As social media gained prominence in our daily lives over the last 10 years, so did brands desire to capture and utilize users with massive followers to promote their products and gain influence with new customers. Yes, we’re talking about influencers and it’s a big market, CNBC estimated the market was worth $1 billion dollars in 2017. With the rise of fake accounts and bots infiltrating social media, brands are taking a critical look at their influencer relationships and determining the best way forward to engage consumers.
During this year’s Cannes Festival, Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed announced the company would be evaluating it’s influencer network in an effort to eradicate fraudulent behavior (i.e. purchasing followers, a skewed followers to engagement ratio). Weed did not discredit all influencer relationships, but focused on wanting “greater transparency” in the industry as consumers may no longer trust the brands or the influencers that work with them.
Brands need to scrutinize and tighten their influencer relationships to counteract possible loss of consumer trust and have new strategies to ensure consumers have a great product experience across channels. How will winning brands master the transition?
Brands Will Treat Influencers like Any Other Sales Channels
In the age of digital, brands are increasingly spreading their marketing budgets across mediums and channels to ensure maximum exposure. Influencer marketing programs, especially micro-influencer campaigns, can be revenue drives when properly executed. Brands need to think of influencer marketing as another channel, not a layer of social media. Ask the bigger questions about the impact this new product content will have on your sales and public opinion.
In determining who to partner with, it’s not enough for brands to pick an influencer solely based on their follower count. Just as not every retailer is the right fit for your products, not every influencer is the right ambassador. Maximum exposure is not always the best best of course action, being targeted with who your brand wants to partner with and will be proud to be associated with is the best course of action.
They Will Control Messaging & Set KPIs
Brand needs to be leading the charge in what they expect from influencers, tracking engagement and product sales from campaigns, messaging and tackling fraud. Many brands are turning towards influencer partnerships (i.e longer term contracts) to develop a deeper connection with the influencer and it’s followers. It also allows brands to track how that influencer, and their content, are working.
The more your product comes up in a feed on an Instagram, the likelier a consumer will purchase it -- it’s a similar principle to retargeting but feels more authentic for the consumer. Marketing teams can provide feedback to the influencer based on performance, whether it’s on placement or messaging of the product itself. Winning brand teams will encourage testing and measuring.
Coupled with tracking performance having a longer term partnership that was properly vetted, brands must understand be vigilant about fake engagement. A recent study by Sway Ops found that a single day’s worth of posts tagged #sponsored or #ad on Instagram contained over 50 perfect fake engagement. The average brand spends $25,000-$50,000 a year on influencer campaigns, losing 50% of an entire budget on fake influence can be harmful for any company.
They Will Provide Digital Assets to Maintain Consistency
Consistency is key. It’s a saying for a reason - especially when outsourcing product experiences and information. Maintaining product information, catalogs, and imagery across sales channels requires coordination between internal and external teams and needs to be consistent to control consumer experiences. Brands that provide content information and digital assets to influencers are equipping them with their brand experience and will enable the influencer to accurately promote their product. Digital assets must go hand in hand with the physical product to ensure consistency and optimal digital experiences.
Influencer Marketing is Transitioning for the Better
At the heart of Unilever’s (and other brands) backlash against influencer marketing is a desire to connect with consumers in an honest and impactful way. By re-evaluating the experience consumers are receiving with influencers, brands can sharpen their product experiences and streamline campaign performance to gain back trust and revenue.