Once limited only to celebrities and a few dedicated bloggers, the influencer marketing arena has rapidly turned into a $2 billion-dollar industry, and is set to be worth $10 billion by 2020.
Social influencers have become the new breed of celebrity, many of whom have legitimate reach and a more engaged fanbase than traditional A-list stars. Popular Influencers such as LeLe Pons, Whindersson Nunes and Jake Paul are powering the influencer marketing economy by captivating audiences and connecting with millions of fans across a wide array of mediums and formats.
Top social stars are creating new and innovative forms of content, sharing stories, images and videos numerous times a day. Their dedicated, always-on fans are reciprocating in kind; they are regularly tuning in to watch, like and comment on posts – and often acting on the recommendations provided. Their success has encouraged a number of forward-thinking brands to work alongside these world-leading social media stars, with the aim of tapping into their reach of millions of socially engaged consumers.
Today’s influencers have the ability to diversify across multiple social platforms and provide brands with the opportunity to amplify their marketing campaigns and cross-promote through the vast ever-growing networks they have built. But social media stars’ audiences aren’t just limited to their actual followers; they can also connect with the followers of their followers who share their content, gaining widespread credibility among consumers.
In the spotlight
Yet despite the enormous benefits these strategies can deliver, several PR blunders in the past year has placed influencer marketing under the media spotlight. These blunders have also drawn attention to the potential issues brands can face when partnering with popular social media personalities. Stories have emerged of a few bad apples resorting to sub-standard practices such as buying fake followers to simulate interactions and boost engagement rates, or producing content that contradicts a brands message – or doesn’t mention the brand at all.
As brands wise up to some of these misleading and dishonest tactics, they are becoming increasingly wary of working with social media stars and bringing their reputation into disrepute. As a result, a large number of influencers are being made to adhere to stricter messaging guidelines that stifle creativity and deliver content that consumers can immediately identify as inauthentic. This results in lacklustre viewing figures, low engagement numbers and poor click through rates.
With that said, it would be unwise to write-off the impact and authority of social influencers; they are playing a significant role in winning marketing strategies. The likes of Unilever are leading the way by choosing to work exclusively with influencers who can verify their authenticity. By vowing to never work with influencers who buy fake followers, Unilever are spearheading efforts to improve the integrity, transparency and measurement in the influencer space and helping to rebuild consumer trust in digital.
Brands must strike the perfect balance between brand message and creative to reach success. This can be achieved by choosing to work with media companies who are deeply embedded in the influencer community and have a sound understanding of the importance of a brand’s message. By pairing the right influencer with the right creative, brands can hit their target audience, while driving and gaining maximum social reach and consumer engagement.
Working with the right talent has a huge impact. One of QYOU’s most successful influencer marketing campaigns involved developing and executing the promotion of the theatrical release of DreamWorks’ Trolls, building its Music.ly account (now TikTok) into The Trolls franchises’ most subscribed social channel. Music.ly stars such as Danielle Cohn and Ruby Rose Turner created videos singing and dancing along to their favourite songs from Trolls Village, sharing them with 22.66 million of their followers. Over 35,000 kids and adults then created their own Music.lys with the campaign reaching 22 million followers and receiving over 2.18 million likes.
Authenticity – the key to success
Influencers are an important way to reach consumers and grow brands. Their power comes from a deep, organic connection that resonates with their audiences. Sub-standard practices risks irreparable damage on these relationships in the longer-term. Ultimately, the recipe for a winning influencer marketing campaign consists of matching the right influencer with an expert creative to whip up content that is authentic, on-brand, and engaging for the target consumer. With its undeniable stickiness and reach, influencer marketing is an approach that companies will continue to invest in. But it’s up to them, as much as the influencers they work with, to ensure the investment isn’t wasted. Together they can strike a better balance to create campaigns that reach the desired target audience, while delivering the success they seek.