With the new year around the corner, now is a good time to re-evaluate your past marketing strategies and gear up for the year ahead. For some businesses, influencer marketing has simply not seemed to live up to its lofty promises of genuine engagement, credibility, and transparency. Some have claimed that it has been failing to even ‘influence’. In response to these disheartening statistics and findings, one writer declared influencer marketing a phony industry.
Today, social media use has experienced a global boom due to national lockdowns, with record-high adoption and engagement rates. Furthermore, these new user habits are projected to remain long after the pandemic has ended. In fact, by 2022, brands are now projected to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing.
As we begin to formulate new marketing strategies for the months ahead, now seems like the best time to examine why some marketers have failed to succeed with influencer marketing – and how to avoid these same pitfalls to best maximise influencers for your brand.
Influencer Marketing Works
Let’s first dispel any myths about the industry: influencer marketing does bring very strong returns on investment for businesses, oftentimes far better than other forms of marketing. Not just in terms of generating positive brand sentiment and awareness either, but tangible revenue.
So, why are some businesses struggling with it?
Looking back at some of the charges levelled against the industry, it seems that many of the problems faced by marketers who failed to fully leverage influencer marketing resulted from four of these common mistakes:
1. Worrying about a lack of complete creative control
Influencers, when used in the right way, are creative collaborators rather than human billboards. Their followers have come to expect a certain style of content, a particular tone of voice, and a unique individual brand. Unfortunately, many brands worry that influencers, when left to their own creative process, will misrepresent a brand by putting out content misaligned with their campaign.
These worries result in businesses choosing to work with the most compliant influencers who are willing to put out the exact content a business wants them to. The resulting content, while aligned with the business’s campaign, ends up being misaligned with the influencer’s own personal brand. Unfortunately, followers tend to see right through this.
The hard truth is that businesses that wish to fully leverage the power of influencer marketing will have to learn to trust their influencers.
That’s not to say that they need to relinquish complete creative control over their campaigns. They will, however, need to let content creators inject their personal voices and styles into their content, imperfections and all. That human element is, after all, why their followers love and trust them.
2. Thinking that bigger is better
One easy pitfall to slip into is the tendency to think that more followers always means better results. This is simply not true. For many campaigns, businesses might actually do better with smaller budgets spread across micro or nano-influencers rather than a big celebrity influencer.
This is because a high follower count does not translate to good engagement rates or ROI. In fact, the opposite is sometimes true.
Businesses that spend big on huge influencers when their campaigns do not call for it, however, often see poor ROI.
Surprisingly, smaller influencers tend to have more influence over their followers, with greater follower loyalty and trust. Followers who trust the opinions of their influencers are therefore far likelier to purchase a product or service upon their recommendation. This is especially so if your influencer produces niche content relevant to the type of product or service you offer.
There’s a right time to opt for mega or macro-influencers, and a right time to opt for micro or nano-influencers.
It falls to businesses to understand their own marketing campaigns and make the right judgements about what type of influencer is best suited for their campaign.
3. Believing influencer marketing cannot be authentic
Another misconception is that trying to create sponsored content on platforms built on the premise of authenticity is somehow paradoxical.
It’s not! One of the cornerstones of a strong influencer campaign is working with an influencer who is passionate about your brand, and whose personal brand is aligned with yours.
When you find influencers who truly love your products, you never compromise their authenticity. Followers who know their influencers can tell when their opinions are sincere, regardless of whether the content is sponsored or otherwise. Furthermore, influencers who are true believers of your brand will often go the extra mile to make their feelings known.
When your campaign’s content angle aligns with an influencer’s own personal style of content, it also caters to their audience. On the contrary, sponsored posts that deviate from an influencer’s usual style stick out like a sore thumb.
This incongruous, out-of-place content is what some marketers have ended up creating with their influencers, and this content is often received poorly by followers.
The key thing to remember is that, beyond thinking about what an influencer can do for you, brands should consider what they can do for their influencers and their followers.
For many influencers, working with brands they love is already a huge plus point. However, accommodating them by allowing them to promote your products in a manner true to their own image and brand can truly elevate your campaign and ensure a win-win situation for every party involved.
4. Forgetting the power of narratives
Finally, influencer marketing is more than just paying an influencer to promote your products. It’s easy to forget the power of storytelling when it comes to influencer marketing, but a compelling narrative is still as important here as it is in any other form of advertising.
Why is your influencer sending out a sponsored post about how amazing her new desktop computer is? Without context or a story, followers will be quick to write off the post as just another uninspired ad.
Branded content without a story to tell will likely fail to find an audience, and these are the campaigns that often do not do well.
Consider this: perhaps your influencer has been unable to afford a new work computer for several years due to financial constraints, and she has been putting up with a sub-optimal workstation that has been costing her time and effort. In comes your business: you have been following her social media for some time (you are fans of her content) and noticed that she was having difficulties with her laptop. So, your company sends her a free, high-end computer that has been personalised just for her. Grateful, she puts up a post detailing all of this.
This makes for a far better story, and it can be a completely unstaged and genuine one too! Followers who see this will likely be much more interested in hearing what your influencer has to say. They will also, in all likelihood, have formed a positive impression of your brand.
Remember the three basic parts of every good story: a situation, a conflict and a resolution. A good influencer campaign will incorporate these elements, all while undergirding it with an emotional foundation.