Following Unilever's statement of intent to crack down on influencers with paid or fake followers and the most recent inquest into the federal government funded #girlsmakeyourmove fitness campaign, there has been a steady flow of articles questioning the health of the influencer industry.
Given the increased investment brands are making into the category, it is only right that influencer marketing is being more closely scrutinised than ever.
There’s no doubt that a number of influencers have gamified the system and I, like the majority of influencer marketing professionals, am completely in support of the need to crack down on those who have acquired paid or fake followers.
The common theme within these articles is that they are all examples of inexperience and misinformed practice. As with any marketing discipline, when best practice isn’t followed or expertise isn’t present, there are of course going to be issues.
The campaign #girlsmakeyourmove is an example of this. The campaign was intended to be a healthy living initiative to encourage Aussie females to be active, however it was executed using an ill-informed practice of partnering with influencers because of their follower numbers. This resulted in many of the influencer partners having largely irrelevant followers or questionable backgrounds.
Similarly, marketing expert and sensationalist Mark Ritson questioned the credibility of influencer marketing because he was able to pay a number of “influencers” to make a picture of his arse go viral.
The truth is that if you are looking to establish whether influencer marketing works or not, there has to be a focus on outcome.
At Co-maker, One Green Bean's influencer arm, we have achieved some remarkable outcomes for our clients that go far beyond just awareness and in case you’re a marketer concerned about the credibility of influencer marketing, following these guidelines can help ensure success.
Establish the correct approach
Influencer marketing can and should be far more than just a tactic to gain eyeballs. Be it to gain credibility, develop advocacy, create WOM or to create content, there should be a clear objective and applicable application to help brands get there.
For a brand intending to work with influencers, as with any medium, there must be consideration when identifying a suitable publisher to work with. Media buyers don’t simply buy media based on circulation. We like to apply a simple Three R’s criteria:
The most important R is relevance. With over nine million Instagram users in Australia on Instagram alone, brands need to partner with the most relevant person. This could be partnering with outwardly passionate product fans or people within a specific niche. To establish this, brands need to take time to audit past content to ensure they have the authority to discuss your product or brand.
Next is resonance. Do the influencers have an engaged audience? Engagement should go beyond likes which can be bought. Are their followers commenting. Are they commenting back? Are the comments attributable to the desired subject?
The final R is for reach. Not reaching the largest audience but the correct one. There are a number of tools available that can help brands and agencies analyse an influencers audience to be genuine and both demographically and geographically applicable. It amazes me how many Aussie brands pay huge volumes of money to pay an influencer who may only have 5% Australian audience.
Whilst I understand the need to build scalable content strategies, in my opinion the secret to achieving optimum content for both influencer and brand lies within the development of human relationships.
This is applicable, whether it is to collaborate to produce a single post or to establish a longer-term relationship to create a number of posts.
There’s a multitude of metrics available to brands to help them determine the success of a campaign. We’ve achieved hugely successful campaigns for our clients that performed far beyond simple vanity metrics such as impressions. This includes generating WOM, credibility and even attributable actions and sales. It’s important not to lose focus of the original objective and determine those that are most suitable.
It’s clear given the volume of potential influencers, the increasing client budgets and specialist agencies and experts born of this, that influencer marketing will remain both the darling and the devil of the marketing industry. For every story of success, there will be countless stories of fake followers, scandalous YouTubers or uninfluential influencers. However, when best practice is applied, influencer marketing has, does and will continue to help brands achieve incredible, measurable results.
Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever, himself outlined the increasing importance of influencers to Unilever’s marketing in the future, a statement that highlights that in fact, influencer marketing has never been healthier.
By Co-maker head of influencer marketing Tim Rasbash