‘Social influencer marketing’ is set to become one of the standout buzzwords of 2017. The industry has exploded in recent years, and looks set to continue its ascent in tandem with the unstoppable growth of social media. New channels and emerging content types only increase the opportunity for brands to maximise their online communications. It’s an exciting, unlimited prospect.
Of course, the number of social media influencers has risen in parallel. Long gone are the days when bloggers or vloggers would beg brands for content. They no longer need to. These social media leaders have built and earned trust in their communities; one endorsement can significantly impact company sales. And they know it. Paid social influencer marketing – essentially employing a social media influencer to drive your brand’s message to the larger market – is a burgeoning business. According to Bloomberg, $255 million is spent on influencer marketing every month.
In this saturated market, brands are clamouring for the most innovative way to tell the latest story. As ever, it all starts with audience. Targeting ‘mummy bloggers’ when you want to sell nappies is a reasonable first port of call. But this becomes more sophisticated when you consider your audiences passion points and values. Pinpointing which influencer speaks – and achievements engagement on – that criteria is crucial to achieving the end goal.
Vetting values also serves to protect a brand’s reputation: PewDieDie’s recent anti-Semitic content and controversy resulted in immediate, appropriate distance from Disney and YouTube. While we ultimately cannot predict what a chosen brand ambassador may say or do, comprehensive research, and having an open conversation about an influencer’s principles, can help avoid potential damage to a company’s reputation.
With any trend, there is risk when jumping on the bandwagon. If the content is not born from co-creation with the influencer from the offset – and is merely a demand of the brand – this risks appearing as a digital ‘add-on’ (the historic problem facing corporates as they began the move to social, and struggled to implement a digital-first approach). You are then in danger of appearing inauthentic, and essentially publishing glorified digital advertising.
This defeats the primary value of employing influencers to speak on behalf of your brand: their communities trust, and buy into, what they say. But this audience are also adept at spotting a sloppily-sponsored, quick buck endorsement. Translating money over values. Rendering the effort redundant for both parties (brand and blogger).
But when brands employ influencers to outwardly communicate the company’s values, this is the moment we see truly valuable campaigns. The multi-platform reach of social media sites among UK Millennials in July 2016 was 97.6%. As 70% of this group consider a brand’s ethics and values when making purchase decisions, the call for meeting the expectations of this audience is paramount.
One of the best – but sometimes hardest to measure – benefits of using influencers is the potential for increase in brand awareness. When this is achieved, and a brand speaks on social purpose through the trusted voice of an influencer, it is communications gold. You can throw money at an influencer, but you can’t buy values. Glorified advertising no more: you move into meaningful communications.
Some key tactics that can help roll-out valuable, authentic influencer marketing campaigns for corporates and their brands in 2017:
- Live video: arguably the most exciting route of authenticity that is waiting to be seen.
- Create your own community: Sephora’s platform Beauty Talk, where influencers are encouraged to leave open and honest reviews, brilliantly provides transparency on the company’s products.
- Behind the scenes: Give influencers the freedom to tell your story – preferably through video, especially live – and create branded hashtags to help foster visibility.
- Co-create: All too often brands ask bloggers to amplify a fully-formed campaign. Yes, this helps gain ‘reach’, but also misses the most valuable point of employing an influencer: these people know their audiences – and how to speak to them – better than anyone. Go to an influencer with a communications strand, and work with them to tell the story. Doing so will create authentic work that resonates. It is not a case of adding a face to campaign. This is not advertising.