Opinion: It’s time for influencer marketing to grow up

James Sharman, VP, commercial at influencer marketing platform Buzzoole, discusses the importance of transparency and availability of data in influencer marketing. 


As influencer marketing matures and the spotlight on the channel grows, brands are understandably starting to question how — not why — they should buy into influencer marketing. There are a number of buying models available, including fixed fees, cost per post or cost per engagement, but the most common buying model is cost per impression — often defined by the number of followers.

The problem with CPM is the recent, rightful claims of fake and fraudulent behaviour in the industry, both in terms of follower numbers and likes. So it’s entirely reasonable for brands to question which model is best for them.

Despite Instagram’s recent efforts to clean up suspicious accounts, we can hardly expect the industry to undo influencer wrongs and bot traffic overnight. Still, brands working with creative influencers are wondering how they’ll measure the performance and impact of influencer campaigns.

First party data and brand effect


There are plenty of influencer marketing platforms out there connecting influencers with brands, but not all have access to first-party data – or data provided directly from influencer accounts.

With the changes in Facebook and Instagram API access, first-party impressions with demographic data has become an essential metric for evaluating the performance of influencer campaigns. Some influencer companies are also teaming up with Nielsen to provide brands with a more comprehensive way to evaluate their investments.

Unfortunately there are a lot of influencers, usually micro-influencers, who don’t hold business accounts and don’t have access to impression data yet. Of course, these are the influencers typically favoured by brands for their authentic, natural approach, as well as genuine higher engagement rates.

While micro-influencers don’t always have the first-party data, they still play a crucial role in many influencer campaigns, which poses a challenge when it comes to reporting on campaign performance.

Transparency builds better brand-influencer relationships


2019 needs to be about action rather than than words, and a more transparent approach to influencer marketing will undoubtedly lead to increased investment from brands.

Whenever we work with brands at Buzzoole, we analyse first-party data on thousands on Instagram and Facebook channels and blogs to detect suspicious behaviour. First party data of this kind is essential to any brand, as it enables them to make meaningful decisions regarding which influencers to partner with, and how best to value them.

For instance, in some cases, an influencer might have bought followers in the past and is unable to remove them, but they can still be a very valuable asset to a brand – especially when taking into account the ownership rights brands hold on all influencer created content.

Regardless of their (true) follower numbers, influencers are creatives who bring campaign themes to life so uniquely that their genuine influence in popular culture shouldn’t be ignored or underestimated. By the same token, transparency is also key in consumer communications and it’s vital that audiences are made aware that all paid-for content is clearly marked as such.

With millennial and Gen Z audiences increasingly hard to reach, there’s a huge opportunity for brands to authentically connect with them in a real, honest way.

With influencer marketing moving away from “one post wonder” campaigns, brands are seeking meaningful connections between brands, content creators and their followers. Yet the value of the content –  and the opportunity for brands to connect with potential customers through comments – is still underestimated and under utilised.

In the coming years, we’ll see brands take a more strategic approach to buying influencer marketing. Smart brands will benefit from using content above and beyond influencer or brand channels, and through embracing opportunities within out-of-home, TV, digital, paid social and other media.

Maturing and maximising value


As the influencer marketing space continues to expand and mature, it’s imperative that we continue to explore various buying models. While many savvy brands already consider influencer marketing an important part of their media spend, they’re also demanding more.

Going forward, the industry needs to work closely with brands to solve challenges, address wider business objectives, define strategies, and, ultimately, manage and measure cross-platform, global influencer marketing campaigns at scale.

With influencer marketing set to be worth $2.4 billion this year, 2019 is the time for influencer marketing to grow up and for brands to work out how to maximise value from this maturing channel.

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