Don't Let Influencer Marketing Eclipse the Basics
There is no doubt that with the ascension of social media, the strategy of influencer marketing has taken hold as the newest surefire way to engage consumers in a variety of industry verticals, with us even seeing strategies thought to only fit in the B2C space, being deployed in the B2B space somewhat successfully. But for some the concept is under the microscope as to whether it isn’t just endorsement marketing in a shiny new package, what makes it different if it is not, and what are the other inherent risks lurking in the shadows that could be affecting a business’ bottom line if they’re not deploying their influencer strategy with all things considered.
This was my topic of conversation during a recent interview with Mitch Fanning, VP of Marketing at Clickback, the St.Catherines Ontario based company providing cloud-based B2B lead generation software products.
Drawbacks of the Influencer Strategy
During our conversation, Mitch and I discussed a few things he felt were important to note when looking at this strategy from a big picture approach. First of all, it can be very short-lived, an important thing to consider when measuring the ROI on time invested versus true visibility in the market.
The second point Mitch brought up, was the loss of control an organization may experience when they leave the dissemination of their message in the hands of another. He asked the pertinent question: “will they convey it in the way you want?” This then brought to mind another unforeseen risk that could quickly sour a brand experience when left in the wrong hands. What happens when an influencer, who by association may seem like an authority on a product or service, is asked to elaborate on a message and falls short or worse, causes injury to the organization’s premise through the use of misinformation?
As Mitch and I also discussed in the video, nothing ruins the credibility of an influencer more than seeing them promote something entirely unrelated to their personal brand or, as I've seen, be one of numerous influencers all promoting the same product, the same way, within a two day period. That is an oversight I see happen all the time, so much so that I as a consumer could tell you the day quite a few brands released their influencer campaigns.
This all reminds me of the first widespread lesson rooted in my brain since I was first learning the art of marketing, the importance of content, context and placement. Marketing teams need to ensure their influencer campaign is equipped with the right content for their message and platform, that the context is timely (such as consideration of current events or proximity to other campaigns) and the placement is on the right social platform for a particular audience.
These are all underpinned by the biggest overall risk Mitch explains: “Trust is non-transferable. You’re relying on someone who has actually built trust with their audience to recommend your product or service thinking that that trust will actually transfer to your product or service, and that’s just not the case, you can’t buy trust.”
Why Are So Many Choosing to Influence?
Amidst the unknowns, why has influencer marketing become so popular? Is it riding on the good faith endorsement marketing has incurred during its long tenure in the marketing space? Or is it the thrill of the ‘new’ for those who still see it as a fresh approach?
In doing a little research, there is a benefit of ROI but interestingly enough, the greater draw of influencer marketing seems to be the significant difference in quality of customers attained. This aligns with a thought I had in a previous article on the topic: “The influencer strategy is hinged on the peer phenomena. It may be smaller pockets of fans per individual but with that comes higher engagement, trust and loyalty through a more personal connection they have with their following. Social media has created entirely digital friendships, and why wouldn’t you buy something your friend suggested or told you that they love?”
Personally, influencer marketing can work very well and it has for so many brands, marketing teams just really need to kick the tires on the concept, weigh it out to see if it is the best laid plan for a given goal, and make sure they’re not just choosing it to be one of the cool kids. There are risks as Mitch pointed out but again like so many others, they can be mitigated with thoughtful planning and execution.
The influencer strategy does follow a very similar script to the celebrity endorsement marketing model, however the fact that the individual used is more of a peer, it could stand to reason that the product or service in question becomes more appealing. For example, I don’t believe Jennifer Aniston actually uses Aveeno Daily Moisturizer in her personal skin care routine, but if a trusted beauty guru I knew and loved from the Instagram world recommended it, I may give it another look. Maybe that is the very secret sauce that makes the influencer strategy successful, it is just more believable when done well.
Tom Fishburne, Founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios said it best with “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing”. The best influencer campaign won’t look like a campaign, a consumer won’t feel targeted as a consumer and an influencer won’t look like they’re selling out to influence the sale of a product or service. Sounds easy, right?