Big takeaways from our April Roundtable on Influencer Marketing
At our recent Roundtable, Industry Index gathered MadTech companies, brands, agencies, and influencers to discuss the growing gravitas of Influencer Marketing. While not a new concept, Shade CEO Jacques Bastien stressed the power of influencers — evidenced by brands, all eager to capitalize on this power. Target audiences are likelier to relate, listen to, and trust the familiar faces of influencers.
Jacques Bastien – stresses the power of the influencer
Welcome to the era of Influencer Marketing.
Measurement & Monitoring
Brands recognize that Influencer Marketing is an effective way of getting in front of the right audiences. Understanding, quantifying, and proving success is much less obvious. A major theme at the Roundtable was the need for education through measurement. Influencer Marketing is becoming a bigger part of the media spend, and it’s only going to continue to grow. However, creative agencies aren’t allocating appropriate dollars by treating Influencer Marketing opportunities as media products. Paul Kontonis, CMO of WHOSAY, explained that “Influencer Marketing is a media product. Let’s not kid ourselves – we are making better ads, we are making better performing ads on mobile devices. When you look at it that way you realize it’s becoming a bigger and bigger piece of the media budget.”
Dontae Mears, Supervisor of Influencer Marketing at VaynerMedia, states that a lot of scrutiny comes from the growth of the media budget. Through education and proper measurement, Mears offered, “You will start understanding the real tangible results that are beyond impressions and engagement… how we are affecting real brand health, how are we changing the perception of a band… and that comes with strategy.” There needs to be an infrastructure in place where true impressions can be reported, and pre/post surveys can solidify the understanding of the data pipeline.
PROGRAMMATIC TO THE RESCUE?
Scale & Audience Are Limiting Factors
Is there a way that programmatic can intervene and start measuring the impact of Influencer Marketing? That is a challenge unto itself, as Influencer Marketing relies on, and revolves around, people. Jonathan Chanti, SVP at HYPR Brands stated, “Programmatic isn’t going to work with Influencer Marketing in the near future because you are dealing with people and the error that comes from that.” Proving that Influencer Marketing has a long way to go when relating to the programmatic aspect of technology.
Technology and human error – two main pressure points pertaining to scaling Influencer Marketing. Yuli Ziv, Founder and CEO of Style Coalition offered, “The main challenge in scaling this business is not the technology – you can build this business pretty cheaply – the challenge is you are working with real people and there will always be room for error.” Technology is ubiquitous and platforms are readily available. Anyone can try to be an influencer. In order for Influencer Marketing to scale, the noise has to subside. Ziv continued, “the space has grown to a point where it’s going to have to consolidate – there are too many platforms… too many people doing the exact same thing.”
To continue elevating Influencer Marketing, campaigns have to be delegated and conducted strategically. In order for these three simple steps to be effective, the correct audience has to be determined through the depiction of where an influencer has the greatest pull within a given campaign. Chanti explained that there is a use for everyone, and that pop-culture is about feeding consumption and identifying the correct audience to target a campaign and brand toward. “The hot girl with 80 percent male following is great, but not for cosmetics.” The success of that ‘hot girl’ will thrive in front of a male-dominated audience. Massive reach, wrong audience, wasted dollars, proving the strategy that has to be driven by a brand’s creative brief. The niche audience of an influencer should weigh heavily in controlling the success of a campaign.
AUTHENTICITY, VARIETY, and FAIR MONETIZATION
Grasping Influencer/Audience Relationship
The power influencers have with their hard-won audiences relies on authenticity; their voices cannot be seen as commingled with brands’ messages. Brands must remember that for influencers connect with their users on a human level. With humanity, variety is essential. Influencer Michell Clark explained, “I think we get boxed into fitting in certain small areas of importance – weather that’s music or culture or fashion or whatever else… we have so many things that we do… so just asking the right people and figuring out who else is involved in certain things would be helpful… make new connections and find a new campaign or figure out what [an influencer] can add to a brand.”
Impressions will ultimately drive traffic to a brand, and those impressions are created through influencers’ networks and the conversations they are having. Mears explained some A/B testing conducted by VaynerMedia, “We took influencer-created content, we whitelisted, we promoted it from the brand’s handle and also from the influencer on behalf of the brand, and the engagement was 100% stronger on the influencer handle.”
It’s clear that brands ultimately monetize Influencer Marketing impressions, so how much are influencers directly monetizing their reach? Allan Watson, CEO and Co-Founder of Holr Media Group, predicts that influencers are going to get smarter about monetizing their content, taking more control of the narrative. This cuts both ways, however. Without the product the brand is pushing, there wouldn’t be a narrative to begin with.
Allan Watson predicts – influencer will get smart about monetizing the narrative
THE 360º APPROACH
Micro- vs. Macro-Influencer — Quality Control — Budget
Both micro- and macro-influencers offer different levels of reach and usefulness to brands. According to Chanti, every influencer will have a different spin on how they are going to market the brand and the product.
A micro-influencer was defined, loosely and unscientifically, at the Roundtable, as an individual with 100K followers or fewer (“fewer” was not defined, but we’re guessing it’s more than 100.) This partly defines the reach a brand may have to their given audience, however micro-influencers will cost brands less than the macro-influencers. Laughter broke out around the table we were reminded that agencies often have the same request for macro-influencers, like Kim Kardashian, regardless of budget. It reminds us of a conversation on scarcity and eCPM that we had at a previous Roundtable. Having your cake and eating it, too? Think again, brands.
Talent management agencies may need to aid in defining campaigns based on budgets and influencers’ audiences available within those budgets. Which is better, a slew of micro-influencers or the reach of one macro-influencer? Mears’ prediction is the coming year will feature the growth of micro-influencers as budgets open up and education continues.
Dontae Mears predicts – the growth of micro-influencers
This prediction is warranted – many brands simply don’t have the budget sign contracts with major celebrities. Watson, posed the question, “Do you think as the market grows, and micro and macro talent grows, and the cost for macro-talent increases, that brands will be more focused on their own influencers?” The Frankenstein’s monster concept of molding someone into an ideal influencer sent the Roundtable into a flurry of chatter. If an ideal influencer is created (like this guy), the guess work and human error could potentially be minimized or removed entirely. Not exactly Influencer Marketing, but maybe close enough for some, and things like “brand-safe” and “quality control” no longer factor.
Weather a brand is creating the ideal influencer, or working with a micro- or macro-influencer, it’s extremely important to define the quality controls required to achieve brands’ goals. Scale can only be achieved if there is the correct instruction and the correct team. Bastien offered, “It can’t just be like here is the budget and here is the goal and let me know when it is up – because that is 100% the quickest way to fail.” Kontonis explained the importance of everyone playing a part in the process, “The agency needs to make sure that the brand is getting what they need, ” as the influencer shouldn’t ‘just run with it.’ He continued, “… A 360º approach [is needed when] looking at and producing a campaign from start to finish: Monitoring, managing, leveraging audience engagement and conveying a cohesive campaign.
All factors and goals must be discussed at the first strategy meeting. The Influencer Marketing sector is used to influencers being viewed as an afterthought, even though the power of influencer is proven. Mears explains, “In order to generate the amplification needed… the fact that a brand will be using an influencer needs to be on the table.”
ODE TO SOCIAL MEDIA
Platforms and Fraud
Sean Lynch, Marketing Manager at FILA, told the Roundtable that Influencer Marketing is going to continue being the wild, wild west as the industry continues to grow and educate themselves. Brands are going to dictate a lot of the Influencer Marketing landscape through the continued growth of social media. The retail structure of America is depicted so heavily by influencers, and with social media platforms popping up nearly every day, the Influencer Marketing sector continues to take off – but hasn’t gotten above the clouds yet.
“Let’s be realistic,” Chanti states, “social media really changed the game on how you were able to measure how effective your marketing is actually performing. Now it’s how many ‘likes’ did you get? What is the engagement? Who engaged? What’s the ROI?” With the power that social media platforms have, the lack of measurement and monitoring can create challenges. Mears explains that a huge hurdle is mounting in the proliferation of platforms without standardizations and common taxonomy for measuring Influencer Marketing – Fraud can run rampant.
“Fraud is something you have to look at before you get in bed with someone,” Chanti explains. Through leveraging data and technology, brands and agencies should be able to define and discover influencers’ legitimacy. Through this next growth cycle of Influencer Marketing, how are platforms going to label, prevent, curtail, or amplify fraud? Who controls the metrics?
POWER OF EDUCATION
Jason Charles, Promotion Manager for Republic Records at Universal Music Group, posed the idea that Influencer Marketing is the old fighting the new. “Anytime there is a change, there is going to be resistance… the budgets need to increase and there needs to be more education.”
Lynch added, “We need education, we need monitoring, but at the same time we can’t lose the authenticity of why [brands are working with] influencers.”