Brands Embrace, but Still Grapple with Influencer Marketing

brands influencer marketingInfluencer marketing has exploded over the past two years. The use of influencers has propelled it from a rising marketing tactic to an essential part of most marketing budgets.

The influencer market is estimated to be worth $2 billion in 2017. And it’s projected to reach $10 billion by 2020. To become an efficient marketplace, brands and marketers must grasp how Influencer marketing is helping their bottom line.

With the decline of traditional marketing channels (TV and radio), marketers are looking for new ways to connect with their audiences and broaden their reach. To cut through the noise, they’re turning to influencers to give a human voice to their brands. The brands benefit from the authentic relationships between the influencer and its audience.

According to Activate by Bloglovin’s research, 67 percent of marketers think influencer marketing campaigns helped them reach a more targeted audience. This leads to more impactful results.

Additionally, a study released earlier this month by ANA (Association of National Advertisers), found that marketers are so enamored with influencer marketing that a full 75 percent of their companies currently employ the discipline. And almost half (43 percent) are planning to increase their spending on it in the next 12 months. Of those not currently using influencers, 27 percent plan to do so in the next 12 months, the study revealed.

Types of Influencers

Still, one of the biggest challenges is understanding the different types of influencers. It’s not always feasible to snag a celebrity with a huge social following to promote a product. Smaller but equally impactful micro-influencers are overlooked by many major brands. But micro-influencers’ engagement on social is actually higher than celebrity influencers. Mirco-influencers have smaller numbers of followers but deliver a more personal touch. HelloSociety (acquired last year by the New York Times),  claims micro-influencers ( accounts with 30,000 or fewer followers) are more beneficial for marketers to work with.

The same survey reveals 30% of consumers are more likely to buy a product recommended by a non-celebrity blogger. Consumers can relate more to these influencers and value their opinions more than celebrities.

Celebrity influencers typically do one-time promotions for brands (often around an event) and require a hefty payment.

Micro-influencers have a smaller more targeted following. However, they often have devoted followings. This can be useful for brands looking to target niches or reach into unexplored demographics. Influencers are commonly defined as micro (50 to 25,000 followers), mid-level (25,001 to 100,000), and macro (over 100,000).

Affiliates can also be micro-influencers. Often a paid placement is involved, but brands can also work to negotiate higher commission rates and rev share options with affiliates as well. This tactic typically assures ongoing promotions rather than one-time posts.

Establishing Relationships

The idea of leveraging influencers for one event, product or post is the way of the past. Many marketers are now seeing increased value from the “always-on” relationships between brands and influencers.

Finding success through this model takes work. Marketers must take time and effort to build these holistic relationships. This makes for a better working relationship. And it also provides a two-way dialog benefiting both parties. Influencers and their audiences can inform brands on growing trends and provide feedback on their products, while brands can source new ideas from their followers.

Finding Influencers

Overall, the role of identifying which influencers are the best fit for a brand is often being handled by specialists. However, managing ongoing relationships with influencers is typically split between outside agencies and internal teams.

Currently, there are some great tools to help aid both publishers and merchants find each other and clearly define expectations. This includes networks specifically devoted to matching influencers with brands, as well as tools on social media platforms that streamline the process. Recently, Facebook and Instagram began offering brands and influencers tools to identify and measure sponsored posts, while also providing an opportunity for amplification.

Defining Expectations

One of the biggest issues for brands when working with influencers is setting expectations. The hope is that aligning with an influencer will yield a big boost for a brand. However, marketers need to set specific goals – grow sales, increase conversions, expand brand reach and recognition, drive more website traffic, etc. Without defining goals upfront, it will be even more difficult to measure the success of the influencer campaigns. The goals will inform which metrics must be looked at to determine success.

Remember Disclosures

FTC guidelines require disclosure if there’s a connection between an influencer and the marketer that consumers would not expect based on the endorsement. Don’t assume that using a platform’s disclosure tool is sufficient. Many consumers are accepting of sponsored content, but are offended by disingenuous or inauthentic content. An not complying with FTC disclosure/endorsement policies can result in penalties.

Influencer marketing will continue to evolve and marketers must have specific plans to execute and leverage this growing opportunity going forward.