Ad blocking, bot fraud, social algorithms and general scepticism are just a few reasons why social influencers are fast-moving up the marketing agenda.
Yet, despite the growing importance of influencer marketing, when it comes to harnessing its potential, many brands stumble at the first hurdle.
The trouble stems from a preoccupation with numbers.
Until recently, choosing an influencer for a campaign required a heavy investment of time and effort to mine often unhelpful data and evaluate indicators such as number of followers and/or volumes of likes per post.
However, such so-called ‘vanity metrics’ tell only a fraction of the story.
Knowing a particular influencer had one million follows last year says little about what - if any - impact their involvement may have on your brand. Likes and followers take no account of the context and timing of a brand campaign. Instead, a different mindset is required.
Yet, influencer marketing is not a replacement for Google targeted ads. Rather, it is an opportunity for brands to benefit from the creativity and distribution networks of social influencers in order to reach and engage with a specific target audience. And this, to be effective, depends on more than just blindly chasing the highest follower numbers.
The right match
Effective influencer marketing isn’t and should not be just about the influencers you already know.
One obvious reason for this is the price at a time when the fees charged by some of the highest-profile influencers are rising ever skywards. More important are the influencers you may not yet be aware of – less high-profile, so-called ‘everyday influencers.’
True, their reach will be lower, but so too is their price. They are also more in touch with their followers and enjoy deeper engagement.
Any brand seeking to identify the ‘right’ influencers to work with should bear in mind that the best kind of influencer is the one who has spent their own money on that brand and uses it. Authenticity is critical to build and maintain trust and it is also a key metric used by smart marketers, along with the level of engagement and content quality.
All of this might sound more onerous than juggling likes and follower numbers but think about it. The good news is that it’s now getting easier than ever to identify, approach and work with the right influencers who will be the best mouthpiece for any particular brand.
Recent technological development has led to an organic evolution of influencer networks and the emergence of third-party influencer platforms that help brands match-make and administer direct brand or influencer relationships.
Brands benefit from it in a number of cost and time-saving ways.
One of the most obvious ones is the shortcut influencer networks give them to pre-verified, opt-in influencers who will create content which is previewable before any payment is made. Brands can send briefs to tens, hundreds or even thousands of influencers safe in the knowledge that those influencers are already engaged with their brand too.
And with all this, more coordinated and administered via platforms, a brand or marketing agency can now work with 100 influencers for the same time and effort it used to cost working with just one.
But in order to capitalise on these benefits, brands need a more open and objective mindset. In short, to maximise the true potential of influencer marketing they must adjust their understanding of what it is and their expectations of how best it can work.