Ad blocking looks as though it’s here to stay. The debate around the rights, wrongs, challenges and opportunities presented by this issue has raged on for well over a year now, with little sense that brands reliant upon conventional digital advertising are any closer to winning back consumers’ hearts and minds.

Given the rise of ad blocking technology, it’s little wonder that influencer campaigns have continued to rise in popularity with marketers, offering brands an alternative way to communicate with their target audience via content they’re already consuming from creators they already consider to be trustworthy.

The latest data suggests that there’s no contest when it comes to effectiveness. Influencer marketing content today delivers an ROI 11 times higher than traditional forms of digital marketing (Nielsen), hence why 86% of marketers are now allocating budget towards influencer campaigns.

However, since the tactic is still comparatively new, brands should wade carefully into the influencer pool to increase their chances of success, and it’s important they are able to separate fact from fiction when it comes to best practice influencer marketing.

Myth #1: Doing one-offs with large content creators is the best strategy

Brands are often enticed to do one-off videos with social media’s biggest stars, but history shows that it’s challenging to achieve guaranteed performance metrics or reach with this approach, for one-hit wonders fade and can result in underperforming campaigns.

We have learned that using content from a variety of influencers with a proven history of high performance can guarantee achieving predetermined KPIs. There is not a direct correlation between factors such as globally recognised creators or higher production quality with increased engagement. In fact, the audiences of smaller, mid-tier creators often have more loyalty towards the creator, which ultimately drives the most engagement.

So, instead of focusing on working with a small number of top-tier creators with millions of followers, put together a roster of various sizes of creators with different levels of integration. We call this the ‘hybrid approach’.

Myth #2: If a creator has a lot of subscribers/followers, their content will perform well

Many brands make the mistake of treating influencers as automated distribution channels and forget that it is also a creative partnership between the two parties. Just because a creator has a large audience that engages with the content, doesn’t mean that they are the best fit for the brand.

BEN takes many factors into consideration when recommending content creators, the most important being their followers/audience. What is the follower demographic and is it the brand’s target audience? Has his/her follower count been growing or declining recently? How likely are they to engage not only with the sponsored content but with your brand itself?

To determine how likely the audience is to engage, we use both affinity (how many of the content creator’s followers also interact with the brand and vice versa) and cross engagement (likelihood of the content creator’s followers to interact with the brand) scores.

Taking a closer look at a content creator’s audience, their behaviours and affinity is key to determining whether the creator is the right fit for the brand.  

It’s also important to consider who the content creator is and what they stand for. They have created their followings through their own unique voice and style so it is important to make sure that the creators are aligned with your brand’s messaging and goals and their content is appropriate for your brand.

Myth #3: Brands must cede all creative control to the content creators

Creators have built their followings because of their unique creative style and content. Brands must allow the creator to be the creative director for he/she is the most capable of communicating the brand message to that audience. Campaign performance suffers when there is a misalignment between brand objectives and audience expectations, so the brand should not force content direction.

That said, it shouldn’t be a case of brands ceding creative input entirely – there should always be an alignment between brand objectives, influencer vision, and audience expectations; what we call the ‘consensus triangle’.

When this alignment is the priority, the brand creates the objective, influencers provide creative solutions and viewers are happy that the brand has empowered the influencer’s content rather than disturb it.

Myth #4: Influencer campaign success can be defined purely by the metrics achieved

If your goal was to make sure that your content received a certain amount of views, likes, comments, etc. and you hit it, it’s easy to claim that as a success. However, one should also factor in the strength of the relationships established with the influencers through the campaign creation process. Long-term influencer marketing success relies upon strong, trusted relationships, so the pursuit of campaign metrics should never come at the expense of those individual relationships.

As influencer marketing becomes more sophisticated, our team has begun to look at other factors not only to better analyse the success of the campaign, but better learn what factored into the performance and how to better improve in the future. Did this post perform well compared to the creator’s other posts – both organic and branded? What elements do the top posts have in common and how can the brand incorporate this into their content?

Getting it right

Finally, one thing that large brands need to be better at measuring is the content’s impact on sales. The number of views, likes, etc. is the minimum short-term measurement but sales should be a much more significant part of the bigger picture when identifying the impact of influencer campaigns.

Amazon’s launch of its beta version of the Amazon Influencer Program, which provides large social media creators with custom hubs on which they can set up shops where their followers can buy products featured in the creators’ videos, shows the trend of brands trying to learn how to measure influencer campaigns when it comes to direct response.

While not all brands can take this exact approach and sell their products on Amazon, they should apply tactics utilised for direct response campaigns and apply them to awareness and reach campaigns.

While this does require more time and possibly bigger budgets, working with these clients provides more in-depth data that can be applied to make bigger and better things happen for clients who focus on awareness and reach campaigns. You would be surprised to learn what little adjustments you can make to optimise content to create better engagement and possibly get creator’s audiences to retail or online stores.

Large brands that currently focus on impressions need to make the next step and think about designing influencer campaigns in a way to make people physically go to the store or the website and purchase the product. Influencer campaigns that crashed websites and sold out retail stores have been due to a broader strategy of optimising the content and applying direct response tactics to brand awareness.

Don’t just read about it, join the experts on stage at the brand new Influencer Marketing Show arriving this October alongside PI Live – register to attend today.