Like it, share it.... but will they buy it?

By Domain | Sponsored

Influencer marketing is likened to the digital evolution of word of mouth. Find the right influencer for your audience, seed the message and watch your customer base grow.

Success is attributed to trust. Earned media trumps paid media, delivering measurable results.

According to Nielsen’s most recent ‘Global Trust in Advertising’ report, recommendations from people we know continue to be the most trusted advertising format, closely followed by consumer opinions posted online.

But in a digital age, where do consumers draw the line between people and personas, between trust and brand affinity?

A friend and colleague of mine was recently engaged by a company to do influencer marketing. Take one look at her Instagram and it’s clear why a brand would want to be featured on her page. Each post is lovingly crafted with care and authenticity and every image elicits a desire to crawl through the screen and be a part of that scene. I want to invite her over to re-style my life, everything from my wardrobe through to my pot plant arrangement.

Her creative talent has built a highly-engaged following and the likes and comments on her marketing posts surely haven’t disappointed advertisers. The brands she has partnered with don’t seem out of place, there’s continuity in the style of every post. It’s a strategic move on her part to hone in on brands that are attuned to her style. That’s where influencers get it so right.

But don’t audiences engage with their favourite publishers in a very similar fashion? Audiences relate to a publisher’s tone of voice and their way of storytelling. The more they read from a publisher that is consistent and authentic the more that publisher becomes a trusted voice for news, information and entertainment. The more a reader seeks from their favourite publisher, the more likely they are to follow their social channels to curb FOMO.

Domain’s social channels are managed by our editorial team, ensuring Domain’s editorial voice is consistent throughout every platform our audience engages with us on. There’s an incredible growth story around followers and engagement on all of our social channels that have accelerated over the past 12 months...but what I’ve become borderline obsessed with following are the reactions to different types of content.

Where some posts spark a flurry of opinions and discussion, others generate streams of followers simply tagging family and friends. This week I spotted a comment on an article post where someone had tagged a friend and commented “I haven’t read this, but it might be useful”. I continued scrolling. Post upon post names flew by and I couldn’t help thinking about the connection between social currency and advocacy.

The streams of tags are an enormous surge in earned media for publishers and their partners, but a tag without having read the actual article speaks volumes to the level of publisher trust, in my view at least.

The AANA has released new guidance (effective 1 March) which states that “advertising or marketing communication must be clearly distinguishable as such to the relevant audience”. In the world of content marketing, creating a platform for everything from contextual advertising through to branded content isn’t new to publishers. The naming and specifics may vary, but clear labelling defines how involved an advertiser has been in the creation of content.

Like my influencer friend, publishers get to shine by sharing what’s interesting to a brand’s audience and open up new avenues for engagement for partners, whether that’s through branded, or non-brand centric content.

As far as the AANA guidance goes publishers are geared for disclosure, but will there be an influx of #sponsored in your feed from your favourite bloggers, stylists, food reviewers and photographers?

One of my favourite quotes about branded content is from Howard Gossage, Founder Freeman & Gossage. He says “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes, it’s an ad.”

When the right insights and targeting are applied, audiences respond in kind to branded content. For influencers who’ve adopted a best practice strategy to their marketing posts there is the argument that there will be little difference in engagement. Likes are still likes and shares will still be shares, but will those engagements deliver conversions?

As is often the case with branded content, unless brands can attribute engagement through the funnel with precision and rigour the measurability seems inconclusive.

Whether you’re taking an influencer or publisher approach to branded content, the level of authenticity, consistency and how a brand supports that campaign through their own channel messaging need to be factored for a holistic view on success.

Now excuse me while I return to my friend the influencer’s page to find this week’s inspiration, I’ll tag you when I find it.

Katie Harper is Domain’s content and brand partnerships manager

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