There’s much ado about influencer marketing these days. With the industry expected to grow in marketing spending to $10 billion by the year 2020, it appears the hubbub surrounding it will be more than just a passing phase.
Although it’s called “influencer marketing,” the practice aligns with principles of public relations. As the old-school press release takes its last gasping breath, these “real” people are being handed the torch as the new spokespeople for brands.
As an agency in the influencer-marketing space since 2009, we’ve seen it evolve from “blogger relations” to today’s “content creators.” We tapped 400 leading micro-influencers in the United States, each with at least 25,000 followers on social media, to get their feedback on the state of the industry. First off, we wanted to know if the big trend in spending was having a trickle-down effect in how influencers were being paid.
For the purposes of our study, we relied on opinions of micro-influencers — because, well, “macro-influencers” is a bit of a misnomer. The outrageous amount spent on say, getting Kim Kardashian to hawk a product, is more akin to celebrity endorsement and does not provide an apples-to-apples comparison to real people telling authentic stories.
How much do these influencers cost, and are their rates increasing? Our study reveals that indeed, increased spending is resulting in larger compensation for influencers. More than 65 percent of influencers report an increase in rates. If you’re not hiring Kim K, how much does your typical micro-influencer charge? Seems the going rate is around $400 to $500 for a brand campaign whose deliverables are a blog post and accompanying social shares.
Oddly enough however, despite higher rates and spending, only 10 percent of our micro-influencers report an increase in ambassadorships. We define ambassadorships as long-term opportunities for influencers to work on a brand’s campaigns. You’d think that with the increase in spending, brands would be eager to develop deeper relationships with their best advocates. Alas, it seems they are skipping this opportunity in favor of one-offs.
We found other statistics that show how the industry has changed. Back in the early days of influencer marketing, bloggers and their blogs were all the rage, and social channels merely drove traffic. Today it appears that campaigns are more likely to involve only social media, as opposed to having blog content at all.
Furthering the trend in solely social influencer campaigns, 80 percent of influencers report an increase in requests for platform-specific campaigns. Want to hazard a guess about which platform is most popular? If you said Instagram, you probably also know that demand for visual content is higher than ever, with 60 percent of influencers today citing Instagram as a brand’s most oft-requested channel. Take that, Snapchat!
Guidelines plus creative freedom
At our agency, we believe in providing strong guidelines to influencers to ensure brand messaging shines through — while also allowing them creative freedom to craft their own original posts. After all, the true win of influencer marketing is to build out content from real customers talking about brands they love.
Disappointingly, however, influencers report that only 13 percent of their campaigns afford them creative freedom to post the type of content they know their readers and followers will love. Time and again, we’ve found that campaigns which rely more on the influencer’s creative ability — and less on stating specific brand-speak — perform better. Face it: If it sounds like a press release or looks like an ad, consumers will be turned off, which defeats the purpose of paying for influencer marketing at all. To that we say, “Lighten up, brands!”
Influencers aren’t just creating content to shill for your brand. In many instances, they are building out rich, visual imagery that could be repurposed on a brand’s social channel.
A report from Canadian e-commerce company Shopify finds that user-generated content yields nearly four times more engagement than brand-produced advertising material. Brands pay for it, guide its creation, surely they’re re-using it? In fact, our micro-influencers report that less than 25 percent of brands repurpose the content they pay influencers to create.
Brands are spending more than ever on influencer marketing, but they’re missing opportunities to leverage that content for the best results. Main takeaways to remember:
- If you pay for an influencer to create content, build a relationship with longevity to get the quality of content from someone who truly understands your brand. You will enjoy the frequency of getting in front of their audience more than once and the brand affiliation over time will make that relationship powerful and profitable.
- Let influencers be creative. It’s what made them influential in the first place. Give them the guardrails and let them go. (Pro tip: If it doesn’t go well, you may not be picking the right influencers for your campaigns.)
- If you are going to have influencers create content, use it as you would any other commercial asset. It will perform better, and your social media manager will thank you.
Danica Kombol is president of Everywhere Agency, a leading influencer-marketing agency headquartered in Atlanta. She is a frequent speaker at PRSA, social media conferences and global forums and serves on the board of Word of Mouth Marketing Association. Visit the website: www.everywhereagency.com and contact her by email Danica@EverywhereAgency.com or follow her @BeEverywhere.
I could be completely alone in this thinking, but I don’t consider paying for Influencers to be legit Influencer marketing. To me, it’s more legit when Influencers are tapped more as an earned media strategy than a paid one. And to your point, it’s more authentic when they genuinely endorse/agree and are empowered to speak authentically. Paying them for this content put this squarely in the advertising category in my mind. For the right price anyone will say anything – does that make it credible and worthy? I counsel clients to use Influencers as an extension of their shared media strategy for content marketing. To me, the value is in their endorsement of the idea/product/issue. Money just muddies it.
It is fascinating to see how brands are navigating influencer marketing in the digital landscape. It is important to make sure influencers are representing your brand well, as well as being ethical and complying with FTC guidelines on disclosing paid endorsements. However, what I like about this article is that it highlights how authenticity from the influencer is crucial to making the sponsorship effective. This article serves as a good reminder for brands to allow influencers the creative freedom to do what they do best— it’s why we want to work with them in the first place! -Emily Hillhouse, writer/editor for Platform Magazine