How to engage in influencer marketing: The controversy and the opportunity

Brands are increasingly tapping into word-of-mouth recommendations and well-read bloggers in social media interactions. But big questions remain around influencer marketing

Measuring influencer impact

Aside from the controversy surrounding influencer marketing, there’s also the measurement question to address. Smith admits the impact of an influencer program on sales can be difficult. At Digivizer, indirect measurement of ‘share of voice’ takes into account the social Web activity a brand has in comparison to competitors.

As part of its measurement exercises, Switch on Media will analyse Google Analytics data on generated content, direct and social shares, unique visitors and other engagement metrics. Post-engagement market research is another options, Tines Tupper says.

“In terms of developing brand perceptions and value, or driving indirect actions, influencer engagement can be about as trackable as a positive review or a word-of-mouth recommendation from friends and family,” Page continues. “But it is easier to see the impact of online influencers when you survey the public about what influences their purchasing decisions. For example, recent industry reports show that almost half of purchases were inspired by online discoveries, and a third were influenced by advice online.”

According to N2N and Fuel Communications social strategist, Lewis Shields, word-of-mouth is still the strongest driver for sales, pointing to Nielsen statistics that suggest more than 90 per cent of consumers trust peer recommendations.

"On average, approximately 1 per cent of a website's audience generates 20 per cent of all of its traffic, through the sharing of content," he says.

"Influencers generate an even higher rate of conversion, directly driving 30 per cent or more of the overall ‘end-action’ on a brand’s website by recommending it to their engaged network. Digital and social analytics mean that the impact of influencers is entirely measurably, and we’ve seen the ROI to be significantly higher than traditional digital channels."

Case studies: Influencer marketing in action

Despite all the confusion, there are great examples of influencer partnerships transforming brands. Page points to the relationship between fashion video blogger, Bethany Mota, and Aeropostale as one. The American apparel retailer first approached the 18-year old YouTube star to offer suggestions to its customers on her favourite styles online, then gave Mota her own range of clothing.

The company reported significant in-store and online sales, a 145 per cent year-on-year increase in YouTube brand queries, and more than 2.6 million views from the ad, with a clickthrough rate of 7.65 per cent.

Law cites a huge impact across a range of different KPIs, with influencer campaigns helping to educate the marketplace, provide valuable product insights, reach new audiences and ultimately drive awareness and sales. One client example is the long-term influencer team developed for Sony Australia. The program has been running for more than four years and in 2014 saw a direct ROI of approximately 5:1, he says.

Over at Switched on Media, one successful client activity was with a fitness brand, which was relaunching and looking to drive brand advocacy by working with a group of influencers that matched its target markets.

“Our program over five months was about educating them on how the brand had changed, then getting them to try the products and services,” Tines Tupper says. “We spent the time to educate them in the most human way possible, because if they don’t understand the change, how are they going to communicate that to their peer groups on social channels?”

A second example was with a food producer to engage food bloggers and mums and encourage experimentation, an initiative that resulted in high-quality and unique recipe content, Tines Tupper says. In this case, the client then used third-party market research to gauge its effectiveness.

Spencer also highlights the social impact influencers can have on target demographics. A UK example was beauty blogger, Nikki, who was employed by Volkswagen to raise awareness of the 500,000 women who cause car accidents by applying makeup in their rear view mirror. The ad starts with Nikki providing tips on applying makeup, but ends with a sudden smash as she’s thrown in a simulated car crash.

While there’s huge scope for influencer marketing, Tines Tupper admits there are a handful of industries that may struggle – in particular, financial and B2B.

“Regardless, it’s worth brands looking into and exploring, and getting a better understanding, even through research, of this ‘blogosphere’,” she says. “Spend time on different social platforms.”

Identifying the right influencers

Finding the right influencers to engage with as a brand is crucial. Digivizer’s approach is to identify influencers based on data that relates to and quantifies their activities via its social Web mapping.

“We use our technology to track, analyse, map and understand the digital footprints they all leave in the social Web, so organisations can then take action based on these hard data and these insights,” Smith explains.

TWO Social's Spencer says the social media agency looks for the “primary sources of information” to determine who is more or less influential socially, and has its own technology, Buzznumbers, to assist.

Other tools in the market range from broader social listening platforms, such as Radian 6, to specific software, such as Group High and Hypetap, a new platform currently in Beta that allows influencers to be approached directly with briefs and partnership opportunities, Page says.

“You really need to do your homework though to understand the nuances between them and ensure you’re getting what you need to match your goals,” Law advises. “Many tools in the marketplace have also proven to be quite unreliable in terms of their reach metrics so homework is key.”

Contagious has created an opt-in influencer network of 80,000 socially active Australians who are happy to support brands and products they love. Over at Switch on Media, Tines Tupper says her team approaches influencers in a bespoke fashion, aiming for smaller scale but deeper interactions.

“We’ll look at how to use different influencers for different things,” she says. “We’re bringing brands into working with people who care about their brand, are excited about it and want to try and use it. We do quite a bit of research in what bloggers to work with, and then form relationships with them so we know what they’re into and that’s how we know who to pitch to clients.”

Shields also offered the following dos and don’ts in terms to interact with or utilise influencers:

  • Do: Bring influencers on board early to contribute to the creative planning and campaign development – they are experts in engaging their community and can provide early guidance on what will and won’t work

  • Do: Be strategic and think long term – a consistent relationship builds credibility and will do more to win over new audiences

  • Don’t: Think influencers come free – they are each their own personal brand and if a company wants to tap in to that, they need to pay

  • Don’t: Make it all about you - shoe-horning brand messages into influencer content won’t work. Let the influencer tell you what’s natural to them.

Pictured: Some of the typical influencers on social media

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