SEO strategy director at Infinity NationView Author Profile
Influencer marketing will be big business in 2018 - how can you optimise its impact?
Influencer marketing is big business. Estimated as a $2 billion industry on Instagram alone and with 1 billion users on an average social platform, it’s not hard to see the potential.
Just this week the power of the influencer hit the headlines with vlogger Elle Darby engaging in a very public spat with the White Moose Cafe over social media exposure in exchange for a free stay. This is definitely a platform in evolution and it’s a discipline that marketers need to approach with a very clear strategy in mind.
Generally used by multi-national brands in high competition industries such as fashion, beauty and FMCG, the approach is a sustainable, measurable marketing channel with a wide reach of key consumer markets.
With a 325% increase in searches for “influencer marketing” in 2017, many dedicated agencies, influencer platforms and networks have popped up trying to capitalise on the trend. Likewise, a range of smaller companies and brands are now exploring it as a viable marketing channel.
Here’s where we see the biggest opportunities and watch-outs with influencer marketing in 2018.
Don’t try and influence the influencer
First and foremost, do not try and push your brand guidelines on influencers. It’s time to realise this isn’t advertising. Respected by their followers, many influencers spend years instilling trust and building rapport; they have their own tone of voice, colours, themes and red lines.
It can also be a damaging exercise for your brand. If an influencers’ follower base feel the tone and content of the piece does not fit within the influencers’ style and, even worse, “feels like an ad”, beware the backlash effect on KPIs.
Choosing micro-influencers over macro-influencers
The debate between micro and macro rages on. Micro influencers (with around 10,000 - 100,000 followers) are more niche, versus macro influencers; personalities with over 100,000 followers.
With macro influencers, to grow in a competitive market, a brand aligns itself with a celebrity to increase credibility, status and power to influence with a higher brand reach. Macro influencers tend to have achieved celebrity level and so reach is good, but engagement levels are a lot lower and cost can be very high (restrictive to many smaller brands).
Whilst not the same discipline, macro influencer marketing should be viewed in the same context as media advertising – higher cost, lower return and a lot more difficult to measure results.
For a smaller brand with lower resources, targeting engagement with a campaign aimed at core consumer groups means that a micro influencer could be a better route. A third-party endorsement from a micro influencer can quite quickly turn into sales and offer a direct response sales channel.
In fact, 28% of brand marketers recently named influencers their fastest growing online sales channel (PMYB 2017). Whereas a macro campaign will more likely drive brand awareness.
Set and agree clear KPIs and objectives
Which brings us on to goal setting and KPIs. It sounds obvious but it’s not always adhered to: always develop marketing campaign objectives, goals and deliverables when creating an influencer campaign.
Define and agree what success looks like. A campaign without this backbone is doomed to fail. Then ensure both parties are aware of what needs to be done to satisfy the criteria.
Every influencer campaign has to have the following:
Structure this into a pre-approved influencer contract before anything gets published.
Consider an affiliate route
Gaining traction recently, an affiliate programme means the influencer will get a portion of the profit for the sales they contribute to, usually by using referral links within their content.
This pricing model works better for brands but is particularly effective with influencers with a large following. Just be aware there will still probably be an upfront fee to consider as well.
Always look beyond the stats
Brands agree a range of different pricing models centred on what they feel a creative piece of content is worth (a YouTube video will cost more to create than a post or product placement, for example). Some influencers - particularly micro - constantly re-evaluate their worth and therefore cost per channel using services such as Social Blue Book.
Any pricing model will be based on the number of followers an influencer has and the engagement of their user base. The golden number for a micro influencer is 10,000 engaged followers and therefore they do everything they can to get to that level.
To build a loyal, engaged and positive following on social media can be difficult and time consuming, so to expedite this, some turn to bots and companies offering services to enhance an influencer’s follower metrics. As well as “fake followers” to boost earning potential, Instagram groups and pods also exist to amplify engagement through likes and comments.
Once at the right level, these influencers will sign up to influencer platforms and networks and approach brands to work with or bid for brand campaigns. In this growing pool, to select the best influencer for your campaign requires a large amount of research and analysis and a concerted effort for brands to look beyond the immediate stats.
Before agreeing on your influencer, it’s best to also do some digging of your own:
Do they have a profile photo? If so, are you sure it’s not a stock image?
Check engagement levels – if they look natural dig into comments and check how valid they look.
Look at social presence – do they have other social channels? How engaged are they?
Influencer marketing is a channel that’s set to grow and mature in 2018, and transparency of brand involvement will be key. However, done correctly there’s a vast opportunity for brands of all sizes to create not just one-off campaigns but sustained and measurable marketing efforts and resulting sales.
James Foote is SEO strategy director at Infinity Nation.
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