The value of influencer marketing has become an increasingly moot point, but marketers still intend to spend big in the coming months to secure the sought-after approval of prominent individuals across Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and other platforms.
According to new research from Takumi, 96% of marketers will commit some kind of spending on influencers over the next year.
At the top-end, around 10% of marketing leaders in the UK are set to dedicate at least £100,000 of their budget over the coming 12 months to influencers.
A further 25% estimate their budget to be between £10,000 and £100,000, while 39% state they will spend up to £10,000. 26% of marketers now feel influencer marketing is a more effective way to target consumers than other forms of traditional advertising or display ads.
Not dead yet?
To some, the entire construct of paying what is most commonly a group of early-twentysomething social media starlets on the periphery of mainstream media vast sums to simply use a specific hashtag in a social post, or be pictured holding or wearing a product in public, is seen as absurd and on occasions, ethically dubious.
However, Mats Stigzelius, co-founder of Takumi, states that the findings from his firm’s latest study highlight that influencer marketing is largely misunderstood by those outside of the marketing department.
“A lot of people are saying that influencer marketing is an over-hyped fad - that there’s no ROI and it’ll soon disappear…[however] brands recognise its value and are therefore dedicating big budgets towards it.
“Of the professionals we surveyed, 61% stated they now feel they are able to accurately measure engagement levels and return on investment, and as platforms like Instagram continue to roll out new features to signpost promoted content, that’s only going to increase.”
Recent Captiv8 research found that the more followers on any given social media platform, the greater fee a top influencers can command. However, with some of the most followed YouTubers commanding levies of up to $300,000 per YouTube video, Stigzelius believes a vital tactic for influencer marketers is to establish quality over quantity.
“The size of the accounts used in marketing campaigns is particularly interesting. Many people still wrongly prefer macro influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers, but the reality is that you now reach the same audience with micro influencers, while also benefitting from higher engagement.
“For example, working with a celebrity might give you one social media post. Working with micro influencers, you could generate the same reach and 100 pieces of social content with exactly the same budget. From our experience, we’re seeing more and more brands realise that celebrity isn’t everything and ditching big names in favour of micro-influencers. It’s a trend we only expect to continue.”
What you need to pay for is interaction.
Indeed, Takumi’s study revealed that when selecting influencers, 56% of respondents deliberately choose accounts with fewer than 250,000 followers, suggesting marketers are becoming increasingly savvy to this particular point.
Speaking to MyCustomer in March, Nicola Millington, director of FP Comms, said that this rule has now become sacrosanct to determining how she picks influencers for her clients’ marketing campaigns.
“When I’m looking for an influencer, I don’t look at quantities of followers. You can buy followers. So the measurement can’t be that.
“We have to see how the interaction takes place between their followers and the post. If an influencer has 1.6m followers but a post only gets ten likes, you know that their interaction levels and relationship with their followers are not authentic.
“What you need to pay for is interaction.”
Substance over style
Nick Cooke, co-founder of the Goat Agency, a social media influencer agency, agrees with Stigzelius’s statement that metrics matter most.
“You should be looking at proper metrics – how many average engagements are they getting, how many average impressions are they delivering, how much actual power do they have when they include a link in their description? These are the hard metrics that will drive proper sales.”
There are, of course, some hazards with any influencer campaign, as Digiday journalist Shareen Pathak highlighted last year, in an interview with an anonymous social media exec about the phenomenon.
“We threw too much money at them [influencers] and did it too quickly. So in 2014, they were making $500 to show up and take some photos. Then it became $1,500. Now it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. They no longer value their art.
“I remember I once did a speaking thing to a school of young social media people, and they asked, “How do I become an influencer?” So I asked them what they were good at. And they said, “Nothing.” We’ve gotten to the point that if we have a meeting with them, and we ask what they do, and they say “influencer,” we don’t hire them. If they say photographer, we do.”
Millington believes the market of rogue influencers is slowly bottoming out, and that as rapacious influencers are marginalised brands will devote more money to influencers with a genuine skill and passion that relates to the products and services they offer.
“There’s definitely a power in using influencers to raise brand awareness,” she says. “Especially when you find influencers and bloggers who are more consistent with their content and are actually following their passion and not just pursuing a paycheque. There’s a distinct difference.”
As a result, one of the biggest upticks in influencer marketing activity has come via the B2B market, and is not solely resigned to social media or backing evanescent YouTubers.
There’s definitely a power in using influencers to raise brand awareness.
“Innovative B2B marketers are increasingly connecting with industry analysts, industry bodies, thought-leaders, management consultants, independents and online influencers - capturing insights and knowledge that they may then share with their audiences, and capitalising on their sway with their buyers,” says Suzannah Archibald, head of analyst relations at CCgroup.
“From identifying the business issue that you need to solve, through to research, selection and implementation phases, B2B sales journeys typically occur over a long sales period, and commercial decision-making often involves multiple people being involved throughout any procurement process.
“Third-party sources of information that are trusted and influential can create substantial advantages for B2B companies ranging from shortened sales cycles to larger deals and an increase in leads and revenue.”
If influencers really can start offering this kind of measurable value to brands, £100,000 a year may soon be a drop in the oceans when it comes to dedicating budget to the practice.