Moving past the hype – could the real value of influencers just be a case of getting it right?
Influencer marketing is an tactic under enormous scrutiny from the industry, with accusations of lacking authenticity and performance. Chris Morfis says it is simply a case of getting influencers right, and he knows how.
Influencer marketing has been in the spotlight recently, with major brands Unilever criticising the industry over a lack of authenticity and transparency. Adding to this is a misconception around what influencer marketing actually is and how it delivers real value for brands.
There is content marketing and there is influencer marketing. But they are two very different kettles of fish and it’s important the two are not confused.
Influence is everything
The difference between content marketing and influencer marketing is the ability of individuals to ‘influence’ an audience at mass. User- or customer-generated content is simply just content. While it can still hold value for brands using it across owned social channels, if it’s not shared by an influencer who has a personal relationship with their audience, then it is really just content marketing.
That isn’t to say that quality content isn’t important — this is key as platform algorithms are geared to suggest content that is engaging. Content that sparks interactions will be prioritised on social feeds, helping to attract new audiences as it becomes suggested content.
Unearthing new audiences
We’ve seen marketing spend diversify in recent years, with the proliferation of social networks opening up new avenues for brands to converse directly with consumers. While organic content posted from brand profiles is valuable, it is limited to an audience of already interested parties. Influencers help brands reach a wider audience pool — a highly engaged audience who have existing relationships with these unique audience groups.
These established influencer relationships, which are often intimate in nature, have the ability to act as a digital version of word of mouth. Our campaign data suggests these relationships can attract new audiences, which can comprise of between 30 and 80% of total post views.
This extended reach – which stems from a mix of the influencer’s relationship with the audience and content quality – opens up a whole range of opportunities for brands to connect with unique audience groups they wouldn’t be able to engage with in an authentic manner via display adverts or their own channels.
Content that resonates
Unlike content marketing, influencer marketing means you have less control over the content shared, however, this isn’t necessarily a downside. Influencers are legitimate creatives and content producers who understand what’s going to appeal to their audience.
While you might have less control over the output, this usually means the content is going to be unique and tailored, allowing you to seamlessly weave your message directly into a communities’ conversation rather than forcing it down their throats. A clear brief and third-party management can help ensure the feedback process results in effective content that drives results.
Breaking consumers’ trust issues
Following incidents like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, consumer distrust of brands is at an all time high, according to the latest AdTrust survey. It is leaving companies seeking out alternative avenues to engage with customers and build trust with their audience. Adding to this consumers have become apathetic to traditional advertisements — just look at the rise of ad blockers.
While influencer marketing has recently been criticised for being inauthentic, when done right — with influencer followers vetted for audience quality (void of bots or disengaged users) — it has the power to shape trust and purchasing decision like no other marketing tactic.
Top tier influencers are a testament to this — they’re dedicated to their audience and are generally extremely picky about who they work with. Their following is their power when it comes to working with brands, so breaking the trust based relationship they’ve built just isn’t an option if they want to succeed.
In this era of distrust, influencers offer brands the chance to have an authentic and honest conversation with their target audiences, something traditional channels struggle with. This validation from a third party is what makes influencers valuable for brands, allowing them to cement an idea or belief into the minds of consumers and drive action, whether that be increased sales or a change in behaviour.
No matter what road you go down, it’s important to understand the difference between the two, including the associated costs and resulting value you can expect. Both tactics have a role to play but your objectives will determine what’s going to be more effective for your brand.
If you’re looking to create beautiful branded content that you can share across your own channels or as part of a wider advertising campaign, then influencer generated content is a good option. But if you’re looking to reach new audiences and drive purchasing intent or change consumer behaviour, then you need to be leveraging the true power of influencers. After all, this is their value — their ability to influence their community.
Chris Morfis is general manager at Hypetap
- Government drops influencer marketing following Health Department scandal »
- Facebook’s global commitment to online video and drive for influencer marketing »
- Pinterest launches influencer marketing program with eight new partners »
Image credit:Priscilla Du Preez