Article

Mark Henshall
Mark Henshall 8 June 2017

How Influencer Marketing diversification can convert customers

High-profile cases of non-disclosure and issues of transparency have recently brought into question Influencer Marketing’s rules of engagement for brands, influencers and regulatory bodies. However, reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.

Following the Fyre Festival Influencer Marketing disaster earlier this year there were hundreds of column inches devoted to the rise and fall of Influencer Marketing and how it had caused irreparable damage to consumer trust. Though the event did highlight legitimate concerns about Influencer practises it also raises a different question around who holds the power to influence purchasing decisions.

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In the early days of Influencer Marketing, the focus has been on Influencers with a capital ‘I’ as brands have chased Instagrammers and Youtubers, for example, with huge reach. The next evolution of Influencer Marketing will see diversification as brands move towards niche or ‘micro-influencers’ with less reach but higher engagement. Brands will also begin to use customers and employee advocacy programmes more, where these individual influencers who possess high levels of trust within their networks can be activated at scale.

Partly this is due to brands moving on from the ‘honeymoon’ period of Influencer Marketing and waking up to industry calls for more authenticity, clarity and rigour around paid ads, and accurate measurement of influencer campaigns. Recent guidelines from The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and moves from bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and ISBA (Voice of British Advertisers) are encouraging.

However, it is also due to the power other kinds of influencers have to convert customers. McKinsey & Co state: “Marketing inspired word of mouth now generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising and is the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.”

The Influencer new wave

A new wave is beginning to emerge across multiple sectors from automotive to fashion as innovative brands put micro-influencers, customers and employees at the heart of their business as a catalyst to generate positive business impact and growth.

Influencer marketing diversification is being fired by new technology that is giving brands the ability to manage, scale and measure micro-influencer, customer and employee influencers’ online activity and report this accurately to shareholders.

Word of mouth marketing through social media is now a key factor in driving purchasing decisions. Again McKinsey & Co state: “The impact of social media on buying decisions is greater than previously estimated and the pool of the most effective influencers is largely untapped.”

Influencer marketing customer and employee examples are taking off across the industry:

  • Airlines: Cathay Pacific, Air Mauritius, Air Canada and Icelandair
  • Automotive: Ford, Nissan, Harley Davidson
  • Beauty: L’Oreal, Sephora, Burberry and Bumble and Bumble
  • Consumer technology: Apple, GoPro, Hewlett Packard, Belkin
  • Entertainment and media: Atlantic Records, Netflix, Sony and Warner Bros
  • Fashion: ASOS, All Saints, Lululemon, Aritzia
  • Financial Services: Avidia Bank, HSBC, Capital One and RBS
  • Telecoms: Vodaphone, Orange, Three and Ericsson

Brands that are able to tap into their employee base, for example, will gain a significant advantage not just in employee engagement, retention and the war on talent but also in customer retention and acquisition.

According to ‘The Official Guide to Employee Advocacy’ by LinkedIn “the click through rate (CTR) on a piece of content is 2x higher when shared by an employee versus when shared by the company itself”. The guide goes on to say: “According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, people are 3x more likely to trust company information shared by an employee than that shared by a CEO”.

Managing growth

According to Edelman Digital’s 2017 Trends Report by 2020, it is predicted that ad blocking will cost publishers an estimated $35 billion in revenue. This is the time then for Earned Media to step up and connect with customers in a new way. According to Edelman Digital’s 2017 Trends Report, the upside to finding a path to a better model of Influencer Marketing is huge.

“Targeting – and reaching – consumers has become increasingly difficult for marketers. There is no end to the proliferation of content, information and entertainment vying for our attention. To make matters worse, the social algorithms that are filtering brand content are more savvy than ever, making organic reach a distance memory.

“We predict that, in 2017, Influencer Marketing will play a newly central role in the marketing mix. With the right execution, it will become one of the most effective and measurable digital tactics with the ability to deliver brand awareness, sales lift and direct sales attribution.”

Brands should respond by identifying influencer programs and looking for partners with a combination of:

  • Influencer management experience
  • Technology tools for identification
  • Automation, measurement and CRM

Part of being a switched on brand will mean closer, authentic relationships with micro influencers with more highly engaged communities than mass influencers. Their audience tends to act with more passion as they feel more connected to the micro-influencer and their content.

According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, 65% of respondents rate “a person like yourself” as a credible or extremely credible spokesperson. At the heart of influencer marketing for customers and employees is the trust that each individual has with their network of friends, family and peers meaning any endorsement from them carries a lot of weight.

As Mark Zuckerburg himself said: "People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising."

Big Influencers aren’t going to disappear from the marketing mix, but the reason Influencer marketing remains a huge business opportunity is because the diversity of influencers is only just beginning to be understood.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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