Welcome to the Wild West of Influencer Marketing

The reality is that influencer marketing is not a quick fix. There are lots of challenges in creating effective campaigns and lots of variables to think about.

Influencer marketing is a topic that is brought up at most meetings these days, and while it has been the core principle of a public-relations approach (third-party endorsement) it is fast becoming a channel of choice for many agencies, regardless of the sector in which they operate.

Why is it becoming fashionable to talk about it? Because at first glance, it looks an easier way to build brand recommendation far more quickly than creating branded content on owned channels. Because it gets a brand in front of an engaged audience that hangs on every word and recommendation from their influencer of choice.

The reality, however, is that influencer marketing is not a quick fix. There are lots of challenges in creating effective campaigns and lots of variables to think about.

Choosing the correct influencer is key. Knowing how engaged and interested the influencer’s community will be in a brand is critical. Having a huge number of followers means a potential less targeted campaign, which is why many brands are choosing to work with a higher number of influencers with a lower but more engaged and appropriate audience.

Managing contracts and dealing with agents is also a challenge. Yes, many influencers now not only charge to collaborate with brands, but also have agent representation. Brands now sign contracts and have to give up a degree of control about what the creative output looks like–yes, it’s not advertising.

There are also now guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority to deal with, and influencers must declare when products have been provided by the brand and whether they have been paid. Google and the ASA both frown heavily on not declaring a paid relationship. The impact of this is that the influencer’s own following could now view the recommendation of products as being less authentic, which negates the “independent” value of the recommendation in the first place.

Then we come on to the tricky subject of measuring the return on investment of influencer programs. Increasingly this is becoming a paid channel to work within. This means that the budgets will sit on a media plan and need to be considered alongside the ROI of other channels. At the moment, this can be problematic, as there is little consistency between influencers in how they are charging programs, and in the main part, the influencers do not see past the actual content creation rather than its commercial impact.

An additional challenge in getting an influencer program off the ground is that many media buying agencies will look at the work that needs to go into managing an influencer program versus running a Facebook or Instagram campaign and will shudder at the necessary time required.

I have focused on the challenges, but I have seen the benefits of running influencer programs and being able to measure their effectiveness versus other channels in driving quality traffic and sales conversion.

Brands need expert guidance. We will shortly be running a webinar in conjunction with Instagram to help shine a light on how brands can effectively work with influencers within the food and drink sector. Do get in touch if you’d like to participate. Drop an email to prteam@threepipe.co.uk or tweet me directly at @JimJimHawker.

Jim Hawker is the co-founder of integrated marketing agency Threepipe.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.