We’re setting the record straight, once and for all.
From Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed announcing a crackdown on influencers with fake followers at Cannes to Mark Ritson questioning the credibility of influencer marketing with a dodgy experiment, it seems everyone is weighing in on the influencer marketing debate of 2018.
We recently discussed influencer fraud and authenticity on the Scrunch blog, and now I want to share some thoughts on one of the other common, albeit misinformed, notions of the debate - influencer marketing as a legitimate marketing channel. There is a widespread view that influencer marketing should not require budget, because an authentic, credible influencer would (and apparently should) create content and share information about a product or brand they love, for free. If they’re getting paid, they are a sell-out, according to some “experts.”
The truth, however, couldn’t be further from this.
Influencers are a form of media and they are an advertising channel - like Google and Facebook in the digital space, and magazines, television and radio in above-the-line advertising. In addition, influencers are also content producers in the same way a photographer, journalist or videographer is. So, it’s baffling to hear that influencer marketing is not a valued media channel, and that working with influencers is not considered to be a media buy and therefore should not require a budget.
We’re here to drop three truth bombs:
- 1. Influencers are a real media channel, just like TV, print and other forms of digital advertising
- 2. Influencers bring value through their professional and authentic production and distribution of bespoke content
- 3. Like any other professional, influencers should be paid for their time on the job
Here are the facts of the matter…
What is the difference between a celebrity endorsement in 1993 and influencer marketing in 2018?
The answer is, absolutely nothing. Really. Influencer marketing might be a new channel and form of advertising, but the concept itself is not a “21st century thing.” As media and technology changes over time, so to do the ways that brands can reach consumers. In the past, billboards, TV networks, radio stations and print publications were the only way for brands to reach consumer, but now, social media and the internet as a whole has really opened that up and created a stream of new channels for marketers to explore. As a result, influencer marketing has emerged as a new distribution strategy, and for most brands and marketers, it’s a strategy geared towards millennials. Instead of this being a threat, it’s a huge opportunity for brands to connect with consumers at mass and be more targeted when it comes to marketing initiatives.
In the 90’s, Pamela Anderson, Naomi Campbell and Elle Macpherson were paid to work with brands. While they were not posting about the brand on Instagram and taking selfies, they were on billboards, in magazine advertorials and on TV.
Flashforward to today, and everyone knows that Kim K, Zoella and Aimee Song are paid to work with brands on social media, in digital advertising campaigns and on creative projects.
The fundamental difference between now and then is not the nature of the work, only the channel of delivery. The channel has changed over time but the strategy itself is exactly the same - leverage influential people to represent a brand - it’s just evolved over time in line with changing media trends, content consumption behaviour and obviously technology.
Does remuneration sacrifice credibility in influencer marketing?
If influencers should work for free to maintain credibility, so to should television stations, radio networks and publishers. Seems reasonable right?
That will never happen, nor should it.
If a television station, and all who work for said station, are “allowed” to be paid to create and distribute promotional content without their credibility, trust and authenticity coming under scrutiny, so too should an influencer. Take fashion publisher Vogue, for example. Like most commercial print publications, Vogue accepts advertising material for a fee, and brands are more than happy to splash cash to appear in Vogue. Does this mean Vogue is not credible? Absolutely not! The title is one of the most trusted and coveted media channels in the fashion space all around the world even though marketers and consumers alike know that some content is paid advertising material.
The notion that payment sacrifices credibility in influencer marketing now seems pretty ludicrous, doesn’t it.
The days of contra campaigns (exchanging product for post) are over, and all influencers should be paid for their contribution, whether they have 3,000 or 400,000 followers. In saying that, “sell-outs” and “influencers” who accept cash to promote anything and everything are a completely different can of worms, which we’ve discussed more in this article. These types of influencers don’t deserve to be paid, because they are not legitimate influencers in the first place.
How do you ensure you get value for your investment?
Now that we have established that influencers need to be paid, it is also important to talk about ROI and set the expectation for what will actually be achieved from your influencer marketing investment.
ROI and how to measure success is different for every brand and every campaign, but as an overall rule, make sure your campaign is set up so you can actually measure success. We often hear how influencer marketing cannot be tracked, but that’s not completely true. Influencer marketing is measurable and trackable, if your campaign and strategy has the infrastructure to allow you to do so. The strategy needs to align with the goal and vise versa.
For example, if the goal of the campaign is to drive traffic to a particular landing page, but the influencer strategy is Instagram posts, then there is a disconnect between the strategy and the goal, because Instagram posts do not include clickable links.
On the other hand, if the goal of the campaign is to leverage influencers to create a well curated library of content and start a conversation among your target audience, a micro-influencer strategy on Instagram will drive results, because the platform has a content focus and is designed for users to be social.
So our advice? Get really clear on what you want to achieve from your influencer marketing campaign, know how to measure success and decide whether you want the impact to be at the top of the funnel, or at the bottom.
Instead of thinking about ROI at the end of the campaign and trying to figure out how to measure success once the deed is done, the topic of measurability and ultimately the goal of the campaign should be at the forefront of every influencer marketing strategy. You can read more on defining your influencer marketing goals and shaping your strategy around them here or see the below as a guide.
Impact: Top of the funnel
What to measure: Brand awareness, reach, impressions and sentiment
Strategy: Content should reach as many consumers as possible.
Impact: Middle of the funnel
What to measure: Engagement, website traffic and lead generation
Strategy: Content should include clickable and unique tracking links and engagement capabilities (ability to like, comment and share).
Impact: Bottom of the funnel
What to measure: Sales
Strategy: Content should include discount codes, pixels and unique tracking links. Google conversion flow will also be helpful with with first click and last click attribution enabled.
Influencers are just like any other media professional
The job title “influencer” is simply a term used for a role that includes, but is not limited to, photographer, content creator, writer, publisher, social media marketer, project manager and videographer. And that’s just to name some of the hats that the role of an influencer emcompasses. These many hats mean that brands can get so much value, and so many benefits, from working with influencers in their integrated marketing strategy, from content generation and brand awareness right through to sales.
For brands, ultimately the recipe for success is the right combination of budget, strategy and influencer, and this is where the team at Scrunch can help.