What brands need to know about working with influencers

As with every other industry, social media has disrupted and (to an extent) democratised the advertiser-consumer relationship, thanks to the rise of YouTubers and Instagrammers who command a higher level of trust from their fans than traditional spokesmodels. So what will influencer marketing look like in 2019?

The first thing brands should know, which probably won’t come as a surprise, is that Instagram is the social network of choice when it comes to partnering with content creators on ads. More than 90 per cent of all online influencer campaigns in 2018 took place on Instagram, with Kylie Jenner, Selena Gomez and Cristiano Ronaldo ranking as the most highly paid influencers on the platform that year, according to Media Update.

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Sure, a post like this gets millions of likes, and the use of a discount code means the company will be able to track conversions (measuring the ROI of influencer posts has been a problem for brands and agencies in the past).  But since influencer pricing is still very much a free-for-all, there’s no way of telling whether the sales Team I made from this post cover Jenner’s fee. And on top of that, it’s just a bit, well… boring, isn’t it?

A one-off post like this may well generate sales, and perhaps more importantly, awareness of your brand, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the creativity of your company or the person posting about it. New rules from regulatory bodies like the ASA and FTC mean that influencers have to be upfront about paid posts and include “#ad” to avoid confusion, but this also seems to have led to a certain degree of laziness in the nature of the content itself.

These sorts of posts are continuing to do well for the time being, but there is a growing sense of scepticism when it comes to Kardashian/Jenner-level influencers hawking health and lifestyle products with the implication that this is how they look so good, when personal trainers, regular facials and the occasional cosmetic procedure also have a part to play. Just this month, Kendall Jenner became the new face of Proactiv, and claimed that this cured her acne, when a cursory Google search proves that she visited a licensed Hollywood dermatologist.

That isn’t to say influencer marketing is all a scam, merely that savvy consumers want to see a clear relationship between the brand, product, and personality. Authenticity, as always, carries so much currency.  

Another avenue which brands are exploring is the micro-influencer; namely a blogger or creator who has a smaller following than your Zoellas and Kim Kardashians, and so will cost less to work with on sponsored content, but still has the likelihood of high engagement. “Collectively, micro-influencers are flipping the celebrity-influencer/consumer-fan paradigm on its head to a person-to-person interaction where size does not matter and influence is no longer exclusively relegated to celebrities or influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers,” says Ismael El Qudsi, CEO of influencer marketing platform SocialPubli. In a recent study carried out by the company, 99 per cent of mico-influencers said that they believe in the products and services they promote. 32 per cent said that that they maintain engagement by being authentic, while 27 per cent do so by interacting one-on-one with their followers.

A growing number of brands are also starting to experiment with the benefits of forging longer-term partnerships with influencers, as opposed to paying a lump sum for a one-off post which may or may not generate satisfactory returns. Champagne brand Moët & Chandon, for instance, has teamed up with five “top tier” influencers on a year-long ambassador programme which will comprise commitments both on and off their profiles. In fact, these ambassadors were specially selected for their media nous and ability to convey brand messaging outside of a sponsored post.

“I love a person that looks great in photos on Instagram, but can they be used for live interviews or press opportunities? Can they be used in a video? Can they do live segments?” Says brand director Christine Ngo-Isaac. “Those are really important things because there’s no shortage of influencers right now.”

Clive Reeves PR