Riki Neill asks, are we all under the influence of influencer marketing these days?
From consumers to marketers, influencer marketing is and has been everywhere for the last couple of years. Recently, I’ve been surrounded by it… from client campaigns to attending the NorthStar Supper Club where influencer and now influencer agency chief, Louise Rumball, discussed her experiences, and on LinkedIn, where articles on the influencer bubble are aplenty.
So where do we sit on this? Well, it’s complicated!
Personally, I don’t believe that influencer marketing is anything new. Sure, the term may be but as PR professionals, have we not been trying to influence stakeholders and create brand advocates for years on behalf of our clients?
Influencing behaviours is a fundamental part of brand building and although the platforms may be evolving, the crux of the matter stays the same:
Find the right media/platform fit for your product / service
Communicate its USP / relevance
Secure endorsement of media / stakeholder
Aim to secure positive coverage – be it in media, social platforms, blogs
So, is ‘influencer marketing’ not just ‘media relations’ for the new generation? And does it work?
There’s so many scathing articles circulating in ad land about the effectiveness of influencer marketing, its inability to demonstrate return on investment (RoI) and the lack of transparency within the industry.
In terms of effectiveness, I beg to differ! It’s not the ‘influencers’ that have to prove ROI but instead, it’s the planners and strategists. Yes, we need to know reach, audience profile and engagement levels but that’s just the start of an influencer campaign.
Surely, it’s up to us, as the marketers, to use and work with these new platforms to create robust plans that demonstrate ROI and impact.
Vogue recently featured an article on MatchesFashion.com who use popular bloggers to curate new looks for the season – Shop With.
They don’t dictate which fashion brands, they don’t dictate the look – instead they buy into what the blogger’s following buys into – their individual look. Through the content generated and the endorsement – placed on a ‘Shop With page – they’ve been able to track click-throughs in terms of purchase and users’ increased time on site and volume of pages visited.
This is smart and validates their efforts and trust in the influencers that they have selected to collaborate with.
But that’s so fashion darling!
Yes, fashion, beauty, interiors, travel and food / drink are all ‘influencer-friendly’ sectors where branded-content can easily deliver sell-out products.
However, every industry has its own set of ‘influencers’.
From sustainable technology to pet products, finding the right influencers and knowing their platforms is key.
They may not deliver hundreds of thousands of engagements but what these ‘micro’ influencers can deliver is cut-through, relevance and the all-important third party endorsement.
Emperor’s new clothes
Much of the negativity surrounding influencer marketing stems from transparency and budgets.
What was perceived as a relatively low cost way of reaching a potential new audience is now priced out of the market for many brands. However, increasingly there’s an emphasis to engage with ‘micro bloggers’, where a more targeted and less costly approach is delivering results.
Many studies have shown that users’ trust in posts dips when they realise that the influencer is getting paid for the post, and for many consumers there’s a lack of recognition of what #sp #ad really mean. However, we need to be mindful that these are evolving channels and that influencers are evolving too.
The requirement to be transparent is everyone’s responsibility and as channels develop, I would predict that sponsored and paid for posts will become more identifiable across all platforms.
But one thing is for sure, influencer marketing is not FREE. It costs and for a campaign to be truly effective, it should have longevity therefore a dedicated and realistic budget, that’s set alongside goals, is essential for all campaigns.
Is the influencer bubble about to burst?
I don’t think so.
Influencers are now required to state if a brand has paid for the placement and this is just the start of how social media influencers and their relationships with brands will morph.
New tools are being created by savvy techies to monitor effectiveness and deliver revenue such as RewardStyle, which through a network of 4,000 plus global retailers, monetises influencer posts.
Also, influencer posts are becoming more content-rich.
Through the need to generate incredible, standout content, influencers are becoming increasingly skilled in graphics and video production – creating original imagery and videos – which is a further (and valuable) benefit that’s in addition to the reach that they deliver.
Some say that we’re all influencers… and this is very true.
Whether you have 200 people following you on instagram or 20,000, social recommendations are the new age ‘word of mouth’.
So the concept of influencer marketing isn’t new but the platforms and the new media editors – bloggers, instagrammers, youtubers and snapchatters – most definitely are, and the rules are changing!
When the stars align through savvy planning, matching your product / service with the right influencers, managing the process and delivering quantifiable results, it’s an incredibly powerful tool.
Riki Neill is Founder and Director of award-winning Belfast agency RNN Communications.
Find out more about the social media and influencer marketing at Digital DNA 2017 coming this June 6-7 to St George’s Market Belfast. Get your pass now!