Once you fully understand the landscape (see Part 1), you can put in place an influencer strategy that is appropriate for your brand’s unique needs and objectives – and works well with your existing affiliate program.
There are definitely a lot of things that make influencer marketing worth using as part of your overall affiliate strategy. However, there are other issues that have to be watched carefully or you may fall prey to some serious missteps.
There’s been significant growth year-over-year and that is expected to continue.
- Influencer marketing grew to nearly $10 billion in 2020, according to a report from Influencer Marketing Hub (and could reach nearly $14 billion by the end of 2021).
- Influencer marketing more than doubled between 2019 and 2021, growing from $6.5 billion to $13.8 billion U.S. dollars in the three years alone, according to Statista
- Brands are set to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022, per Insider Intelligence estimates, based on Mediakix data.
Things are real when they need to be monitored, regulated and guidelines start emerging.
- December 8, 2020, The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) announced the creation of the Influencer Marketing Advisory Board. Priorities – industry-wide standardized measurement definitions to address the variance across platforms and the inconsistent usage and reporting by different partners in the social media ecosystem; increase trust and transparency in influencer marketing by reducing fraud, improving measurement, and spearheading industry commitments to advancing and improving the discipline.
- FTC regulations: FTC’s rules state that influencers must reveal their relationships with brands within their posts. Followers need to understand whether what they’re seeing is an ad or an organic post by the influencer. Violating the rules can lead to penalties, fines, and legal fees.
Branding and Exposure
Currently, this is the influencer’s wheelhouse and where they shine.
- Influencers can help with branding and exposure to a wider audience or a new audience segment.
- They can also help a merchant increase social reach, impressions, engagement, likes, comments, shares and website traffic
What to Keep a Close Eye On
The customer journey as it relates to influencers is complex. The industry, as a whole, is still working hard to figure out more accurate and effective ways to measure influencer impact in the path to purchase.
- Influencer marketing efforts are not always being integrated into a brand’s attribution model.
- Many merchants don’t have established metrics and KPIs for measuring success and ROI for influencer marketing. Key metrics to look at when working with influencers: new vs. existing customers, average order value (AOV), clicks, cross-device interaction, the role of the influencer along the path to purchase, Cost per Engagement (CPE), and Cost per Impression (CPM)
- In a 2018 study of micro-influencers, only 11.2% of influencers said they prefer the success of a campaign to be measured by conversions, while a whopping 47.7% said they prefer using “reach” as their success metric.
- Many influencers are not willing to share data with their partners by giving access to real-time analytics that will help brands assess the true value of their influence and their content for the campaign.
- Influencers are often good for branding because of their reach but do not drive significant revenue and conversions.
- Influencers often account for a one-time spike that is not repeatable.
Some brands view snagging big influencers as their ticket to huge sales growth. They fail to set realistic goals and objectives and make sure that the influencer aligns with their marketing efforts.
- Brands want bigger influencers, but a recent Upfluence report shows that engagement rates are higher for micro-influencers (fewer than 15K followers) than for influencers with more followers. Micro-influencers boasted the highest post engagement rates of all influencer types on Instagram (3.86%), YouTube (1.63%), and, in particular TikTok (17.96%). And, it appears that the more followers influencers have, the lower the engagement rates.
- Micro-influencers have smaller followings, but their engagement numbers trumped mega-influencers In 2018 research by SocialPubli.com, which surveyed 1,000 micro-influencers and analyzed internal influencer campaign data, found that, on Instagram, micro-influencers receive seven times more engagement than larger influencers.
- The bigger the influencer, the bigger the issues are around trust, authenticity, and believability. It is usually very clear when an influencer likes/loves a product and wants to share that with followers versus simply being paid to mention a product or service.
- Mislead by stats – data is being used to bolster the argument in favor of the value of using influencers. For example, Research by Neilsen found 83% of Americans somewhat or entirely trust endorsements and recommendations from people they know. But it is misleading when used in the context of influencers. Keep in mind that the majority of followers DO NOT KNOW the influencer. This stat really refers to word of mouth from friends or family or a trusted review source and is being used out of context.
- Almost all big influencers have a percentage of fake followers (it varies and is not their fault) but that can skew the reach brands expect.
- Brands don’t always set rules, guidelines, and objectives with the influencer (without over-reaching into the influencer’s creative process) and then are disappointed by the quality or message distributed.
- Some merchants often fail to provide additional product information or even vague ideas/guidance about the best way to promote products.
- There are often a lot of missteps. The influencer doesn’t follow through in the appropriate time frame. Some claim they never received items. They mispronounce product or even company names in video or give out incorrect information. Most times the influencer is not going to redo the video to correct errors. Very often, they fail to include the appropriate affiliate links.
The Costs, Resources, and Time
Often merchants underestimate the entire effort needed to bring influencers into an affiliate program. It goes far beyond just paying for content (or sending free products) and then reaping the benefits of sales from that posting. There are often hundreds of man-hours involved in overseeing the process from beginning to end.
- Merchants want to snag the biggest fish and are then shell-shocked by the huge costs associated with working with them.
- For many merchants, the expense of working with influencers can be cost-prohibitive and free products are not always compelling enough to entice large influencers.
- Costs can be confusing because influencer pricing can vary widely (from $25 to over $10,000 and some celebrities demand over $1 million) depending on the number of followers, platform, the number of posts, effort needed to create posts, etc.
- The average time to engage and take an influencer through the entire process is lengthy – find them, email back and forth on details and strategy, ship product (or pay a sponsorship fee), get the influencer to post about the brand, get the info back to the brand, measure success – can be lengthy (often up to several months).
- Most merchants do not have a staffer dedicated to dealing with influencers, so it falls to employees with other responsibilities – which can lead to further delays.
It’s paramount to build a real relationship with an influencer as their audience typically has a different purchase journey that takes much longer. One and done doesn’t seem to yield results.
- Successful marketing relies on frequency and consistency of message, but most influencers post episodically—or, in many cases, just once on behalf of a brand.
- Paying for Instagram stories or other social posts that disappear in a specific time frame doesn’t yield long-term value – or help with search. There is no long-tail value.
- Allowing the influencer creative freedom, but still having the message in line with the brand’s objective is necessary to have a good, long-term relationship.
- Not making the influencer feel special is sabotaging any chance of a long-term bond. When sending money and products, merchants often treat the influencer like a normal customer – not including any special items in the packaging, or additional information about what differentiates them from their competition. Even a hand-written note would go a long way.
Stay tuned for Part 3 where we provide a mini case study of one of our merchants and the results of an influencer partnership.