Why brands have been left wondering how to make friends and manage influencers

At the Cannes Lions festival in June, Unilever’s CMCO Keith Weed demanded urgent action to rebuild consumer trust before, like an ephemeral puff of smoke, it’s gone forever.

Unilever’s focus is on retaining trust amidst the rapid rise of influencer marketing and the concomitant issues of transparency, integrity and measurement. Now brand marketers everywhere are sharing the FMCG giant’s concerns and seeking answers. Already highly invested in investor marketing, these brands urgently need practical advice on how best to harness the unquestionable power of influencers and also how to the manage risk that comes with such power.

Powerful statistics

Brands need better content that relates to their customers’ lives. At Olapic, we work with hundreds of global brands and understand first-hand how consumer and influencer generated content enables them to visually communicate with customers in a powerful new way.

According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), 75% of agencies make use of influencers in their overall marketing strategy for clients, and 43% indicate they would like to increase their client’s influencer budget this financial year. Total brand spending on influencer marketing is projected to reach more than US$ 100 billion in 2020, according to a report by ANA and PQ Media.

Influencers can transform into powerful co-creators of content, and brands can enlist them as an asset that works for the influencer as well as the brand audience. An April report by St. Joseph Communication found 94% of brand marketers find influencer marketing an effective practice, with influencer marketing generating up to 11x the ROI of traditional advertising.

At the same time, influencer marketing is a new medium, and which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to focus on have yet to become standardised, largely differing from brand to brand.

Such a new medium is also open to misuse by bad actors. Not all influencers are relevant or authentic. Some are downright fraudulent and purchase fake followers to give an illusion of reach and influence. Beyond potentially undermining your customers’ trust, there is also a very real impact on a business’s bottom line. Senior-level agency and marketing professionals believe between 10% and 50% of their ad spending might be lost to this type of fraud.

To prevent your brand from becoming another cautionary tale, here is a step-by-step guide for planning and executing a bullet-proof influencer marketing campaign, and mitigating any risk.

  • Define your goals. A clearly outlined plan with KPIs is needed from the start. Are you looking to drive awareness, transactions, or both? Will you manage the programme yourself? Design your campaign and the content to be scalable with the resources available to you and your team
  • Choose influencers wisely. Any influencer you engage with should be vetted and audited: are they aligned with your brand? Don’t be blinded by numbers: there is plenty of evidence that so-called micro-influencers – with fewer than 10,000 followers – are in fact more impactful in achieving call-to-action than influencers with 100,000 or more followers. Check the ‘likes’ and comments on each post: if they are few and far between, they aren’t engaging their audience, they could have fake followers, or both
  • Agree on terms. Nowadays, even micro-influencers may expect monetary compensation. Know your budget and terms ahead of time. Once agreed, put things in writing. Some influencers may also be open to an exchange of goods or vouchers
  • Request pre-approval. You may have vetted your influencer ahead of time, but you may still want to review all content before it’s published. This applies to text as well as visuals, especially as co-creation or creator freedom becomes more popular
  • Be transparent. Any engagement in a formal partnership with an influencer needs to be disclosed openly and in accordance with the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK and the Federal Trade Commission in the US. Influencers need to do the same with their posts
  • Stay vigilant. What messaging, tools and practices are you using to ensure these advertising standards are being met? Briefing your influencers clearly, defining your preferred brand partnership disclosure and verifying that all posts adhere is essential
  • Reporting is key. Will you report internally on your influencer programme? Or should you outsource this to a third-party vendor? Reporting will be crucial in evaluating ROI against your desired KPIs: be that views, reach, sentiment or purchase intent
  • Results count. Once your influencer campaign has wrapped, conduct an evaluation: were your KPIs achieved? What challenges did you face? Time to draw conclusions for the next campaign, and feedback reports to budget holders to show the value of your influencer marketing.

Digital influencers are bound to become an integral part of a brand’s panoply of marketing instruments. Carefully managed, their return on investment may outperform many other channels. Influencer marketing will continue to grow because brands’ relationships with customers are changing fast. The technology we hold in our hands has the power to transform every consumer into tomorrow’s influencer. That’s why, when managed properly, influencers are able to represent the voice of the customer and engage consumers like no other.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about the Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) international event series, arriving in Amsterdam from September 19-20 and New York from November 7-8.

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