Dumb and Dumber: Brand vs. Influencer

By: Krista LaRiviere on November 25, 2015 Categories: Content Marketing, Mintent

When it comes to influencer marketing, there is still a massive learning curve for the masses involved. Like so many shiny new objects in marketing, many brands are willing to toss money at it in the hopes something will stick. Influencers are more than willing to take the money without knowing their potential or full impact. This leaves us wondering, who is being dumb and who is being dumber?

What qualifies me to weigh in on all of this and hint at both brands and influencers being a little daft on the topic? Personally, I have been in corporate marketing for over a decade, dealing with various digital marketing strategies, including influencers and social media marketing. On the flip side, I have also been a parenting and lifestyle blogger for nearly 5 years. I have worked with brands the likes of Disney, Fisher-Price and Sears, to name a few. I have watched this trend grow and have noticed key pain points on both sides.

Influencer marketing is an incredibly fast growing tactic, with reports such as one published by Forbes showing an up to 37% higher retention rate in customers gained. However, influencer marketing still lacks the level of metrics and insight other areas of digital marketing have established. There are some tools out there to help you measure influencer marketing campaigns, but they typically don’t tell the full story. Sure, they can provide insight into engagement, shares and referral traffic. However, they don’t have metrics as in-depth as needed on conversion paths or off-site content engagement and they certainly do not provide details on how a campaign is impacting an overall digital marketing strategy and search discoverability.

[x_prompt type=”left” title=”Influencer Marketing Toolkit” message=”Are you thinking about adding influencer marketing to your mix? Use this detailed template as a guide to create a comprehensive influencer marketing toolkit that you can share with your brand ambassadors.” button_text=”GET THE TOOLKIT” button_icon=”briefcase” circle=”true” href=”http://www.gshiftlabs.com/community/resources/how-to-guides/influencer-marketing-toolkit-template/”]

It’s a matter of tying new digital marketing strategies together with the old. Adapting to the changing industry trends, while still maintaining the diligent planning and monitoring of traditional marketing.

With both sides of the divide shooting blind, it can leave everyone wondering where to begin, what the impact has been and when to end a campaign?

Influencer marketing and advertising are two different things and should be treated as such.

Influencer marketing is not a form of advertising.

One mistake brands often make is to assume they can control influencer messaging the same way they can with traditional media. Influencer marketing may be a way of promoting your brand, but it is not advertising, nor should it be treated like it is. While it’s important to provide an influencer with key messaging and accurate information, the overall tone and words used need to sound like their own. They must be genuine.

Likewise, influencers should not write sponsored content as if it is an ad. It is important for sponsored content to be properly identified and for the audience to understand the influencer has been compensated for creating the content. However, the opinions, good or bad, should always be those of the influencer and should not be contrived out of mandatory wording from a brand.

Bottom line, in order for influencer marketing to work and have any merit at all, it needs to be genuine and honest. [x_button shape=”square” size=”mini” float=”none” href=”http://ctt.ec/f1e1s” class=”gtweet” target=”blank” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]Tweet this[/x_button]

There is a massive lack of influencer marketing analytics on both sides.

The need for influencer marketing analytics.

Trying to conduct any form of marketing without analytics to provide insight is like driving without a map. Influencer marketing is no different. You need to be able to make informed decisions on what is having an impact and what is not.

For brands, diving into influencer marketing without a strategy or proper insight into engagement and conversion data, can leave you without a clear picture of a program’s success or lack thereof. Before you even select your potential influencers, determine how you are going to measure the engagement of the campaign, by individual, by channel and/or by any other relevant metric your organization may be interested in tracking.

On the influencer side, it is in your best interest to be able to demonstrate your true impact to brands. Influence means so much more than just the sheer size of your audience. Creating brand campaign reports using your own data can help you highlight the amount of actual engagement and influence you were able to provide. It helps to build your own brand and ensures you are an influencer companies want to continue to work with on future campaigns.

Influencers are a valuable part of your marketing strategy and should be budgeted accordingly.

Paying for Influencer Marketing

There is a very, very strong misconception that brands do not need to pay influencers. Let us be clear here, we are not talking about your brand’s own advocates or evangelists. When looking at actual influencer marketing as a component of your digital strategy, we are talking about influential people, who have an audience you want to reach into and don’t have access to now. These people may or may not already be familiar with your brand. You are reaching out to them with key campaign messaging and are asking them to market your products/services on your behalf. While the dollar figures may be up for negotiation, there is an amount you should be budgeting for when looking to work with influencers if you expect to derive value.

Using Smart URLs to track engagement from influencer marketing.

Using smart URLs for tracking influencer marketing

As mentioned above, the lack of data-driven insight around influencer marketing is a challenge facing nearly everyone involved. While you can obtain some data from your basic website analytics provider, it will generally not provide you with insights into what is happening outside the scope of your own website; which is increasingly where the bulk of content engagement is happening.

Using smart URLs can help to track the click engagement generated each individual influencer and specifically by each channel they are using for distribution. Smart URLs provide advanced analytics, which can addresses the challenges facing both brands and influencer, by providing complete visibility into owned and earned content.

A good smart URL tool can be configured to quickly identify and analyze the top influencers and marketing channels, engagement by geography, customer conversion paths and top performing content, as well as compare and contrast performance across various channels and campaigns.

Influencer marketing into 2016 and beyond.

From everything said at recent digital marketing conferences and all of the feedback we are hearing from our own clients, it is clear influencer marketing is not going away. Content marketing is still king and influencers are one more strong form of distribution to spread a brand’s message through the kingdom and its masses. [x_button shape=”square” size=”mini” class=”gtweet” float=”none” href=”http://ctt.ec/Ccx5f” target=”blank” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]tweet this[/x_button]

As more and more organizations venture down this path, both brands and influencers are going to have to become more savvy about the strategies being used, what they can each bring to the table and how to measure the results.

Mastering SmartURLs Series: