"What's our influencer strategy?" is the question on every CMO's mind today and how to implement an influencer program is still a major challenge to most marketing departments. With 84% of influencer research being carried out manually¹, marketers run into hurdles when attempting to identify influencers, engage with them, and measure the impact on their brands².
Too often marketers succumb to the temptation of "influencer marketing at the push of a button". Paying for influence online is such an enticing proposition for a marketer who is used to buying media and eager to please a demanding CMO. As it's often the case though, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is...
Vendors that propose and promote a shortcut to influencer marketing nirvana are not doing this in good faith. Since the days of Klout, we know that the pay-for-influence playbook with these opt-in networks simply does not work and further delays the essential development of an influencer program based on business impact and long-term relationships with key influencers.
We’re here to set things straight. What’s an opt-in network? Who participates? How do these methods differ from authentic influence? Why are credibility and trust more important than ever?
Here is why easy types of influence won’t give your brand the authenticity it craves.
Brands partner with opt-in networks because they provide an influencer-for-hire marketplace based on an individual's network size. Here is the catch: when you focus on reach, you’re just adding to the noise. Deep down inside, you know that bloggers dishing out coupons or raving about your product on Monday before raving about your competitors on Tuesday can't be viewed as genuine and don't yield any influence. Yet that's what you're getting pitched by these networks. Wouldn’t you rather build an authentic relationship instead of paying for brand mentions?
To start healing, we, as marketers, must reassert the proper terminology. That way you can spot an easy shortcut when you see one—and think twice about it. For starters, what is the difference between an influencer and a web celebrity? And how should brands involve their influencers in their marketing?
Though commanding, accruing tens or hundreds of thousands of followers in your community does not equate to influence. Influencers get people in their community to take action and change behaviors based on the trust they've earned from that same community.
Influencer Marketing exists to enable brands to connect with influencers (authorities, community opinion leaders) in order to build real relationships and create impact. These relationships should result in the influencer getting to know and appreciate the brand for what it stands for, so they can eventually advocate for it within their community. And do so in an authentic way.
On the flip side, endorsement marketing gets (micro or macro) celebrities to endorse your product or campaign. At Traackr, we’re not huge fans of endorsement marketing but we respect that it may work for some brands seeking to flood the market with brand recognition; what we know though is that by mislabeling endorsement marketing, providers misrepresent what they can do for brands and then brands overpay for reach.
While paid endorsements are meant to be seen by and reach as many people as possible, this form of marketing will lose points when it comes to interaction. Traditional media is so oversaturated with messages that it becomes easy to tune them out. People crave engagement: they expect brands to communicate with them, not preach. Influencer marketing reaches potential customers where they are (existing networks), from a voice they trust (the influencer), and puts them in control (content generates conversations good enough to share). Influencers provide better content, higher brand affinity, and intelligently targeted reach.
In fact, word-of-mouth has become the most lucrative currency of influence. A 2013 Nielsen Global survey states that 84 percent of worldwide consumers will take action based on the reviews and recommendations of trusted sources above all other forms of advertising. Credibility and trust are more important than ever when trying to sell more products. Perhaps due to an overexposure of traditional commercial advertising, consumers are able to sort out the real from the fake, and may feel that the brand or influencer is not trustworthy when partnering for profit. According to Forbes, 43% of millennials rank authenticity over content.
According to a recent survey from a digital agency, influencer campaigns earn “$6.85 in earned media value for every $1.00 of paid media.” In addition, when specific case studies were analyzed, researchers found a 10% increase in WOM (off and online) translated into a sales lifts between 0.2 – 1.5%. [MarketShare/ Keller Fay Group] Translation? Creating a long-term, scalable influencer marketing strategy will pay off. But only if you do it right.
A significant number of competitive companies are leveraging authentic Influencer Marketing programs--and yielding results. Take a look at the following success stories, including Travelocity, Orange, Tesla, and WineWorld. All of these companies are in the process of building or have built what we at Traackr describe as 'always-on' Influencer Marketing programs.
Hopefully we’ve helped to clear up any confusion you’ve had about influencer marketing. The brands that will earn a competitive edge are the ones focused on authenticity. And there’s nothing authentic about paying for reach, whether it’s with an opt-in network or a celebrity.
Want to learn more about getting ahead with the right kind of influencer marketing? Take the next steps in honing your influencer marketing skills. Visit the Academy of Influencer Marketing and take our comprehensive course – it’s free!