Influencer marketing: the good, the bad and the ugly

Today’s media landscape can feel busy and cluttered, and some brands try to find innovative ways to advertise. One of these ways is influencer marketing. If previously and in some countries still (like China), celebrities are the chosen influencers to promote their products, now and in most of the world, the way to go is to use macro and nano-influencers that can reach a niche, valuable audience. In this article, we’ll look at the trends in today’s world regarding influencer marketing, how the pandemic affected things, when to consider this medium, and how to go about it and measure your investment. 

What is influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is a collaboration between a brand and an influential person to promote the brand’s product or service through a campaign. Initially, brands used celebrities as endorsers, and many of them still do. But as trust is the main ingredient for buying a (new) product, brands have realized that people closer and more like their customers could be a better bet when it comes to recommending and promoting their products and services.

Hence, brands have started using more and more influencers with a certain number of followers from the audience they want to reach out to. These influencers are being followed for inspiration, their honest opinions, and even expert advice. Brands collaborate with these influencers to engage their audiences through recommendations, sample lending, giveaways, and other forms of creative campaigns while increasing the brand’s equity and drive sales. 

Nano-influencers are the ones with as little as 1,000 followers on one social platform. Micro-influencers grow up to 10,000 followers, while the macro-influencers have around and above 100,000 followers. Nano & micro-influencers tend to play a more significant role in Europe and the US, while China and the Middle East are still leaning towards macro-influencers and celebrities. 

Macro-influencers and celebrity influencers can provide brands with a reach that, in some cases, surpasses other traditional media. At the same time, micro and nano-influencers are better for targeted niche engagement and even sales-driving.

As with anything, it depends…

Influencer marketing is one of the newer ways a brand can promote itself. But it’s a tactic out of many, so no brand should rely just on this means for both brand equity and demand objectives. And as any tactic, its efficiency and even choosing it depends… on your industry, on your budget, on what you’re offering and, on your objectives, of course.

Industries such as consumer goods, beauty products, food & restaurants, or fitness apps tend to use influencer marketing to a more considerable extent as it’s easy to measure sales here. Still, other brands focus on brand awareness and include influencer marketing in their marketing mix.

If you are considering using influencer marketing as part of your marketing mix, there are a few steps to research to see if this can make sense. In the further reading section, you can find some links that detail this further should you need to explore more:

(1) Set your influencer marketing objective. Do you want to increase brand equity or care about driving sales more than anything?

(2) Depending on this, start researching the influencers that have a similar vision to your brand, speak in a way that resonates with it, and have the right kind of followers. If you have the budget, work with an influencers agency and save yourself time. This step can be quite time-consuming, but it’s key to engage with the right influencers if you want the right results.

(3) If you do this yourself, reach out to the chosen influencers personally, proving you have researched them, that you know them, and what you want from them. Expect to pay for their services. Give them the copy and creatives you have but let them personalize those according to their voice. 

(4) Decide on the ROI you want and set up the proper tracking codes or coupons to measure the campaign effectiveness.

In a survey done in February 2020, eMarketer asked PR and Comms professionals worldwide about the ROI they choose to prove an influencer marketing campaign was or was not successful. The leading replies were about engagement rates increase, reach, CTR, and video views, and very few chose vanity metrics like the number of likes and shares.

The (might be) good

Influencer marketing is a relatively new tactic. It might work well for specific industries to promote a new brand, a product launch, communicate directly with your audience, and acquire new sales. Especially in business to consumers, the ability to spread and reach multiple and very diverse audiences can make much of a difference. 

Personalization for these influencers campaigns also goes a long way. Each of them will talk about your product in a way that resonates with their audience, increasing the chances of your brand being perceived as cool by a lot of more different people. It can work better than one message to all viewers or complement it perfectly. 

Tracking these campaigns has improved a lot, so you’ll optimize in no time, remove the influencers that don’t contribute to getting the results you want while always adding new ones, or keep working with the suitable ones.

The (might be) bad

It’s hard to think about how influencer marketing can work for the business to business side. Maybe not impossible, but I wouldn’t waste my time, and instead channel the marketing tactics efforts into different directions.

Also, for business to consumers, this won’t universally work. Influencer marketing is all about beautiful pictures and trust-building, and for some industries, it’s just not the right channel. Imagine certain drugs specific to a particular disease. Or, an MBA. These are products or services that can hardly be successful with an influencer marketing tactic. 

Also, in the end, even if this tactic can work, it is time-consuming if you do it yourself. It can be hell to manage the relationship with the influencers. On the other hand, if you use an agency, the cost might be quite high and prohibiting, but at least you’ll leave a big chunk of management to someone else, and you can focus on your overall strategy and maybe some other tactics. 

The ugly

Once you’ve started a collaboration with an influencer and they’ve shared things about your brand, products, or services, there is no way back. And there were cases in which the influencer was then involved in a scandal or fraud. That’s not something you want to happen, and it’s not happening often, but if it does, you need to be prepared. There were even celebrity endorsers that affected the brands they represent, so make sure you have a contingency plan ready and be able to deal with your brand reputation management.

Pandemic shifts

Agencies see a shift in how the influencer marketing tactic is being used during the pandemic, reflecting the audiences’ interests adjusting to living in today’s changing reality. “Advertisers that would normally work with creators on makeup and skincare products have switched to household goods, like cleaning products, air fresheners, and hand sanitizers,” said Mary Keane-Dawson, group CEO of influencer marketing agency Takumi. “They’ve been using the same influencers, but to activate very different products that we haven’t experienced before.” 

Other areas that have shown an increase in activity in terms of influencer marketing are app developers, notably in the fitness, food delivery, and personal finance spaces. This comes as no surprise given the adaptation some industries needed to take on during these times. Also, brands like the retail banks in the US have turned to influencers during these times purely to build their brand equity with their audience – a smart move from when the economy will start returning to “normal.”

Given these times have limited in-shopping, and caused a decline in outdoor advertising and social ads, many brands turned to influencers to help promote their products and reach their audience in their homes – while probably getting a better deal from influencers given the overall downturn in demand. 

Further reading: