We are in the gold rush era of influencer marketing. With the rise of micro-influencer marketing, brands all over the world have been pumping in “experimental” dollars in influencer-generated content marketing through micro-influencers. Marketers are seeking to understand more about influencer marketing through rolling out tactical campaigns activation, partnering with agency and leveraging on the latest influencer marketing technology.
The purpose of this article is looking beyond the current trends of influencer marketing and identifying what’s the future of influencer marketing for global brands as they move from experimentation to always-on digital transformation. We have put together the top 5 priorities that brands embracing influencer marketing are addressing.
For many years, marketing budget have been prioritised around launches and events such as Black Friday, New Year, Christmas, Mother’s Day and so forth. With content marketing and influencer marketing, brands are revisiting their budgeting process, integrating digital activity into always-on programs and allowing on-demand ad-hoc activities for traditional peaks.
How do you know how much to spend?
Well, Influencer marketing can be a high budget option or cost-effective depending on which approach you take. However, if you don’t allocate enough of your budget, your influencer impact will be compromised. Spend too much, and you’re not going to maximize the return on influence (ROI).
Research shows that for many small businesses who have just started influencer marketing, the budget ranged from $10,000 to $50,000 annually. For more established brands, many of these marketers said they have plans to increase their spending, with some expected to double year-on-year. According to a study from ANA and PQ Media, total brand spending on influencer marketing is projected to reach $101 billion by 2020.
The practice of influencer marketing is evolving from its preliminary experimental stages to be recognised now as a strategic marketing investment. We are seeing more and more Top Management getting involved with designing and implementing influencer strategies that are integrated across a broad set of corporate functions and with far reaching impact across a growing number of corporate objectives.
One of the most challenging issues for brand is to acquire the right talent and develop internal competencies in influencer management. The “influencer manager” needs to fully represent the values of the brand and have a deep understanding of the organization to coordinate the interactions with influencers across the spectrum of product, customer service, marketing and PR.
When it comes to influencer marketing, there are basically three major types of platforms that you can work with:
Managed-Service: Agencies help to manage the entire influencer marketing process, from influencer selection, activation to reporting.
Marketplace: Marketplace is an easy, convenient way to list your campaign and recruit influencers for your campaign. You can look through listings or search for influencers. In short, therese platforms provide invitation-recruited influencer network that match the demand and supply.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): software designed for discovery or influencer management. In this case, the relationship with the influencer is completely transferred to the company and the software is just facilitating. It usually comes with analytics feature.
If you were to explore further, you would find that there are quite a number of niche platforms with specialization. For instance platforms that focus on influencer types (Mega-Influencers, Macro-Influencers and Micro-Influencers), and platforms that are vertical in specific sections of the value chain (for example, in discovery rather than influencer activation and outreach). There are also some platforms that work on specific social networking channels, such as Instagram or YouTube whereas others manage campaigns on a range of channels. All of these platforms are meant to help marketers to increase the brand awareness and drive conversions.
Globalization and social media have changed the way influencer marketing operates on a global and local level. Combining local and global influencer marketing efforts with carefully selected influencers can lead to an increase in lead generation, brand awareness and thought leadership.
Most influencer activities was initiated locally with PR or social teams. However, with more than 70% of organisations treating influencer relations as strategic moves, the practice is being increasingly integrated into global brand strategies.
Many global brands have started developing their own centrally managed influencer activities, engaging key influencers across the globe on international campaigns. This new type of program naturally creates new coordination requirements with local teams driving programs locally and globally.
Global brands have been working on streamlining their social media presence and providing strong global guidelines on their publishing strategies. They begin to audit existing influencer programs across their organisations, cancelling irrelevant initiatives and ensure that local influencer marketing practices are consistent with global guidelines.
Europe and Asia continents comprised of many different languages and cultures which demand more strategic planning when creating a global influencer marketing framework. Local market activation are very crucial in these markets whereby global influencers may lack the specific cultural knowledge to influence these specific target markets.
In this context, many global companies will leverage on technology partners to provide consolidated influencer discovery, outreach and management services.
Lastly and most importantly is the rise of influencer marketing technology. Integrated, collaborative Influencer Relationship Management solutions enable organisations to increase the impact of their program, to generate efficiencies and to pilot their activities based on consistent data and information.
Growing popularity of Influencer Marketing = more demand for efficiencies via automation technology.
There are 3 key factors that drive the growth of influencer marketing technology
- The rise of content marketing and ad-blocking
- The need for scalability, efficiencies and tracking ROI
- The demand increase in marketing automation
Currently, the influencer tech market is a crowded space that covers multiple disciplines from advocacy to social selling.
There is a broad spectrum of influencer marketing technologies available. On one end are the opt-in platforms for paid influencer engagement. On the other end of the spectrum are the companies that focus on discovery of micro-influencers, thought leaders, and experts.
By and large, Influencer Marketing platforms typically offer 6 main capabilities, namely discover, connect, engage, recruit, review and measure.
Discover – Find influencers based on user criterias including all the engagement metrics, audience demographic and topics of influence. It is about finding the right fit between an influencer and a brand. A good fit between an influencer and brand is one where the mission, visions, messages and identities align.
Connect – Communicate with influencers via the platform to discuss the engagement. Main feature focus on community management and direct messaging.
Engage (unpaid) – Engage influencer for an unpaid activity like writing a blog post and an Instagram post. This is quite common for product sampling.
Recruit (paid) – Engage influencer for a paid activity like speaking at an event or creating content, usually on sponsored content or pay per content creation model.
Review – Allow the marketer to review the content prior to promotion. This depends on whether a brand takes a hands-on or hands-off approach with their creative direction.
Measure – Advanced metrics and analytics in performance management to track the visitors, page views, click through rate and conversion rate. Analytics like these allow brands to understand the results of the influencers’ post, whether it is engagement, web traffic, earned media value or ROI.
Influencer marketing that are used as part of an integrated digital marketing mix can have a noticeable impact on your overall marketing and business objectives. Whether you like it or not, consumers have the option to tune in or tune out of what is being put in front of them. Hence, selecting the right voice is one of the most important considerations you should factor in order to continue to stay relevant with your audience.
Ultimately, the future of influencer marketing boils down to brands staying authentic with who they choose to represent their brand and building a long-term influencer relationships that will last longer than just mere sponsored posts.