Brands are increasingly on the look out for influencers and an entire market has been built around connecting brands with them to reach consumers.

But when it comes to wooing consumers, particularly young, digital natives, are brands focusing too much on influencers and not enough on influence?

For many brands, an online influencer campaign typically looks something like this:

  • An influencer appropriate for the target market is identified.
  • Directly or through an agency, the brand engages the influencers to promote a product, service or initiative.
  • The brand pays the influencer for access to his or her audience.

According to media reports, some influencers, like Instagram star and fashion blogger Danielle Bernstein, can earn upwards of $10,000 for a single post.

For brands, the costs associated with influencer campaigns seem reasonable.

Influencers with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers provide quick and easy access to audiences that, in many cases, brands would need to spend far more to reach via traditional channels.

Therefore paying $15,000 for a sponsored Instagram post that is viewed hundreds of thousands of times and might be liked by thousands, seems like a good deal.

But is this enough?

One of the biggest problems with influencer campaigns is that the engagements are typically very short in duration.

While some brands have developed robust, multi-channel campaigns around influencers, the sponsored post model is far more common.

This can help brands juice certain social metrics short-term, but the long-term effects are questionable. In most cases, the only way brands can sustain their gains is to continue purchasing sponsored posts. 

Another problem with influencer campaigns is that, unlike endorsement deals with celebrities, there is typically no real commitment between the influencer and the brand.

For example, very few influencer deals resemble the relationship between H&M and David Beckham, or Jennifer Lopez and L'Oréal Paris.

This is a blessing and a curse for brands. On one hand, brands can work with even the most popular influencers at a total cost that wouldn't even get them a lunch meeting with a traditional celebrity, but on the other hand, they rarely get the same level of alignment between the influencer's brand and their own.

The inconvenient truth is that many brands are spending time and money on influencers but they might not be receiving nearly as much influence as they'd like to believe.

To address this, brands need to think longer term and consider that the efficacy of their campaigns requires deal structures that provide for greater integration and activation with the influencers they're relying on to help them reach consumers.

Patricio Robles

Published 19 June, 2015 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (4)

Lee Odden

Lee Odden, CEO at TopRank Marketing

This is why I've been a big proponent of content co-creation with influences vs. "buying" their time like an ad. With investment in creating something of mutual value, there is more alignment with the brand in a way that is meaningful to the influencer's community.

almost 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

There was a classic example of "influencer fail" in the recent UK election, when opposition leader David Milliband paid court to celebrity anarchist Russel Brand, in the hope of getting an electoral boost.
http://order-order.com/2015/04/28/miliband-pays-homage-to-russell-brand/

"Russell Brand admits he 'f***** up the election' for Ed Miliband and Labour"
http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/576768/Russell-Brand-regrets-urging-people-to-vote-for-Ed-Miliband-and-Labour

This was widely seen as risible, a reaction that Machiavelli would tell you is fatal to a brand, so the moral is to choose your influencer carefully.

almost 3 years ago

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Tim Downs, Director at Aberfield Communications

Definitely seems to be the fashion to focus on influencers for an instant hit rather than trying to build a brand that is seen as influential in its own right. We understand that this is a long and challenging process but you need to strike a balance, especially with the amount of engagement required to drive consumers to the point of purchase and then to hopefully turn them into advocates.

almost 3 years ago

Heledd Jones

Heledd Jones, Marketing Manager at Admiral Loans

Lee took the words out of my mouth - co-created content goes some way (but not all the way) of addressing this..... Interesting post and increasingly interesting area!

almost 3 years ago

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