Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement in January that the social network is changing its algorithm to highlight posts from friends and family members in News Feed, rather than posts from businesses and media groups, was no doubt a jab at pop-ups and banner ads. But it was also seen as a move to filter out inauthentic brand-sponsored influencer content and counteract “influencer fatigue”—consumers’ growing skepticism around the authenticity of influencers.
Many of us were left wondering how that decision would affect the way advertisers reach consumers, not to mention the way consumers relate to brands.
The reality is that Facebook’s move will have a negative impact on traditional advertising. But because many companies today have already begun investing heavily in social media marketing strategies—$1 billion was spent on Instagram influencer marketing last year alone—the real challenge will be whether businesses can leverage social influencers to create truly authentic content that can rise to the top of News Feed.
Improving influencer impact in 2018
It’s no secret that the influencer industry is booming. Industry revenue was valued at $2 billion in 2017, and it is expected to grow to $10 billion by 2020. And with research showing that 67 percent of marketers believe partnering with social influencers improves their campaigns’ outreach and impact, that increase is likely.
But how do we improve the way consumers perceive influencer marketing?
The solution is quite simple: Companies must invest more time in selecting their influencer partners. There are corporate platforms available that can match your brand with influencers who will complement your campaign goals. But if you prefer the do-it-yourself approach, these four strategies can help to build long-term partnerships that resonate with your target audience:
- Only work with influencers whose content is authentic: Partnering with influencers is an ideal way to connect with a digitally focused audience. But your investment is only worthwhile if your influencers are producing honest, authentic content that aligns with your brand’s values and message. Sure, you can easily buy likes and followers, but only influencers with unique and believable content can establish trust with your consumers—and generate the best return on investment. Make sure to vet potential influencers before you strike a deal. Look through their feed, read their stories and monitor their follower engagement. Verify that their content is unique—never recycled posts or photos—and give bonus points for humor, transparency and real-life examples. Be sure to check out their follower-to-following ratio. Trustworthy influencers will traditionally follow 1 percent to 5 percent of their “following” population—anything more or less should send up red flags.
- Consider the big impact micro-influencers can make: Influencer marketing might be associated with images of celebrities promoting brands and products, but big-name influencers aren’t always the best choice. They usually require big paychecks and generate minimal results. However, smaller-scale influencers—micro-influencers—often have more clout with their followers because of their relatable and authentic content. And micro-influencers generate higher engagement on social media at an affordable price. Research influencers who are already trending and resonating with your target audience. Narrow down potential partners by looking at their feed engagement level. Opt for those who get likes and respond to some comments, and rule out influencers who have too large a following. Research has shown that engagement is highest when influencers have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers.
- Locate influencers with a personal attachment to your brand: The best way to promote authenticity and build trust with your audience is to team up with influencers who already love your brand. Their sincere enthusiasm for your brand will have a greater effect on consumers than someone who sounds more like a paid mouthpiece. Try creating a brand ambassador program—it’s the most efficient way to locate influencers who do love your brand. And if you’re trying to keep marketing expenses down, zero in on micro-influencers who will promote your brand in exchange for product compensation.
- Track partnerships with data analytics: It’s critical to monitor business investments to ensure that you’re getting the maximum return on investment, and partnerships with influencers are no exception. Data analytics programs allow you to keep tabs on your influencer partnerships and measure the impact of each post, enabling you to adjust marketing strategies quickly and efficiently. Try using Instagram’s analytics for business accounts or customer surveys to get qualitative and quantitative data on the effect of various marketing campaigns. And explore other measurement platforms, like the real-time, cloud-based Google Data Studio or Google Analytics.
Don’t get stuck struggling with influencer fatigue. Your brand can sail smoothly with these four strategies to build strong influencer partnerships and craft authentic marketing campaigns that truly resonate with your target audience.