Talking Influence was a media sponsor of Bad Influence founded by Hachi Digital, so, we took a train to London to attend in what was indeed an interesting morning discussion packed with insights and advice on the latest influencer marketing trends. The development of influencer marketing has presented many new, diverse and complex channels for marketers to reach their consumers. As it’s changing so rapidly, we are seeing different methods in how the channel is being managed and regulated. Two fantastic panels discussed the fast-moving, ever-dynamic realms of influencer marketing and how the industry should navigate through it.
Up first was the brand and agency panel. Kaya Cheshire from Hachi Digital was joined by Abi Morrish, chief partnership officer at indaHash, Mark Dandy, founder of Bee Influence, Jennifer Quigley-Jones, founder of Digital Voices, and Lauren Spearman, digital manager at Benefit Cosmetics UK.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the session:
Thumbs up to rules and regulations
One of the first questions posed was around the ASA regulations, which changed in September last year so influencers now have to announce whether they have been paid or gifted. Kaya kicked things off: “Have you seen the regulations affect the industry and are we moving in the right direction?” Lauren raised her concerns around the fact that these regulations should be applied across all media, not just influencer marketing.
Meanwhile, Abi welcomed the regulations and agreed that the influencer industry should be held to a different standard but she would rather be part of an industry that was highly regulated than the opposite, as that’s more sustainable for the future. Her main concern was around influencers’ confusion regarding regulations, stating they should be liable. “One-third of consumers don’t understand regulations, which is quite dangerous. However, 86% were distrusting of influencers because they didn’t know if the post was sponsored or not; so, not being honest is the thing that is driving the lack of trust. In my opinion, we must increase trust through transparency,” she said.
Jenny Quigley-Jones made a valid point regarding YouTube regulations, indicating that you need to know before you click on a video that it is sponsored, meaning the disclosure has to go in the title or thumbnail, both of which are bad for optimisation. She felt YouTube creators were getting punished by the fact that there isn’t a ‘paid partnership’ feature on the platform compared to the likes of Instagram, which has such methods in place.
Mark highlighted the ASA are maybe two or three years behind what marketers are currently doing now – marketers move at such a fast pace, the advertising boards can’t keep up. Hence why, the most recent regulations were aimed more towards celebrities, whereas influencer marketers have gone from working with macro influencers to now nano influencers. “The nano influencers on Instagram (with only a few thousand followers) may not even realise there are such rules and may end up being punished as a direct result; therefore, as a brand or agency, educating influencers on the regulations is crucial.”
Finding the right influencers
Mark pointed out that influencers will have friendship groups within the influencer community and when they work together they can create better content, for example, highlighting the importance of excellent relationships and taking an all-encompassing approach. “Bee Influence takes an audience-first approach, looking at influencers’ audience first before working backward to the content created, the number of followers and so on.”
On the other hand, Abi said she doesn’t have the time to meet influencers face to face, so has a different relationship as indaHash is about efficiency and scale. They have a strict audit process, which looks at the high engagement rate first and foremost.
Lauren stated the most important thing to ensure is that the influencer is right for the brand and has high engagement, regardless of follower size. “For Benefit, relationships are key as it is how they receive so much coverage. We’re steering away from influencers that just take a nice photo and look to those who actually influence people.”
What about Instagram creator accounts?
With Instagram revealing plans for creator accounts just days before the event, Abi believes this will be one of the biggest changes in the industry this year, following evidence of influencers’ organic reach slipping due to the change of the platform. Now, Instagram will make money from influencers by getting them to promote and boost their posts with ad spend; so naturally, organic reach will decline as brands will increasingly be asking influencers to boost posts to reach wider audiences.
Improving pricing standardisation
It was apparent during the panel session that pricing standardisation is something the industry can improve. Mark said that if you were going to go into a salary negotiation, you would know your own worth and negotiate a wage. Although he added, there is still a bracket and one of the hardest things in the industry is pricing – especially from an agency point of view. Influencers say they think pricing depends on the brand and brief but it should perhaps be dependant on cost per view or cost per impression.
Mark also believes prices will rise as the industry becomes more professional and expects a higher standard: “Our demand for content is only going to increase, so brands are likely to work with more people and therefore the best influencers, who will then become high in demand.”
Abi continued, stating pricing should be linked to performance, with influencers able to justify their rate based on the level of engagement. She said the lack of knowledge is astonishing – many influencers don’t have any data of their performance. “The easiest way the industry could move forward is if performance and pay were linked and influencers can justify their rate,” she said.
However, Lauren disagreed and said the pricing will only rise because there is demand. “There is always someone else to go to if the influencers can’t negotiate a price. I don’t want to undervalue influencers’ talent but if they can’t justify their price, a brand like Benefit won’t pay for it,” she said.
On the other hand, Jenny believes prices will drop as there are so many options and so much great content. Abi added the supply will continue growing but the quality will also develop exponentially with it.
Trends in influencer marketing
Lauren thought we will see more multi-talented influencers – not just those who take a pretty photo but those that have more skills. Meanwhile, Abi suggested the influencer market will move to a paid media market rather than an organic market, which will be a big shift for everyone. The advantage is tech platforms can focus on where that post is going, and laser target ads. She believes it will sustain the industry better and attract more clients to the discipline.
Furthermore, Abi told us she recently read some research that stated our behaviour to share publicly is declining and as a result, platforms will start protecting these spaces and encrypting, making it much more about those one-to-one smaller conversations.
Kaya said she recently attended an event about trends that are dying and organic social was one, making her raise the question, “will Instagram turn into a fully-paid service at some point?”
Mark continued that although we are seeing a slight decrease in engagement rates on Instagram, he doesn’t think Instagram will go down the same route as Facebook, as “69% of people say they go to Instagram to engage with celebrities and influencers. Therefore, the content can’t be so stifled users leave the platform as people need content to consume on Instagram.”
The Q&A covered social responsibility, whether to contact influencers through talent managers or contact them directly and if brands should invest in TikTok.
The influencer panel
The second half of the session was an influencer panel, with Zac from Zac & Jay, Sabrina Stocker, Marta Fabiani and Shalisha Kay taking to the stage to talk about how they think the industry is changing and the direction it is moving,
Kaya kicked off the panel by asking the influencers about the regulations and how it affects them. Shalisha said that having transparency means that followers can trust her and think it helps, whereas Sabrina who came into the influencer industry later on, said it makes influencers think about what they are posting and how it will actually influence the audience. Marta continued, stating that the rules help followers see it as a job and not just a lifestyle.
Their perception of influencer marketing in 2019?
With content being produced to such a high standard these days, Shalisha believes it is becoming very saturated as everyone wants to have the sort of lifestyle. “But the regulations help separate the serious influencers from those who don’t take it as professionally, as the serious influencers will follow the rules,” she said; “it also pushes me to work harder as an influencer.”
Zac thought it was an exciting time for brands as they start to work on riskier influencer campaigns. Meanwhile, Sabrina stated influencer marketing is becoming less filtered in 2019 and instead, there’s a movement towards using influencers to encourage positive messages. Marta agreed, saying 2019 will be the year of reality where influencers come together to promote social change.
What can agencies and brands do to support influencers?
Shalisha encourages brands to communicate clearly as the influencers will be the ones representing the brands, and the best way for them to do that is to know exactly what the brand is like. On the other hand, Zac wants to see more risks taken on small creators with crazier concepts, with brands letting influencers have more input. Meanwhile, Sabrina said she doesn’t want to be approached by brands with an idea that has been done before, so she wants to see brands go against the status quo. Marta would like everyone to understand the creative process that goes into influencer content; see more education in the industry and brands with dedicated influencer teams that have the knowledge to execute an influencer campaign.