Influencer marketing is an advertising strategy used by many big players in consumer-goods, from beauty and fashion to travel and retail. But it isn’t just for the big players, there’s much to be gained by smaller brands too.Read more
‘Influencer’ marketing first appeared in the early 2010’s as regular social users began to rise to superstardom and brands realised their selling power.
However, as the industry has grown, so too has its scrutiny. Increasing instances of careless campaigning have begun to heighten consumer distrust, leading to calls for stricter regulation. Now, as a new decade emerges, here are five ways influencer marketing will need to adapt to cope with changing consumer demand.
Influencer has long been at the core of every marketing strategy, seeking it, harnessing it and then wielding it to achieve your goals. Somehow masses of social media users managed to amass this influencer and are now cashing in.
As Casey Ferrell, Vice President and Head of U.S. Monitor (owned by Kantar) said in a recent Media Post interview:
“We are at peak influencer, and it’s beginning to run its course”
With the over-saturation of influencer marketing and frequent news of high-profile scandals including celebs posting brand instructions into their posts to the disaster that was Fyre festival, it’s easy to see why trust is at an all-time low.
Organic influence has always been the basis of influencer marketing, with social users seeing the influencers they follow as friends. But now, these genuine recommendations which saw brands flocking to work with influencers have now, by ASA ruling, changed to paid-for posts.
Social audiences are still looking for genuine recommendations. That’s why long-term partnerships or brand ambassador programmes work so well. Take model and girlfriend to MIC-star Proudlock, Emma Louise Connolly. Her brand partnership with Calzedonia shows no time of slowing down and this long-term affiliation shows a true love for the brand.
Ahead, brands and influencers need to consider this to ensure they stay relevant. We may even see a switch with influencers moving to source brands to work with as opposed to the other way around.
According to research, global spending on influencer campaigns could reach $10 billion by 2020, up from an estimated $6.3 billion in 2018. It seems only natural that as the budget for content increases, so too should its quality.
Users are becoming tired of repetitive paid-for content clogging up their feeds, and as the noise becomes increasingly difficult to cut through, brands and agencies will need to get more thoughtful in how they write and convey their caption copy. Especially with users increasingly removing rights to their data when surfing the internet, your targeting could become weaker and less effective.
For brand managers, this means trialling different mediums of content to attract clients. Cisco, the American technology giant, recently estimated that by 2022, 81% of online traffic will be video content. Visual aids are a great way to convey complex information in an engaging and easily-digestible manner. Instead of asking influencers to share a basic caption copy with your product slotted in, try to engage with them through long-form videos such as hauls, reviews or short-form video like vox-pops or IGTV videos. Take MIC star Tiffany Watson, who uses her IGTV to great effect.
Reportedly, as many as one in ten Instagram accounts are fake. This is a huge problem for marketers, and can cloud realities of the scale and demographic of your audience reach. Gone are the days when platforms with 1 million followers meant a guaranteed return for advertisers.
In light of this news, the so-called ‘micro-influencer’ has risen as the new favourite for marketers. These accounts typically have much smaller followings. However, successful campaigns have to do more than be seen. Coschedule reports that 1,000 followers or fewer can produce an engagement rate of 9.7%, whilst accounts with 1,000-4,000 followers produce only 4.5%. At 100,000 followers and over, this drops to a pitiful 1.7%.Of course, this isn’t a science but finding your niche is essential. Just look at this perfect collaboration between Triathlon athlete, Alistair Brownlee and Garmin’s equivalent to the fitbit.
Instead of falling flat with over-ambitious macro-influencing, 2020 will no doubt be the decade of micro-influencing as companies look to spread the net further and create more impact at a significantly smaller cost.
Influencer marketing is an example of personal branding, meaning its success hinges on the delicate relationship between Influencer and follower. Introducing corporate messaging to this bond can therefore risk it feeling fake and social audiences are perceptive, 87% crave authenticity and genuine recommendations..
Bootea, a fitness drink company, learned this the hard way when famed reality star, Scott Disick posted a lazy print copy on a promotional post that accidentally included directions for its uploading. Fans understandably felt duped, and Disick came under heavy criticism.
In answer, companies are increasingly prioritising storytelling in their marketing strategies as an alternative to bland, corporate messaging. Longer, more personalised messaging will start to become common as brands put a voice into their posts, allowing for more in-tune product pitching.
In particular, micro-influencers will benefit from this new focus. With social users craving authenticity, and micro-influencers typically have stronger personal brands with niche, carved interests meaning greater likelihood of consistent storytelling told through a loyal brand ambassador.
Despite new regulations encouraged by Instagram, research by BBC Radio 4 has found that 82% of people say it is still not always clear when an influencer engages in paid-for advertising.
Influencers are supposedly meant to announce any paid-for partnerships with the hashtag ‘#ad’, but no real law exists to ensure that this detail is properly implemented. Towards the end of the decade, a culture of mistrust has come to surround paid advertisement, with a 2018 Bazaarvoice study finding 49% of people desire stricter rules around its usage.
2019 saw the tide subtly begin to shift, with high-profile celebrities such as Jameela Jamil successfully lobbying for weight loss products to be banned from reaching account users under the age of 18.
As the public becomes more aware of the cheats and techniques used by some influencers, companies must separate from the idea of sponsored content as a means to circumvent advertising standards. Instead, they should look towards embracing more transparent methods of messaging to avoid alienating audiences; such as employee advocacy.
Often missing from influencer campaigns is a real passion and knowledge of the service or product being promoted. In answer, enterprising companies have begun to focus their attentions inward, and look towards using their existing resources as an alternative to out-sourced branding.
It may run parallel to influencing, but so-called ‘employee advocacy’ is its own branch of marketing, emerging from the growing number of business profiles on sites such as LinkedIn or Twitter. A recent survey by The Marketing Advisory Network found 81% of millennials use social media to share information about their company.
These posts can carry weight. Nielsen study found messages shared by employees to go 561% further than the same message shared on a brand-owned channel.
Presenting a cheaper alternative to sponsored content, companies are already looking to capitalise on the conversation by investing in the education and engagement of current staff; encouraging them to post about everything from office life to new company initiatives.
Originating from a human face, employee advocated content is more likely to generate trust, with authenticity the feature consumers most look for from advertisements. Combined with the benefits of low cost and high-scalability, this is one method businesses will not want to miss out on.
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