As marketing budgets have shrivelled and consumer habits are likely to have changed forever, it’s more important than ever to get the most bang for your buck with influencer marketing efforts.
In a regular year, an average B2C business will spend something in the region of 6.5-10% of total revenue on their marketing efforts – quite a sizable chunk. Given the immense impact of COVID-19, it’s fair to say that we may not experience a ‘regular’ year for quite some time and the purse strings look to stay tighter than ever.
Globally, the WFA (World Federation of Advertisers) says TV investment will be down 33% across this year with other traditional advertising forms following similar trends (OOH -49%, print -37%, events – 56%). By virtue, influencer marketing hasn’t suffered as heavily but is by no means firing on all cylinders, with spending forecast to decrease by 22%. In total, global ad spend is set to be down 31% for the year.
So with budgets reduced, how do we continue to deliver results, service our clients and ultimately create work to write home about? The answer seems a simple one right? Be more clever with money, but within that, there are a few tactics which can help.
Everyone loves receiving something in the post. The fact of the matter is, you don’t always need to set up formal agreements with contracted fees or deliverables to work with influencers. Many influencers who have an affinity towards a certain brand will produce and share content in exchange for products or gifts. This strategy means the brand has less editorial control over what the influencer posts, but it really is surprising the calibre of influencer who will share content. The more unique or personalised the gift, the more exposure (usually).
Take, for example, last year’s Disney premiere of Frozen 2. Influencers were gifted a literal box of snow and prompted to build their own ‘Olaf’ or snowman. It worked incredibly well, with many influencers going above and beyond to build and share their own creations. Although, this might prove difficult in the summer months, maybe a box of sand for a castle?
Trendsetting with creative strategy
UGC is nothing new, but in 2020 when there are more creators than ever before, it’s more accessible. Platforms like TikTok essentially operate on the premise that anyone can set or join a trend. Any TikTok creator worth their salt will know that authentically ‘piggybacking’ off the momentum of a trending song, hashtag or filter can give them extra views or exposure.
If your budget is lean but awareness is one of your campaign objectives, this can be a great strategy. Work with a handful of creators to start the trend and then encourage their audience to join. Instagram giveaways, dance trends and TikTok sound bites are all examples of this. From an awareness perspective – being part of this ripple effect is one of the most desirable outcomes from social marketing.
Work as collaboratively as possible with creators whilst setting your strategy. Even if you have the most gifted creative department working on your briefs, few people will know how to spark a trend with a particular audience better than the influencer themselves.
Focus as much on small numbers (shares, clicks, saves) as big numbers (impressions, likes)
When evaluating talent to work with on a campaign it’s important to look beyond the surface ‘vanity metrics’ or the big numbers i.e reach, likes, followers. The small numbers can be a real indicator of how well an influencer’s content resonates with their audiences and then the action it prompts them to take. These stats aren’t openly available to the public, but most talent managers will be more than happy to share with prospective clients.
Often front end stats are great, but back end stats are super impressive and may otherwise go unseen. Industry rates generally dictate that the more followers someone has, the more expensive they are, when in fact with a little bit more research you can get far better ROI with less spend.
An example here is the back end stats for Alex Crockford’s home workout videos. The likes and comments are great but what really stands out are the shares and saves. Over 2,000 people thought the content was so good that they needed to ensure they came back to it later or to make sure a friend saw it. This indicates a truly engaged audience and one that is likely to take action.
Make sure that there are as many clickable options as possible
In its early days, influencer marketing was largely a branding or awareness tactic. Back then social platforms would do everything they could to make it harder for users to click ‘off-platform’ in order to maximise user retention. This has since changed and there are a number of features that allow users to click on custom links shared by creators. Be sure to utilise every single one of these features in your campaigns (clicks are one of the small numbers mentioned earlier).
Make sure that you have time for quality control at posting time. There is a one hour window after posting for maximum CTR, which you don’t want to miss. The Instagram and Facebook algorithm gives preference to the most recent posts. If you have an influencer post due to go live during a key engagement period e.g. 6pm, there will be many competing posts going out at this time. If there is a mistake in your post or a link has been forgotten, make sure it gets edited as quickly as possible as every minute counts once it’s been posted. Once it’s at the bottom of people’s feeds, it’s not coming back up.
Use the production budget if part of a wider campaign
One of the things COVID-19 has highlighted within our industry is that a single creator, located solely within the confines of their flat can rival full production teams. Moving forward, if possible, allocate more of your production budget (usually one the biggest expenses) towards the influencers. Influencers today are firstly able to produce high-end content quickly and secondly, amplify that content to a targeted audience.
Affiliate links or revenue share will give you room to negotiate on price
Think outside the box when compensating for your talent. Creating a unique affiliate link or revenue program for the influencers creates a win/win situation. The influencers are able to earn a commission for the revenue they contribute and you create a lot of room for negotiation on the upfront fee.
This seems like the most obvious point of all but there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to influencer fees. It’s important that you don’t barter to the point of offending people, but you don’t need to take quoted fees at face value. There is always room to negotiate on rates or offer non-monetary exchanges e.g. equity, gifts, repeat work.
Longer-term campaigns, economies of scale
Working with an influencer on an extended basis presents a number of benefits in terms of brand equity and consumer and recognition. Additionally, from a budgeting perspective, the benefits are massive too. You’re usually able to negotiate a package deal for multiple pieces of content, rather than paying the face value of 1x Instagram post, for example.
According to many 2020 was marked to be the year for influencer marketing. The year where it properly broke through to the big leagues, with 57% of marketers saying they had planned to increase their influencer budgets for the year on a whole. Obviously, there have been a number of unplanned roadblocks that have slowed this increased ad spend.
However, the industry has been accelerated in many other ways. Social media use has gone through the roof, people are producing content at a rapid rate and so many new creators have shot to fame almost overnight. If we can think creatively about the changes in budgets, it is exciting to see how the industry will look this time next year.