In recent years, influencer marketing has quickly become one of the most utilised marketing channels for consumer brands. According to influencer marketing agency Mediakix, influencer marketing accounted for roughly $1 billion a year of advertising spend on Instagram in 2017 and could reach as much as $20 billion by 2020.

Widely considered a lucrative and relatively attainable career, it’s no surprise that the number of aspiring ‘influencers’ is growing by the day, which begs the question – what exactly is an influencer and what size following must they have? WARC Best Practice Report May 2018  describes an influencer as ‘an individual who has above average reach or impact through word of mouth or social marketing’. The goal of influencer marketing is undoubtedly to  sway consumer preferences, boost brand awareness and ultimately increase product sales, so it would be easy to assume that this would be achieved most effectively by partnering with ‘mega influencers’, whose audiences exceed 100K, but more often than not this is not the case. In light of much controversy surrounding influencer marketing in 2018, there has been a dramatic shift towards authentic influencer campaigns and a surge in the popularity of ‘Micro- influencers’  – influencers with smaller, but often more engaged, audiences. In fact, according to the Influencer Marketing Association, 2019 is destined to the year of the micro – influencer. Micro – influencers often have ‘normal’ day to day lives as opposed to being ‘career influencers’ and so consumers tend to find them more  relatable and trustworthy when it comes to product recommendations.

Working with Influencers

Aside from obvious restrictions, such as budget constraints, there are a wide variety of other factors to consider when partnering with an influencer. These include their total reach, audience demographics, engagement levels, quality of content, reputation  and any conflicting brand associations. For a campaign to be both credible and effective, it is vital that your chosen influencer aligns with your brand values and is genuinely interested in the products they are promoting. Once you have identified an influencer who fits the bill, the next challenge is figuring out how to maximise the collaboration. It is key to remember that Influencer campaigns should come across as natural – informative but not forced. While it is crucial that you respect advertising guidelines such as the use of #ad or #spon alongside paid content, social media posts should not read like advertising. The easiest way to avoid this is to try to limit the instructions you give your influencer partner. Make sure there is an agreed contract of activity in place regarding the quantity and quality of content but  allow the influencer flexibility in how they communicate the brands message to their audience – a scripted post is sure to make their followers eyes glaze over!

The Pitfalls of Influencer Marketing

Like any marketing channel, influencer marketing has its pitfalls and can be a difficult process to navigate.  The past few years have  seen some influencers artificially increase their followings by buying fake followers, placing a heavier burden on brands to do their due diligence before engaging in influencer activity – accept nothing at face value. On a more global scale, fake sponsored posts have become an issue for larger brands whereby aspiring influencers fraudulently associate themselves with popular brands in order to attract the attention of other advertisers or PR companies. On a more basic level, influencer marketing has drawbacks in that its success  is often difficult to measure. Unless you incorporate trackable links into your social media content, the results of an influencer campaign, while often impressive, can be somewhat unquantifiable.

The Golden Rules

So how to make the best of an influencer marketing campaign? Here are five golden rules to ensure you‘re on the right track:

  1. Choose wisely – partnering with the wrong influencer can do your brand more harm than good. Do your research and make sure they’re the right fit for your brand.
  2. Quality not quantity – don’t obsess over an influencers audience size, their engagement and content is far more important.
  3. Consistency is key – Ongoing relationships are far more effective than once off sponsored posts. By committing to longer term campaigns with influencers you are creating strong brand advocates and boosting the campaigns credibility.
  4. Keep it natural – leverage the influencers experience and creative talents for a more diverse and authentic campaign.
  5. Clear expectations – Make sure influencers are fully briefed on the brand and that they are clear on the level of content they are expected to provide.

To conclude, despite uncertainty and certain negativity surrounding the influencer landscape, influencer marketing remains one of the most effective elements in an integrated marketing campaign. With 72% of Instagram users making purchase decisions based on influencer posts on site (Report by e-commerce firm L2) , it is abundantly clear that influencer marketing is here to stay, albeit with a more than welcome shift towards authenticity and transparent campaigns.

 

By Olivia O’Loughlin

Consumer Client Manager