Aaron Brooks, Co-Founder of Vamp describes the trends he sees for influencer marketing in 2020
Last year, there were 3.7 million brand-sponsored influencer posts on social media. It's estimated there will be 6.12 million in 2020. But the industry is changing as fast as it's growing. Therefore the the strategies that brands are using, will need to change for the new decade .
With 65% of brands planning to increase their influencer marketing spend in 2020, technology marketing leaders should take notice of infuencer marketing to ensure they achieve return on their investment.
In the early days of influencer marketing, brands were obsessed with finding collaborators who had the biggest following possible. Technology marketing leaders assumed that the wider the campaign reach, the better result they were able to achieve. But it didn't quite work out that way. Marketers realised it wasn't the amount of eyes on an influencer post or ad, it was about having the right eyes. That means choosing an influencer that is relevant to the brand. This helps the partnership feel more believable. It also gives the brand a sense that the influencer's followers will have the same interests and therefore be receptive.
But technology marketing leaders can now go one step further and guarantee that an influencer's following is the right audience, with Instagram Insights, a native analytics tool that provides data on follower demographics and actions, as well as content. This information makes it easy to compare content, measure campaigns, and see how individual posts are performing. As well as providing the vital statistics of content creators, brands can find out more about the audience - gender split, age range and location. Marketers should be setting this data against objectives to connect with the most relevant influencers.
Scrutinising the analytics in this way will also help technology marketing leaders to safeguard against influencer fraud, which is a rising concern. This due diligence will give technology marketing leaders confidence that their influencer's audience is genuine and engaged and not inactive bot accounts.
Technology marketing leaders still seeking wide reach are now finding success through Instagram's boosting function. This allows an influencer post to be seen by users, far beyond an influencer's following. Posts can appear native and in an Instagram user's feed, but can be targeted with precision. Or with strategic paid media campaigns.
It's not just the way influencers are being chosen for briefs that is changing, the brief is evolving too. After seeing the high quality of work that influencers were creating for brands as part of collaborations, many technology marketing leaders are now regarding influencers as a readily available content creation resource, which is reducing advertising spend away from traditional agencies.
Almost half of marketers want total control over sponsored influencer posts, according to a recent influencer study. For marketers used to masterminding a brand message and ensuring it is implemented consistently; allowing influencers freedom to represent their brand, without strict guidelines can feel daunting. But telling an influencer what to say can also be problematic. Technology marketing leaders using influencers are therefor working in a highly impactful area, but with little control on the quality. Those technology marketing leaders succeeding with infuencer marketing are therefore swapping creative direction for creator direction.
Influencers know how to convert, without the hard sell. At their best, infuencer collaborations feel like a recommendation from an expert. At their worst, shoehorned marketing jargon and unnatural references can lead to brands and infuencers failing to be authentic. Authentic, influencer-lead content has a better chance at cutting through the noise than something that resembles traditional advertising. There is a real appetite for raw authenticity, with the surge of unfiltered posts on Instagram and the popularity of TikTok with its rough editing, unfiltered and unpolished videos.
Influencers, if given the creative freedom, can tell the brand's story in their own voice in a way they know their audience will respond to. Brands need to remember the reason they chose influencers in the first place - new ideas, creative thinking, a captive audience - and not squash this with tight controls.
Vanity metrics or Sales metrics
Initially influencer marketing campaigns were judged on the number of likes and comments they were able to create. Engagement was prized as highly as reach and was used to justify influencer spend. No wonder so many were horrified when earlier this year, Instagram decided to kick off their hidden likes trial. Suddenly like counts were no longer public, but tucked away and visible only to the person who posted.
In 2020, likes and comments should be a natural byproduct of a good influencer marketing campaign, not the sole objective. A campaign should drive customers to action whether that's downloading an app, going in store to get a sample or making a purchase. Those are the metrics marketers should be focussed on.
While they are trialling hidden likes, Instagram is working on functions that will prove more valuable for brands. There's the swipe up function in Stories and Shoppable tags in feed and in Stories. Marketers should demand more. Set clear objectives and use these Instagram's e-commerce functions to achieve them.
Influencer marketing isn't in for an easy ride. Creators need to keep innovating, platforms need to keep evolving to maxmise these functions and will be held accountable to even higher standards in the future. But if that means its strengthens the channel's output and reputation, then it can only be a good thing.