Influencing With Impact: Driving Real Value with Authentic Influencers
It is undeniable that influencers have a huge impact on how brands connect with consumers—but how do we know what is authentic and what is not, and how do we track real ROI? With all its momentum in the past few years, accountability will now be at the forefront of influencer marketing initiatives. As platforms continue to evolve and the influencer marketing industry matures, it is essential for marketers to conduct due diligence and combat against inauthenticity in partnerships, follower counts and engagement metrics. Brands must partner only with key influencers who are already having the right conversation with their audiences and can authentically champion their voice in the marketplace. The most successful campaigns will be integrated partnerships that combine key influencer voices, compelling custom content targeting specific brand objectives, and will be amplified across owned, earned and paid to drive long lasting results.
There is no one-size-fits-all for the perfect influencer campaign. The focus has swung from top-tier influencers with over 1 million followers, to micro-influencers with high engagement but low reach, and everywhere in between, so how do you know where to start? The most important pieces to determine first are the key messages, target audience and desired KPIs. Establishing your goals and footing to the corresponding metrics (see graphic below) will align your strategy and ensure you leverage the right platform, influencer partner and CTA to deliver the most impactful campaign.
The blessing and the curse of digital media has always been the metrics, and the fixation on influencer follower numbers has given rise to many influencers purchasing fake followers to help boost their organic following, as well as increase the interest and dollars they can command from brand partnerships. Engagements, such as likes and comments, can also be purchased.
Follower counts, reach projections and engagement rates are essential influencer marketing metrics, and as brands continue to allocate more budget toward influencers, they must also analyze the health of each influencer’s reach to ensure real reach and ROI.
Brands must determine the overarching purpose of their influencer partnership in advance: Is the brand partnering with influencers for their reach and engagements? For their ability to create engaging custom content in a cost-effective way? Or both? It will depend on the campaign. When partnering with an influencer for their reach and audience engagement, it is extremely important to ensure the health of their audience. When partnering with influencers for their creative content production (and amplifying across owned and paid media), the focus can be on their production capabilities and voice.
Analyzing an influencer’s community allows brands to identify who is having a real conversation with an engaged, targeted audience.
There are measures that can be taken to analyze engagement and follower health. We integrate a health analysis into our vetting processes by leveraging proprietary technology platforms that flag suspicious followers and identify bot clusters that may artificially boost the metrics of specific influencers. This extra layer of in-depth analysis helps our team approximate the percentage of fake accounts that are trying to inflate follower numbers or engagement rates and ensure we are recommending the best influencer partners.
- Follower Spikes – Examine the history of audience growth to ensure that sudden spikes in follower growth were organic.
- Audience Geography – The language and content of the influencer’s posts should align with the geography of their followings. If you see a large following from a country that speaks another language, that should raise suspicion.
- Engagement – If audience engagement is consistently extremely low (< 1%), this is a red flag not only for potential fake followers; it also confirms that posts on their channels will not deliver on engagements. In turn, any influencer with extremely high engagement (> 10%) can also be a red flag, as they may have purchased engagements.
- Comment Quality – Vet comments from followers to ensure they are on topic and relevant to the posts. Watch out for general statements like, “This is so cool,” as generally broad language can be a sign of commenting bots.
- Audience Time on Platform – View the length of time an influencer’s followers have been on the platform. If there’s a large number of followers new to the platform, that’s a red flag.
While evaluating authenticity and driving accountability are essential to successful campaigns, it’s also essential that influencer marketing not live in a silo. With the numerous algorithm changes over the past few years, it is more important than ever for brands to ensure they are maximizing the exposure of their influencer-created assets and, in turn, maximizing their ROI on influencer campaigns. We don’t simply rely on organic influencer posts across social media to drive effective messaging, as most platforms’ algorithm changes have evolved to a pay-to-play model. Therefore, our teams create custom campaigns with integrated owned, earned and paid media strategies to amplify and optimize influencer content across influencer and brand channels for the highest impact.
For example, our team orchestrated a comprehensive influencer strategy through a fully integrated campaign with Adobe & Coca-Cola, “CokeXAdobeXYou”-promoting Adobe Creative Cloud. We partnered with digital creative influencers from 11 different countries to seed out a project using Adobe tools to create custom assets inspired by the Olympics and Coca-Cola. The campaign showcased the influencers’ creative process and we maximized impact by promoting both the brand and influencer content across all forms of digital and earned media. The campaign resulted in 700+ Paid Creative Cloud Memberships, 3,000 trial downloads, over 23 secured press articles and 1.8 million total engagements. The key to this campaign’s success was the holistic approach, which extended beyond a simple organic posting play, created actionable results that substantially increased Adobe subscriptions and drove trial sign ups.
Influencer marketing throughout 2019 will center around working with authentic brand ambassadors who are open to collaboration on a more integrated basis. Influencer created assets will be amplified across owned, earned and paid media to drive long-lasting results. Authenticity and accountability are top of mind when we develop strategies for our clients. We make sure to work through the extra step of vetting influencers’ audiences before engaging in a long-term partnership to ensure brands’ key messages are being received and campaigns are delivering both meaningful and measurable impact.
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