How to determine brand readiness for influencer marketing

How to determine brand readiness for influencer marketing Irene Yoon is senior research specialist at Gartner Marketing Practice.

Influencer marketing is no longer an unfamiliar territory. The industry is projected to be a $15 billion global industry by 2022, up from $8 billion in 2019. It’s no surprise then that CMOs continue to emphasise influencer marketing strategies in their plans.

74% of CMOs surveyed in the 2019-2020 Gartner CMO Spend Survey planned to increase their social marketing (including influencer marketing) spending while 65% planned to roll out full or pilot influencer campaigns, with an estimated $6.5 billion having gone toward such campaigns in 2019. But just because investment in influencer campaigns is an important consideration does not mean it’s a simple task.

The widening catalogue of highly used social platforms, issues of fake followers and inauthentic engagement, and the intricacies of influencer selection contribute to an influencer landscape defined by constantly escalating complexity. On top of this, marketers are challenged to think holistically about where influencers fit within their broader marketing strategy.

To overcome these challenges and ensure long-term success, it is important for marketers to first assess their brand’s readiness for an influencer partnership. There are three key considerations for doing this.

Consideration #1: Assess brand performance relative to influencers: Marketers should ask themselves “can my brand gain a significant lift in social media engagement from influencers’ branded posts over my brand posts”?

Gartner research shows that marketers are more successful than influencers in the auto, speciality retail, consumer electronics and activewear categories. In contrast, a majority of brands in consumer product goods (CPG) like personal care, and food and beverages underperform versus influencers, which makes these partnerships especially valuable.

As brands work with influencers to engage with consumers along the purchase funnel from awareness to conversion, marketers should monitor attributable brand lift measures such as engagement rates and community growth. Doing this internal review can help justify ad spend and determine whether these partnerships will add value.

Consideration #2: Gauge consumers’ desire to see more influencer content in a given category: Marketers should ask themselves “are consumers desiring more influencer content than what is currently out there today in my product category”?

This is a necessary step in the process as higher consumer interest in seeing more influencer content can help get organisational buy-in and dispel any misconceptions that influencer marketing is not right for a category. Seventy-nine per cent of those surveyed in an October 2020 Gartner Consumer and Culture Panel survey claimed that they consume influencer

content and, on average, 43% wish to see more in at least one category. This pinpoints a white space opportunity for brands to explore in some categories.

Consideration #3: Evaluate brand performance relative to sector peers: Marketers should ask themselves “are my sector peers using influencers as part of their broader social media strategy”?

Review sector penetration of influencer marketing by assessing influencer marketing adoption rates or sponsored post activity, across different social channels. Understanding the broader marketplace view will help determine if and how brands should leverage influencer marketing. This may be a necessary part of the consumer experience in categories with high influencer sponsored post activity or serve as a competitive advantage and differentiator in categories with low sponsored activity.

Map influencer selection to the customer journey

Once it is determined that an influencer partnership is appropriate, marketers are tasked with selecting the right type of influencers and relevant KPIs for measuring success. While top-tier influencers achieve massive reach, Gartner research shows that smaller influencers help to build greater engagement. Marketers exploring influencer partnerships should consider starting with smaller influencers by taking advantage of lower cost with higher engagement potential to test and learn if this is an effective strategy for the brand.

Iterating on influencer marketing requires a nuanced approach to screening and selecting the right influencer for the brand and determining how and where they fit within the brand’s social media strategy. A helpful approach is to align influencers to each step of the customer journey. Although every brand’s journey is unique, customers will tend to pass through the typical journey stages as they move from ‘buy’ to ‘own’ to ‘advocate’.

Marketers should first identify where friction exists along the customer journey (e.g., purchase, consideration, sign-up) and where an influencer partnership can help create a more seamless experience. Formalising influencers into this framework provides clear objectives and measurable outcomes for marketers to help align and map partnerships.

Photo by Franck on Unsplash

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