In this guest post, Silverbean Australia’s Annabel Gray (pictured below) says it’s time influencer marketing grew-up and made itself wholly more accountable…
Influencer marketing is the notorious problem child of digital marketing. Brands are excited by the potential but there’s a struggle to reconcile real value. Scandals such as the infamous Fyre Festival have added a further smear to an industry which is already marred with ambiguity and lack of transparency; and more recently the move by Instagram last month to remove likes from feeds has also added new confusion around influencer marketing and its future.
Despite all this, the industry is expected to explode further. Business Insider estimates that by 2022, influencer marketing ad spend will reach between $5-10 billion, reflecting a staggering compound annual growth rate of around 38 percent. Performance Marketing Association (PMA) believes it will be even greater than this by 2020, and leading the charge for influencer channels by a long shot is Instagram.
While the recent removal of likes has created concern, it’s already driving much-needed improvements for brands such as higher quality content, more trackable outcomes and increased ROI. Fluffy engagement metrics are no longer the measure of success which is important for marketers who find proving value and safeguarding against fraud their biggest challenge.
Hurdles aside, influencer marketing to date has experienced such rapid growth simply because it works. 61 per cent of 18-34 year-olds admit to being influenced in their decision making process, and according to Google, 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTube creators more than traditional celebrities. Case in point, Australian retailer Happy Skin Co has seen astronomical success increasing its revenue from $20,000 to $12 million in only one year through a carefully executed and managed influencer strategy.
The industry is clearly lucrative, but now it’s reached a tipping point. Influencer marketing has evolved to address transparency, regulations and measurement; and the influencer landscape is also changing. Outside of celebrities, micro and nano-influencers also now represent an increasingly important part of influencer strategy. With less followers they’re more accessible cost-wise and tend to have a more engaged community. The strategy and payment for influencers has also changed.
Traditionally influencer marketing sat within the PR or social team, involving a flat fee often measured on exposure, reach, engagement and occasionally CPM and CPC. This model is risky though for a number of reasons:
- The influencer and their audience may not be genuine and therefore not drive results.
- Influencers often impact a customer’s purchase decision at the early stages of their decision-making process, meaning last click model outcomes aren’t accurate.
- Engagement is open to fraud and high engagement doesn’t necessarily equal sales.
- Influencers can meet their contractual obligations via sharing brand content to reach their audience, but links may point to a reseller and not drive specific outcomes.
Authenticity is key, brands now know they need to align with the right influencers and track back to actual results. And thanks to advancements in trackable attribution it’s now possible to measure the exact value of a partner – regardless of which stage of the customer journey they contributed to. This level of insight is incredibly powerful and pioneering brands are already implementing these technologies and cashing in because of it.
For example, last year Macy’s rolled out an innovative approach to their influencer strategy, allowing employees to become brand advocates with promotional posts and short videos in return for commissions on sales. This strategy of aligning with authentic and genuinely engaged influencers saw great success for the brand, with one employee single-handedly driving $15,000 in handbag sales in one week.
These moves towards performance-based measurement are certainly a welcome change to demystify some of the uncertainty within the industry. Without a doubt, influencer marketing has the potential to yield extremely powerful results for Australian advertisers, however if not properly harnessed the business impact can be very detrimental. Brands therefore need to utilise these new measurement tools and demand transparency with their influencer strategy. This will then enable them to see which influencer partnerships are adding value and should be amplified, and the influencers who are just creating noise and should be #oldnews instead.