Accessory or necessity? Here's why you can no longer afford to ignore influencer marketing
With media figureheads like Lynne Franks recently speaking out about the ‘burn-out’ in the influencer marketing world, many brands are being cautious about embracing the industry’s potential.
But with predictions that this rapidly-growing sector could be worth $10 billion by next year and 82% of consumers saying they were ‘very likely’ to act on the recommendation of an influencer they follow, can we really afford to ignore this ever-evolving age of marketing?
Brands who don’t see influencers as a necessary marketing tool will find themselves on the back foot in our increasingly digitally-driven world, believes Amelia Neate, who runs the East Midlands-based Influencer Matchmaker agency.
Her team partners brands with authentic and leading influencers across the globe and has worked with the likes of Hotels.com, Heineken, Debenhams, Amazon, UEFA and Dove.
The agency, which last week unveiled a vibrant new rebrand, has access to more than 2,000 influencers and celebrities and has run successful campaigns with singer Tallia Storm, YouTuber Misha Grimes Love Island’s Jack Fincham, singer Jessie J and UK rapper Lethal Bizzle, among many.
For those businesses debating whether to invest in influencer marketing, Amelia has this advice:
Create a ’niche’ audience-led strategy
Tapping into niche audiences is crucial to the results you’ll achieve when working with influencers. With over 50% of consumers saying they consider the influencers they follow to be an extension of their circle of friends, it is clear that what feels like a personal relationship is crucial.
“An influencer is only as valuable as their audience in terms of relevancy, community and behaviours,” said Amelia.
“Influencers need to network and discuss topics of importance to the audiences they connect with. They will generate discussion and reactions – and brands who engage with them can determine how compelling they are and if their audience listens to them.”
Build trust and be trusted:
The Advertising Standards Authority has set out strict regulations to ensure brands and influencers are disclosing paid-for posts in a move to help ensure the world of social media advertising is more transparent.
“These regulations ensure a level playing field for all brands and audiences should easily be able to identify what is an advertisement,” said Amelia.
“Brands are equally fighting against fake followers - by buying followers, likes and comments, influencers and brands are risking devaluing their reputations. Agencies like ours continually monitor all the influencers we put forward for partnerships to ensure our clients are working with authentic and trustworthy accounts.”
Create an emotional connection with a sense of ’storytelling’
Intelligent influencer campaigns should encourage an emotional connection between a product or service and the target audience. “Use talent who can relate and communicate your brand message because of their natural association with it,” Amelia advised.
One of Influencer Matchmaker’s most successful partnerships was between Arsenal and Visit Rwanda to promote the first #RwandaChampionsChallenge with Arsenal fan and British rapper Lethal Bizzle.
Bizzle spent a day filming at Arsenal Training Centre which brought together three fans and three Arsenal first-team players, Medut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Alex Iwobi. The fans and the first-team players worked together in a variety of challenges whilst Bizzle hosted and motivated everyone.
The winner won an 8-day all-inclusive trip for two to Rwanda. The video was then utilised on Visit Rwanda’s website, YouTube channel and social media. Bizzle also promoted it on his Instagram feed, Instagram stories, and Twitter channel, reaching 1.97M followers.
Keep an eye on the market
Regularly identifying market trends and values will keep you in the loop when it comes to selecting the right partners.
“Challenge people’s perceptions. Most notably, over the last year, ‘virtual influencers’ have hit the online world,” said Amelia.
“The evolution of fictional, computer-generated influencers can be more appealing for some brands, especially those who want to be seen as embracing the future and as leaders in technological innovation. It enables brands to have more control over their collaborations.”
Identifying changes in social media platforms
This year Instagram is trialling its removal of the ‘like’ functionality in some countries. Its boss, Adam Mosseri, said the move was intended to make “people worry less about how many likes they’re getting and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about”.
Amelia said: “The culture which this ‘likeability’ has created is one that people are beginning to resent. This metric of success may be dying off, so we always need to be revisiting how we measure campaign results and ensure that we look at engagement levels.”
The use of podcasts in influencer marketing has also increased over the last year, with ad spend projected to hit $1 billion by 2021.
“YouTube creators have taken podcasts to another level in order to reach a wider audience and monetise their content,” said Amelia. “This could be an obvious next step for marketers and influencers.”
Create both long-standing and short-term relationships
While brands these days are beginning to create ‘long-term’ relationships, some brands can still benefit from a one-off partnering with an influencer.
“Brands can use a number of influencers within a niche audience, which can help ensure there is always a buzz around their message,” said Amelia.
But if a brand does begin to create longer-standing partnerships or bring them on as an ambassador, they should encourage their influencers to have a creative input into their campaigns by conducting invaluable audience research through polls and comments.
See influencers as an extension of your brand
Ensuring that both the brand and the influencer are a good fit is crucial to a successful partnership.
“An influencer’s audience love what they do, so in turn, the right influencer should love what you do as a brand.”
Amelia told how pairing Made in Chelsea star Binky Felstead and her mum Jane with kitchen appliance manufacturer Kenwood in its #feedyourimaginationcampaign had been a huge success.
Binky, who has 1.4m followers on Instagram, and her mum were filmed using the Kenwood Chef to create a strawberry cheesecake, one of their family recipes.
“It really worked because of the warmth of their relationship – it really put a family message across which worked extremely well for Kenwood,” explained Amelia.