It’s a new normal, and the changes that the pandemic has brought about has influencer marketing moving towards a new way of operating. More and more, influencer marketing is adopting the affiliate model for payment. It’s true, the advertising world took a little while to get its head around influencer marketing. But if the basic idea seemed far-fetched a decade or so ago — that a person at home with a webcam might generate the kind of meaningful audience a brand would pay good money to be associated with — it is certainly true now, and it’s evolving rapidly in the compressing economy.
Influencer marketing gets results
A 2019 survey found that businesses make $5.20 for every dollar spent on influencer marketing, and the most sophisticated generate $20 or more. Many brands plough huge amounts of their focus into influencers, particularly in areas such as fashion, and most marketers — 63%, according to Influencer Marketing Hub — were planning to increase their influencer marketing budget in 2020.
Partnerships such as Missguided’s work with Love Island contestants, Gillette’s 2019 campaign mixing athletes with family bloggers and gay influencers, or Dyson’s inspired tie-up with various shaggy dogs of Instagram, all demonstrate that the best influencer marketing may or may not use big-time celebrities but it always taps into native social-media culture.
Evolve to grow
Most agree the key principles of influencer marketing are things like authenticity, genuine engagement and choosing influencers carefully and then letting them drive. But the challenges remain: how to find the right influencers, how to reward them fairly, how to measure the investment against other channels.
Partly as a result of the enormous growth of the online culture in which influencer marketing operates, the channel now finds itself at the next stage of its maturity, where its ROI, scale, variety and standards of professionalism have turned it into a performance marketing discipline alongside affiliate, mobile, B2B and the rest.
Like those other channels, influencer marketing essentially depends upon effective partnerships. And the increasing sophistication of influencer campaigns calls for new technology and automation systems to manage and measure them.
Here’s how technology works with influencer programmes
Just as affiliates do, influencers enter a business partnership with a brand or company, and that relationship needs proper foundations. Some brands need a means to search for the right influencers and recruit them, and technology has made that, as well as the CRM to engage and grow partnership programmes, into a far more manageable process.
Then there need to be contracts, which should bear comparison with those a brand signs with its other partners. As the influencer scene has become more crowded, brands have become more specific in who they choose to work with and the results they expect. So we have begun to see a shift beyond likes as a measure of success, in favour of metrics that make a link between influencer partnerships and business outcomes.
As the mature affiliate business has long demonstrated, fair and accurate commission rates are vital to a healthy and successful partnership. Likewise, influencers need to be reasonably remunerated. A client might want to pay a social influencer a small commission any time they are involved in a conversion path, whether or not they won the last click. Other types of conversion might result in shared pay-outs based on numerous different factors. The key is that influencers know how they are being rewarded and can tailor their own work to a client’s goals.
Influencers were born out of a guerrilla approach to technology, and technology has been key in enabling this sector to thrive. Partnership automation can help brands manage their partnership workflows, track the consumer path and harness data for insight, optimisation and decision-making.
It is clear that influencer marketing has reached a critical mass in recent years — one that allows it to share a platform with other tried and tested performance marketing channels without compromising the integrity of its appeal to consumers. It is also expected that more influencers who, before the Coronavirus turned our lives upside down, would not have accepted anything outside of pay-per-post are now comfortable working on a performance model.
Lastly, it is inevitable that brands and influencer talent will continue to evolve their approaches and their expectations, but we think this performance model will continue to rise as influencer marketing develops, underpinning and facilitating the innovations that come next.