This week, the subject is influencer marketing. Click on the speakers’ names below for an overview of their session. 

Why, in your opinion, is influencer marketing becoming more and more of a staple for brands these days?

Dave Murray, In today’s mobile world, influencer marketing has become more effective than traditional marketing both in terms of brand awareness and return on investment. What we’ve seen is that brands who continue to invest in influencer marketing have seen real, measurable results that continue to grow with their investment. With so much content being created and with consumer trends’ continued march towards mobile and social shopping, a dedicated influencer strategy should be a key component of any marketing plan.

Tim Gibbon, Social Media Portal: Influencer marketing is certainly more of a stable approach for brands now, although it’s not a new direction for marketers. At Elemental I was involved with influencer marketing activity and campaigns for progressive B2C brands including adidas, Reebok and Topman. I also managed influencer activity, campaigns and research for B2B brands. This also included many SMEs in addition to established technology brands including InfoSpace and Intel.

It’s not a new approach, but its factors – not limited to strategy, thinking, legalities, and platforms – have certainly evolved. What has changed is how brands work with ambassadors, opinion formers et al, which now falls on the influencer marketing banner. Brands were nervous in working with influencers and vice versa. Building scenarios, being cautious and allowing common sense avoids mistakes. This is critical as we see still marketing horror stories when it can go horribly wrong with poor research, thought process, implementation, and management of activity and campaigns.

Influencer marketing is more than a staple, for many its a necessity and has been for quite some time. The environment is saturated and more often than not it will take great ideas to cut through the packed and complicated maze of noise.

Christoph Kastenholz, Pulse Group: Consumers are shying away from direct ads. People want to consume content, and not be interrupted by ads rolling or even worse, waiting times before content actually starts. That is why today there are ad-blockers installed on 700 million devices globally. Also, brands lose the trust of the people. Brands no longer define themselves, but consumers today share their experiences and reviews and thus create an image of a brand. Influencer marketing builds on this peer-to-peer marketing, effectively a new era of testimonial advertising. Influencer marketing is using key opinion leaders to shape the perception of a brand, and it redefines the advertising game.

Are we seeing the ‘experimentation phase’ beginning to end, replaced by a movement towards metrics and accountability?

DM: It’s a natural progression; as the industry matures, as influencers impact on retail sales and importance to brand marketing continues to increase, so do the associated budgets being invested in the channel. Any brand who aims to see success with influencer marketing should be able to legitimise their investment based upon smart data, capturing cross-channel sale and engagement insights as a priority.

TG: Accountability and metrics are always important onboard external and internal stakeholders at brands to an approach what was seen as progressive. It’s something which was a necessity when I was at Elemental. At times it made brands nervous – and rightly so, especially when brands trade across global exchanges where clangers can impact share price. Experimentation is still important and in my view, it always will be. There is fierce competition between influencers and the platforms. Standing still and shying away from innovation is the beginning of the end. There will be a risk, but it has to be calculated and measured risk where all stakeholders are abreast of the goals. They need to be prepared to embrace new and evolving approaches.

By sharing best practice, sharing the performance of activity/campaigns is just a few steps to creating more useful metrics and demonstrating accountability. Without the aforementioned, building a rapport with audiences becomes more challenging. It would be difficult to share what is being experienced by peers, making evolving approaches like influencer marketing more problematic for a brand and agency to buy into. It’s not a trait in abundance amongst brands and marketers (oversharing) but is just one way we can all learn how to deliver better experiences.

With every approach, there can be darker practices which can be problematic. From fake accounts, intentional and unintentional fraudulent use of accounts, fake accounts and so on. Brands need to keep abreast what the landscape looks like, how it’s evolving and why. Even if via an influencer platform and/or agency, brands need to enforce thorough due diligence and vet influencers, knowing who they will be working with before they become the next horror story and case study. Above all, influencers and the agency or brands which work with them need to be accountable and follow the letter of the law. Consumers are not pushovers. Try and dupe them and it will be back paid tenfold.

Hopefully, we can embrace more of the mindset of sharing and prevention before cure at the Influencer Marketing Show and convey why it’s important to be more open than ever before. We’ll be making effort to ensure this happens at the event.

CK: The experimentation phase has already ended. Brands are educated and detect fake following just as well as slow account growth or even decline. At the same time, the social media platforms are allowing for increased statistical insight into performance of social media influencers. Today’s successful influencers know of these developments and steer their account strategically to where they want to be. Brands know of this development, too, and demand KPI-driven campaign performance.

Could an approach of quantifying the channel risk taking away its selling point of ‘authenticity’ in the long run? After all, it’s a channel that largely plays on consumer emotions, which you don’t usually associate with hard figures.

DM: In my opinion, authenticity and sales are not mutually exclusive. The best way to achieve results is by allowing the influencer to tell their own story. Integrity and personal branding is key for any influencer, and those who remain authentic to their brand will continue to influence their audience, which in turn will be backed up by data.

TG: Marketers have to demonstrate figures, quantify results and the impact these have on the bottom line. The tools are becoming better in locating and measuring the performance of influencer activity and campaigns which will give marketers more confidence in reporting what is transpiring. The more what is understood, the better the experiences become.

CK: Influencer marketing campaigns focus both on the objective as well as subjective factors. Objectively, the potential of an influencer for a given campaign has to be evaluated. Subjectively, that subset of relevant influencers to a campaign is subjectively reviewed, thus making sure true fans of brands post authentic content that works.

With that in mind, do you predict that we’ll ever be able to call influencer marketing a performance marketing channel?

DM: The idea of influencer marketing as a performance channel exists today, however, it’s more of a question of how brands approach their investment across all marketing department; the winners being the brands who adopt a holistic strategy across all teams and utilise best-in-class cross-channel insights and technology.  While underpinned by performance marketing, influencers transcend marketing disciplines, brand marketing, social and PR, with success metrics aligned to the differing objectives.

TG: Marketers often become obsessed with labelling progressive and ‘new’ approaches to suit objectives. These can often become warped. We’re already there in acknowledging influencer marketing as a credible and useful approach. It’s not new, it’s not going away it’s changing and being developed with new and exciting platforms. What would be more important is to see less ridiculous notions that only marketers of a certain age/generation can produce relevant activity and campaigns and connect with influencers and millennials can only appeal and market to millennials.

CK: There are similarities between performance marketing and influencer marketing today, while influencer marketing has the competitive advantage of being prioritised in the consumer mindset.

Either way, what can performance marketers expect to take away from your session at the Influencer Marketing Show?

DM: It’s a session to highlight how influencers drive consumer behaviour. By understanding existing and future trends led by lifestyle influencers, marketers will have greater insight on the key areas to address as part of cross-channel influencer strategy optimised for results.

TG: Marketers have a great opportunity to hear from brands, agency, an influencer marketing platform or agency and an influencer on how they entered the space. More importantly what has an impact on the developing landscape firsthand. The panel chaired by B2B Marketing’s deputy editor will enable attendees to hear directly during informal conversation what could work for them, or not, and why. Performance marketers attending, or tuning in via social @PILiveShow #PILIVE17 should resist the temptation of being a UK audience, come prepared with questions and more importantly get involved in the debate and challenge the panel to ask questions they normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to have answered.

Attendees will walk away with actionable insight and learnings they can implement immediately after the session in addition to revisiting the subject internally as they plan to maximise the opportunities influencer marketing can bring. At the very least, a means to reach out to the panel and pick up the conversations offline.

CK: We will share practical insights for marketers to evaluate and expand their influencer marketing efforts profitably.

View the full PerformanceIN Live and IMS agenda here