With many businesses still reluctant to invest in influencer marketing, dispelling the misconceptions is the first step to unlocking its full potential.
A recent study reported that 80% of marketers plan to continue or increase their influencer marketing budget this year. It’s a huge percentage, but in line with growth so consistent, experts predict the industry will be worth between $5 billion and $10 billion by 2022. Yet some marketers still remain reluctant to invest.
Like any new and disruptive strategy, influencer marketing has received its fair share of criticism over the last few years. Unilever’s CMO, Keith Weed, kick-started a conversation about ‘fake influence’ last year which rumbled on for months. It wasn’t helped by some high-profile scandals involving content creators using tech wizardry in their posts and falsely inflating their followings.
In addition, there is a continued concern that influencer marketing fails to deliver return on investment (ROI), either because the followings are fake, or because social content creators don’t have the ability to impact people’s purchase decisions. Brands and marketers also fear that their high standards of content will be at risk if they work outside their tried and trusted agency circle.
Dispelling these misconceptions is the first step to unlocking the potential of influencer marketing. Or at least getting a fair assessment as to whether the channel is right for your brand.
The practice of buying followers and engagement still exists. For years influencers were valued on their follower counts and searched for shortcuts to better brand partnerships. In 2019, we realise that the engagement generated by an influencer is far more important than the number of followers they have. Since bot followers are guaranteed to make your engagement levels plummet, their appeal is fading fast.
At the same time, the technology used to detect fake followers and engagement has progressed. It’s not difficult to spot influencers that have been uncovered and are blacklisted by brands and agencies. The most reputable influencers will meticulously check their followings, removing the inevitable bot hangers-on that come with a large audience.
Setting clear objectives
When looking at ROI, there’s plenty of evidence to show how truly effective influencer content can be. Both anecdotally through case studies, and in statistics. Studies have revealed that Gen Z regularly seek reviews from their peers before making a purchase. They have grown up with online reviews just a click away and make considered spending decisions. They’re also far more trusting of their peers and influencers than celebrities.
Clarifying the end goal is an important first step to measuring the impact of any campaign. Do you want to raise brand awareness? Generate leads? Convert sales? Or drive customers to a website or app download? Setting clear objectives will help you decide which process you need to measure success. Failing to recognise the hurdles here will stop you from gaining the true impact of a campaign.
Soaring quality of content
Audiences are just as dubious about where they spend their time online as they are about spending their money. Social media is becoming a saturated market, full of stunning imagery and high production value video. As the standards continue to rise, influencers know they must raise the bar in order to capture the attention of time-poor audiences who are overwhelmed with content. Those with high followings and strong engagement rates are the influencers who have succeeded – and you can be sure that isn’t with inferior content.
Advancing technology is also a contributing factor. Affordable drones, better quality phone cameras and access to slick editing software allow self-taught digital content creators to compete with established agencies. Content is so strong, it’s living way beyond the social space and is being reused in digital ads, on websites and out-of-home advertising allowing that marketing spend to stretch further than ever.
Overcoming the challenges
The spotlight on influencer marketing’s shortcomings has made its stakeholders work harder to prove its successes. Often, marketers who still haven’t invested in the strategy won’t be aware that it has evolved into a more adaptable practice.
Paying a big name influencer to promote a product on Instagram may be how the industry originated, but there are now more low commitment strategies to trial influencer marketing. Multiple micro influencers can stage a month-long campaign for the same price as a mega influencer. Or they can be engaged purely as content creators, generating authentic and cost-effective assets to post within your own channels.
By arming themselves with the knowledge of how the industry has actually developed, concerned marketers can diminish their fears and discover the potential of influencer marketing.