Influencer marketing is a complex space.
As the practice evolves, multiple propositions compete on the market ranging from talent management agencies and specialist influencer boutiques, to influencer marketplaces and dedicated influencer management platforms.
There have been several high profile examples of influencer marketing going awry, which has led to increased pressure from authorities to bring clarity on paid publications from influencers.
This has also contributed to the overall noise and confusion that can overwhelm any marketer wondering how best to approach this new opportunity.
Fundamentally influencer marketing is a suggested response to what I call the ‘CMO Dilemma’.
The CMO Dilemma refers to the staggering divide that exists between the impact of influencer content on customers compared to brand content and advertising, and the fact that brands still spend their marketing money mostly on advertising.
The CMO Dilemma therefore raises two key questions:
- How can brands have a positive impact on authoritative content (or organic content from relevant individuals)?
- How can brands optimise the ROI of their marketing budget by better aligning spend with impact?
To put it bluntly: how can I transfer part of my huge media investments to create positive impact on authoritative content through influencers for my brand?
Clearly such a shift will not happen overnight; it is a journey of testing, learning, measuring, optimising, scaling.
And that journey is paved with traps, false promises, apparent shortcuts that are dead-ends.
Influencer marketing can be roughly segmented in two different models of business, each of them rely on a different set of technology.
One model – I call it ‘influentizing’ – believes that the value of influencers is in their reach and that influencer marketing consists in placing advertorial in their content in the same way brands have been buying ads in magazines.
This approach is facilitated by a flurry of tech players claiming to build ad-buying platforms for influencer channels: So-called influencer marketplaces.
Influencer marketplaces aim to match brands and influencers based on simple criteria, facilitate engagement through standardised processes and provide consistent KPIs that attempt to mimic advertising performance measures.
These models provide some seemingly great benefits for brands and marketers: Implementation is easy, you can scale fast and produce immediate results.
While many startups still try to play the influentizing game, the demise of precursor Klout with his Perks offering tells enough about the shortfalls of the influentizing model and its emanation, the influencer marketplace model.
When not properly implemented, limited coverage and a poor understanding of relevance generate very poor targeting.
Industrial engagement and reward mechanisms go directly against the concept of organic and authentic endorsement that is the core value of influencer content.
2. Influencer relationship management (IRM)
More seasoned brands have realised that influencer marketing’s success relies on building long term, authentic, mutually beneficial relationships between brands and relevant individuals.
This approach is supported by a new type of platforms called IRM (for Influencer Relationship Management platforms).
IRM platforms provide a technology to manage relationships with key influencers, activate them, and measure their impact.
They enable brands to manage influencers in the same way these brands manage customers but looking at social data and share of voice rather than purchasing data.
But authentic influencer marketing requires persistence, a collaborative approach and a long-term view.
Building relationship with influencers takes time and patience and often retooling of a marketing function.
Transforming your advertising led marketing strategy into a content driven engagement approach that will deliver authentic impact on social conversation is a long but necessary journey to impact audiences.
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