Every week lately, there seems to be a new article about the pitfalls of influencer marketing.
An agency created fake influencers to see if they could get sponsorship deals (spoiler: they did). The FTC is cracking down on influencers and celebrities who don’t disclose their relationships with brands. Instagram employees are selling verification at a premium to those who want to raise their profile. Based on the headlines, it seems that influencer marketing is rife with shady practices. Don’t believe it—using trustworthy influencers is still an effective way to get the word out about your brand, products or services.
Consider this: according to a 2016 study by Twitter and analytics firm Annalect, 49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions. That’s almost as much as they trust their real-life friends, and much more than they trust advertisers. Influencer marketing is an effective discipline when used right, and it’s here to stay. For brands, the secret is knowing how to cut through the noise to find the right—and credible—influencers that align with your brand values, your brand voice and your campaign.
Influencer Marketing Advantages for Brands
As issues of ad fraud, transparency in media buying and use of ad blockers remain at the forefront, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands to effectively reach their target markets in the digital eco-system. Display ads are receiving an average clickthrough rate of just .05%, which is dismal by any standard. Influencer marketing allows brands to leverage existing relationships between influencers and their audience.
Here’s why it works:
• People trust influencers more than brands. A 2015 study by Ipsos showed that only 4% of consumers think the marketing and advertising industry acts with integrity. In a 2017 study by Womenkind, 80% of women say they don’t trust advertising. Having an influencer whom they already trust singing the praises of your brand goes a long way toward bridging that gap.
• Most influencers are legitimate. Fake influencers grab headlines, but most influencers are hardworking, genuine people who have built their following with authenticity and engaging content.
• Aspiration and inspiration sell. Influencers build their following by inspiring others. Their followers want to emulate their lifestyles, which make them a powerful vehicle for delivering brand stories, especially when their advocacy is credible and genuine. Recent research by Unilever found that 40% of female consumers do not identify with the women they see in advertising. [Unilever said it would stop stereotyping women in marketing and advertising.] Who they do identify with are the women in their lives that they follow on social media platforms and blogs.
• Influencer marketing has a higher ROI than other types of digital media. 11x the ROI, according to a 2016 Nielson Catalina Solutions study.
Influencers Must be Vetted to Ensure Legitimacy
When choosing influencers for your next campaign, it’s important to vet them thoroughly to weed out those who are peddling fake influence or pumping followers to ‘sell’ broad reach. Here’s are 4 important things you need to know when vetting influencers:
1. Social networks are cracking down Most of the negative press surrounding fake influencers focuses on Instagram, and they’ve taken preliminary steps to crack down on fraud. Expect more enforcement of violations to their terms of service, and expect more social platforms to follow suit.
2. Look for signs that influencers are legit… or not A large number of followers and very low engagement is a huge red flag that a user has potentially bought followers. There are several free and paid services that allow you to do an ‘audit’ of a user’s social media followers to determine authenticity, including Twitter Audit and FollowerCheck.
3. Work with an agency that specializes in your industry vertical and can vet influencers for you Influencer marketing agencies that work directly with influencers and even have prior experience with influencers in your industry will ensure that there’s a real person with a real following behind that social media profile.
4. Beware of ‘do it yourself’ automation Technology-enabled influencer marketing platforms may be cheaper to hunt and track influencers, but you don’t always know what you’re getting. Marrying the technology with human analysis and insights is required to ensure the ever-important match between a brand’s value and story, and an influencer’s values, expertise and trustworthiness.
Influencer marketing is experiencing some growing pains right now, but brands would be wise to not only keep it in the marketing mix, but better understand how to effectively integrate the use of trusted influencers into their overall marketing and media plan. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to boost brand esteem, establish trust with an untrusting audience, and ultimately grow brand awareness and conversion to sales.
Karen Koslow is co-founder + managing partner at Wellness Amplified, an influencer marketing agency focused on the health, wellness + nutrition verticals. Wellness Amplified partners credentialed influencers with digital followings – healthcare professionals, wellness practitioners and healthy lifestyle advocates, with brands wanting to reach health-minded, wellness-aware consumers at scale.