Influencer marketing is going from adolescence to young adulthood, according to Digitas’ Social Media Week panel, “Influencer Marketing’s Next Frontier: Best Practices for Successful Partnerships Today & Tomorrow,” hosted by Billy Boulia, VP, Social Strategy and attended by Kyla Brennan, Founder & CEO, HelloSociety, Grace Flynn, Lifestyle Blogger, The Doughnut Diaries and Rob Gregory, President of Sales & Marketing, WHOSAY,
“Influencers can make dramatic shifts in a brand’s success within a target audience,” Boulia said while opening the panel. “An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his her authority, knowledge and relationship with his her audience or niche.”
The VP, Social Strategy at Digitas also revealed some eye-opening stats, namely, that, when done right, influencer marketing delivers 11X reported ROI over traditional OLA. No wonder, as he added, 86% of marketers said they’ve executed an influencer campaign and, out of those, 92% found it “highly effective.”
Boulia also delivered “A Brief History of Influencers,” from Aunt Jemima in the 1890s to Babe Ruth in the 1910s, Santa Klaus in the 1930s, Ronald Reagan and the Marlboro Man in the 1950s and, finally, the Old Spice Man in the early 2000s—a period that also coincided with the rise of the “celebrity-influencer”—best exemplified by Britney Spears’ iconic 2002 Pepsi Super Bowl commercial and the advent of social media, from MySpace (2003) to Snapchat (2011).
“Authenticity, Relevancy and Relatability are the most imperative and successful traits,” Boulia said, adding that they were as current during the celebrity influencer period as they are now that influencers are the new celebrities. Regardless of the size of the influencer—Brennan said that she found that they get “some of the best engagement” from micro-influencers while Gregory added that their overall value lies in their ability to “persuade other humans to do, feel or buy something” regardless of number of followers, as the WHOSAY President said.
But talent alone is not enough. For a campaign to be successful, it must have distribution and measurement strategies. “Paid media on top of organic distribution,” as Gregory put it. “So, if you find true talent who can have that ability to persuade an audience beyond their organic followers, you can scale that influence and that persuasiveness with paid media.”
Self-professed micro-influencer Flynn agreed with her fellow panelists that regardless of the size of the influencer’s following, “the content that you make is relevant.” Ultimately, this is why the influencer’s followers will trust her as well as the brands she partners with.
Another crucial element of influencer marketing campaigns that work and deliver results is what Gregory calls “consumer value exchange.” “You have got to have some kind of value proposition in the content that you create, no matter how big the talent you’re working with is,” the WHOSAY President said. How do you do it? By creating content that’s “UFIRE” (Useful, Funny, Inspiring, Relatable, Emotional) or some combination of these.
Of course, none of these fantastic content would perform as intended if it’s not optimized by platform. “Designing for cross-channel usage: there’s more to it than just Instagram. You really have to dig and understand who the influencers really are and the platforms they make the most impact on in regards to their followers, where they produce the best content and why,” Boulia said, adding that not going against these influencers methodology and the way they relate their audience was paramount to preserve authenticity.
These types of relationships between brands and talent can lead to becoming truly co-creators. “Having [the talent] involved in the briefings is a new thing that brands have been open to,” shared Brennan. “We’ve had brands fly influencers to the headquarters and literally sit them at the table with their executives and come up with the ideas. Those have been our best campaigns. It’s good to give them a literal seat at the table.”
“The brands are getting better at this fast,” added Gregory, who explained that it wasn’t that long ago when brands were on set with the talent hoping for “some improvisation and some reimagining” beyond the brief. “[Brands] were willing to learn how much rope to give the talent and how much freedom to interpret a story in an authentic way.”
Gregory added that consumers’ shift of trust away from institutions and towards other humans and individuals has helped the rise of influencer marketing. “Away from companies that aren’t purpose-driven or create meaningful products and towards other humans, individuals and talented people and influential people. We see this as a bigger trend than influencer marketing per se. It’s bigger than social media.”