This year, influencer marketing is at a crossroads. There’s more opportunity than ever. To seize these opportunities, marketers will have to overcome growing pains, give the discipline more structure, and learn how and where to use influencer content most effectively. In a word, it must mature.
Those were some of the observations of INCA directors Tom Cornish and Nilam Atodaria at this year’s Influencer Marketing Summit in London. Influencer marketing is now 18 years old, “a real coming of age moment, as we all know,” Cornish quipped. (He chose 2005, when the first YouTube video appeared, as the starting point.)
The number of available channels has grown, “providing new arenas and new mediums through which influencers can communicate.” YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Snap, and other channels have completely “transformed the way that people consume media,” he said. Walmart has created its own social influencer platform and Amazon is coming into the mix.
“Maturity brings expectation, it brings questions, it brings a burden of proof, and it brings a requirement to build trust.”Tom Cornish, Global Business Development Director, INCA
That diversification in turn has led to a proliferation of influencer activity, with many channels through which influencers can talk to their audiences in different ways. Influencers are writing books, appearing on TV, hosting podcasts, and even starting brands of their own, he observed.
Brand marketers now also have to manage increasing oversight from regulators and platforms, Cornish noted. Regulations about disclosure and efforts by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) can have real consequences, he said. He sees platforms taking a bigger role in how influencer marketing is traded, limiting the impact the influencers can have for free.
He summed up the challenges as being “all about maturity” as influencer marketing moves past its uncomfortable teenage years–an era marked by scrutiny over everything from the Fyre Festival fiasco to questions of how social media can affect people’s mental health. “Maturity brings expectation, it brings questions, it brings a burden of proof, and it brings a requirement to build trust — all of which has got to be done in what we know to be an increasingly difficult economic climate,” he said.
Answering the Challenges
But the landscape is far from grim. Influencer marketing’s footprint is large, successful, and growing. Marketers will spend more than $16 billion on influencer marketing in 2022, according to sources.
Atodaria gave pointers to address the challenges. In strategizing their influencer marketing campaigns, marketers need to consider a few key approaches, she said:
- Repurpose and Scale Engaging Influencer Content. Once you’ve worked hard to create engaging content, share it across multiple platforms and channels programmatically. For example, use the content to create an ad on social media, a “repurposed influencer asset.” The consumer can click on it, and then visit any website that the brand wants them to. Brands know that they can leverage engaging creator content that works harder to drive outcomes.
- Share Across Platforms, Channels, and Media. Let’s say you work for a butter brand. You could create a TikTok recipe-style video for the butter, then repurpose that video on screens across grocery stores. Maybe the consumer “would look at it and maybe even want to give the recipe a go.” Either way, the brand is front and center. Butter is something they need every week, and seeing the video will put that brand in consideration.
- Use Real Data and Measure. In the above example, marketers could measure the uplift on sales in stores where the videos appeared, compared to grocery stores where there were no screens. They could balance that against sales generated by the ad next to influencer content shared via demand-side platforms (DSPs) on social media or on digital out-of-home (DOOH) screens. They could measure social shopping vs. in-store shopping.
- Create a Comprehensive Testing Schedule. Test across all social creator commerce solutions to identify the type of content that drives lower funnel outcomes. Test for aspects such as: ideal asset type, length, type of content, branding mechanisms, calls to action, and type of influencer.
Take a Holistic Approach Throughout the Customer Journey. Use repurposed and shared content across platforms — from initial contact on CTV screens or social media through to product pages on shopping sites. Use multiple touchpoints to help consumers along a journey of consideration all the way through to purchase. That will help achieve the needed reach as well as sparking eventual consideration and conversion. Live shopping is in its early stages but is worth considering, too, as it matures over the next couple of years.
Using these techniques “will allow us to more consistently report on the hard metrics that matter to clients, which provides proof which builds trust”Nilam Atodaria, Global Product Director, INCA
Through these approaches, Cornish said, the industry can address the challenges at scale and move influencer marketing from being peripheral to being central in the media planning process – for small innovative companies as well as for the biggest brands in the world. Marketers can tell brands the influencer avenues they should utilize, the best ways to optimize content across these avenues, and the types of content they should create.
“There’s so much more that we could ultimately do,” Cornish said. Using these techniques “will allow us to more consistently report on the hard metrics that matter to clients, which provides proof which builds trust.”
“This is a huge moment of opportunity,” he said. “And if we embrace it we believe that we can really help our colleagues, our clients, and our partners grow their brands in a completely transformative way.”