, particularly on platforms that have e-commerce integration.
How Do You Measure The Stuff?
Measuring the effectiveness of a campaign always comes down to sales in the end, but an influencer’s contribution to that can take different forms. Some brands are simply looking to align their brand with a “cool personality” who fits with their target audience. Other times, it will make sense to work with people who can drive traffic – and ultimately conversions – to their shopping cart.
Many agencies are skeptical of the influencer marketing trend.
Since there is no industry standard for reporting results, and because certain platforms (e.g. Snapchat) offer scant analytics, it can be tough to calculate ROI or trust the numbers in post-campaign reports.
Along with dubious analytics, marketers should watch for fake followers and engagement. Keeping track of average engagement rates and doing a proper qualitative analysis on an influencer’s account should be the first step before working together.
The Evolution of Sponsored Posts
There will be an estimated 14.5 million* sponsored posts in 2017, and by 2019 that number could mushroom to 35 million. This spike in popularity is prompting concerns that we’re reaching a saturation point for influencer marketing, and that consumers will begin to tune out sponsored posts.
One thing is for certain, social media personalities are amassing sizable audiences for their content and are commanding serious marketing dollars in the process. It remains to be seen whether sponsored posts become a ubiquitous part of the social media landscape, or whether it will become a hackneyed tactic.