When the first edition of Influence 2.0 went live, I was already deep in the process of conducting research for my new book, "Digital Influence." An early book interviewee forwarded me a copy of the report and it immediately struck me as an incredibly important and foundational research study that industry practitioners need to read.
Digital analyst and author of Influence 2.0, Brian Solis, and the teams at Traackr and TopRank, conducted exceptional research to produce an honest study that dispels common misconceptions about what influencer marketing (IM) really is. Their research offers actionable advice grounded in data collected from marketers responsible for many of the world's most respected brands.
So much of what I often encounter online in regards to this topic is surface-level clickbait material with headlines that read “How Many Thousands of Dollars Brand X Paid Influencer Y for a Post” or “The Top 10 Steps to Getting Instagrammers to Promote Your Brand." These types of headlines may lead to social media engagement for their authors, but they, unfortunately, paint an incomplete, and often inaccurate, picture of what influencer marketing is.
Between the release of the first edition of Influence 2.0, and the updated edition available today, I interviewed more than one hundred "influencer marketing insiders" ranging from brand executives and agencies, to IM technology vendors and even influencers themselves. Through these conversations, I learned how true the findings of the first edition were and gained perspective into key trends highlighted in the Influence 2.0 update.
For example, "brand awareness" remains a top priority for influencer marketing practitioners, yet brands continue to struggle to tie influencer marketing investment to ROI. By not setting the right goals from the outset and linking those goals to a corresponding set of measurable outcomes, many companies continue to fail to successfully connect investment to ROI in this space.
This may be why a growing number of respondents are focusing on sales-related priorities like generating leads. In Digital Influence I feature executives from B2B companies such as IBM and B2C companies like Kimberly-Clark to break down their multi-step processes for attributing influencer collaborations to generate new leads and track sales through specialized affiliate programs.
One of the most striking consistencies between my research and the latest edition of Influence 2.0, is related to global execution. As a global marketing strategist at Frontier Strategy Group, I spent a disproportionate amount of time digging into the international implications of influencer marketing - namely, how companies can develop relationships with local influencers in foreign markets to advance their influencer marketing priorities at a global level.
Bruna Scognamiglio, vice-president of global influencer marketing for Coty's Gucci Beauty division stresses why local influencers are key to their global influencer strategy: "People connect more to their local influencers – the millennial generation is extremely interested in authentic messages. That’s why the voice of people who are authoritative and have their own point of view on a special topic is where millennials will go to listen who are interested in that topic – they won't necessarily only turn to a mainstream global influencer.”
The latest findings in Influence 2.0 reflect Scognamiglio's view. Double the number of advanced companies now have fully global IM practices, with best practices for global execution being "global strategy with local implementation" (62.5% or respondents). To make this strategy possible, a growing number of companies are establishing global Centers of Excellence to establish a common set of IM standards that can then be tailored by their local teams at the regional or country level.
The final point worth highlighting as I tracked the evolution of Influence 2.0, is the need for companies to escape the 'tactic trap' where marketers invest heavily in influencer marketing activities without undergoing the necessary digital transformation and organizational alignment to maximize their investments. This shift from "tactical" to "strategic" is critical to develop an enduring Influencer Relations function that approach "influencers" more holistically based on Solis' 'Cross-Functional Influence Model.'
Joel Backaler is the author of Digital Influence: Unleash the Power of Influencer Marketing to Accelerate Your Global Business (Palgrave Macmillan, September 2018). He is a global marketing strategist, international keynote and award-winning author.