Is Influencer Marketing Worth Your Investment?

Influencer marketing is having a moment right now. And, like any trend, there are those who are buying into it and those who are dismissing it as a fleeting, baseless fad. Whether or not this trend is here to stay remains to be seen.

On one side of the debate, there are marketers who swear by their influencer strategy. A 2018 study from our thought leadership platform OnBrand Magazine found that 79% of marketing decision makers will invest in influencer marketing this year, and 43% plan to invest even more than they did last year. Meanwhile, 22% are venturing into the market for the first time. These advocates have shifted their dollars from other, more traditional strategies, making influencer marketing an essential part of their marketing budgets. They’ve coordinated how many free samples they can give away and have created contracts that outline what an influencer must do on behalf of their brand.

On the other side are the marketers who think influencer marketing is ineffective, a waste of money and part of a bubble that will eventually burst. They question the return on their investment and have brand safety and consistency at the top of their minds, making them nervous to hand over their brand to an individual Instagram celebrity. These marketers are the ones who are more likely to invest in emerging technology like chatbots or voice assistants — things they can control.

Know your priorities.

Should your brand invest in influencer marketing? The answer really depends on what your goals are.

OnBrand’s report found that in 2018, 25% of marketers see customer experience as a top priority, followed by brand awareness and customer acquisition. These findings are especially interesting when you look at OnBrand’s 2017 report, which found last year’s top priority for marketers was customer acquisition, followed by brand awareness, with customer experience in third.

If your top priority is customer experience, influencer marketing might not be for you, as it doesn’t guarantee direct, consistent engagement with your brand. Instead, you should direct your attention (and money) to building a seamless experience that keeps customers coming back. More and more marketers are planning to invest in tech talent as they experiment with mobile and emerging technologies like chatbots and voice assistants. According to McKinsey, “Over the next five years, large companies will invest, on average, hundreds of millions of dollars—and some more than a billion dollars—to transform their business to digital.”

If brand awareness or customer acquisition is your goal, then influencer marketing can be a highly effective tactic that is worth the investment. Influencers are a great touch point to introducing a service or product to a new audience. Recent industry upheavals, like Facebook’s newsfeed overhaul that deprioritized content from brands and publishers, means content strategies that include individual influencers will become more important when trying to reach a fresh audience.

If you are planning on making the investment, there are a few important things to consider when outlining your strategy.

1. Establish metrics.

Your team will likely want to see that investing in an influencer program is worth it, so establishing what success looks like from the get-go is a must. Think about what success means to your brand and what your key performance metrics are – is it the number of likes or comments received? How many people see the influencer content? How much website traffic or how many sales can be directly attributed to a post? In a fairly new industry, measuring ROI is notoriously difficult for brand marketers, and one of the main reasons why they shy away from establishing an influencer strategy. Engagement and reach are easy enough to measure, while conversions likely need a bit more coordination between the brand and influencer, such as a clear call to action or link to a purchase.

2. Focus on authenticity.

Sacrifice high follower counts for influencers who are in line with everything your brand stands for. While it might seem attractive to invest in an influencer with over 500,000 followers, that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get the reach or engagement you are looking for. Even though micro-influencers have a smaller follower count, they are usually part of an engaged community that trusts the influencer and will be more likely to trust your brand. Micro-influencers are more likely to post about a brand because they are grateful and have fewer competing engagements. As a result, they have higher engagement rates and are seen as authentic and honest. Nike and Adidas are two brands that have done this well, relying not only on celebrity endorsements, but also a number of smaller fitness and fashion bloggers to help promote their products.

3. Determine the length of the relationship.

Setting up an influencer program takes time and resources. From the very beginning of the campaign, decide if your work with an influencer will be a long-lead opportunity or short-term. Long leads typically require contractual obligations, whereas short-and-quick hits might not. While long-lead opportunities might be more difficult to coordinate and don’t provide an immediate ROI, they offer benefits such as an established and trusted relationship between a brand, an influencer and their audience. Repetition breeds familiarity, and can provide more long-term value for your brand. Short-term engagements, on the other hand, are easier to coordinate and require fewer resources. They can offer your brand the benefit of reaching a larger audience, especially if you work with multiple influencers on small, one-off partnerships as part of your program.

Marketing can be a competitive field, but at the end of the day, what works for one marketer might not work for another. The best thing any marketer can do is assess each strategy they are thinking about using based on their goals. Make sure that whatever you do, whether it’s creating a chatbot or aligning yourself with an influencer, is the right investment to achieve your brand’s goals.

Source: Jennifer Harvey – Forbes

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