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Are influencers relevant anymore?

Instagram recently hit 1 billion monthly users, and with that number growing exponentially each year, brands are able to reach a larger audience and wider variety of potential customers than ever before, using the Facebook-owned advertising tools.

Instagram recently hit 1 billion monthly users, and with that number growing exponentially each year, brands are able to reach a larger audience and wider variety of potential customers than ever before, using the Facebook-owned advertising tools.

Placing advertisements on social media is notoriously challenging, having to choose the best content to promote, make sure the targeting and demographics are spot on, and of course battling with the algorithms on third party platforms to name a few.

All of these reasons contribute to the shift towards brands using influencers to market their products or services.

They’re not the only reasons, but a lot of the hard work for brands is already done, typically:

  • they’ll have a relatively large following,
  • the types of users following them are usually closely aligned to a specific topic, like car fanatics; travel enthusiasts; or beauty experts,

The results?

The content’s more credible. It’s much more likely people will relate to an endorsement from another person rather than a brand. Influencers have often spent considerable time and effort gaining the trust of their followers, creating an engaging story that attracts more followers. A study by Twitter reported that 40% of consumers have made a purchase based on an influencer’s tweet.

Increases brand awareness. Users that once might not have considered a brand are much more likely to recall promotions from people they follow online, with an example from the same Twitter study seeing almost a 5x lift in brand awareness, ad recall and purchase intent over traditional digital ad formats.

Reaches target audience. Using influencers, no matter how large a following they might have, brands are able to put content directly in front of people that are already interested in the relevant area. There’s much less pressure to identify and test the audience than using traditional media, or the platforms’ advertising tools.

Improves content strategy. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, including influencer content diversifies the channels used by a brand. By giving an element of the creative control to an influencer, and allowing them to express their affinity to a brand they identify with, brands are creating valuable partnerships and trialing new ways to communicate with their audiences.

So, sure, using influencers can be very useful for brands to leverage in their marketing for all these great reasons, but it’s the definition of what constitutes  an influencer that brands should be reconsidering.

Influencers vs Content Creators

Brands should consider anyone that creates content for them an influencer in some way. They’ve been influenced by the brand, enough that they felt an impulse to share a little piece of how a brand’s products has improved their lives, and they influence others in their message, regardless of how many people see it.

The Pareto Principle (or the ‘80/20 rule’) states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This is often applied to the ratio of followers to interactions with content posted online, so you could consider that regardless of how many followers a user may have, they’re still seeing a proportional engagement rate with their content.

But… what does this mean?

Well, brands could consider an influencer model that sees a few endorsements from users with a large following, or rewarding more of the users with smaller followings, that are already creating great content about their brand. That’s key.

For the larger influencers, they’re easy to reach using specific platforms, the content’s good, it’s reaching a lot of people, but it’s not without its drawbacks. It’s often expensive and focuses on the number of users seeing the content, rather than how they have a great new asset that can be used in their marketing.

It’s also worth noting that consumers are becoming a lot more wise to what content influencers are being paid to create, with the ASA regularly having to intervene on mislabelling of a paid advertisement from social media stars.

By focussing on creators that are organically, and gratuitously posting about how great a brand is, without incentive or reward, brands create more meaningful connections with their audience, connections that are more likely to reinforce brand affinity, which is key in the decision making process.

Value exchange

The idea of monetising content is pretty ancient if you consider services like portrait commissions, but armed with today’s technology, every man and his dog (no, literally) has been able to cash in on their number of followers online.

While traditional influencers would generally expect being reimbursed, smaller creators would be more likely to respond well with physical experiences, exclusive digital content, or even brand recognition for that hit of social dopamine.

Asics are among many brands to adopt this new strategy, in an effort to “regain control”, also interestingly opting to deal directly with the content creators, rather than putting an agency in charge of the relationship.

Brands often focus on how many users are going to see their content, with key performance indicators often being based on quantity, over quality. Asics’ VP of Marketing EMEA, Björn Hamacher states that finding the ROI for influencers is a “humongous challenge”, and that they’re usually “left in the dark when it comes to the impact those influencers have on things like awareness, consideration and perception, so the ROI justification for assigning resources to manage those relationships is harder”. It seems as though as long as the product is being shown in the correct way from a brand’s perspective, there appears to be less importance on the actual content, which has huge value if you’re using many of these content creators.

This is where the ROI becomes a lot more tangible.

Figures like cost per asset and budgets with agencies to produce content are a lot more transparent, and can be tracked a lot easier than online engagement and interaction. StoryStream already supports the ability to calculate the cost per asset for all content in the platform, with most brands seeing a reduction of 60%.

We want to help brands create these relationships with content creators, enable marketeers to facilitate rewards and generally increase the quality of their contributed assets. Incentives could be anything, it’s completely dependent per brand, and what works best for you and your creators. StoryStream simply aims to reduce the friction between marketers and their community.

Summary

Back to the question: are influencers relevant anymore?

Yes. for brand exposure. If, however, like one of our many brands seeing their content creation costs halved, you’re more interested in content created by your community, get in touch!

Since day one, StoryStream has helped users surface the most relevant and highest quality content, whether that’s organising assets in your asset manager, or distributing earned media across the web.

This is just the beginning.

Facilitating relationship building and enabling value exchange is the next chapter in the content story for us, and we’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback, and how this could work for your brand.

Get in touch to find out more, and become an early partner.

Tom Matthews

Tom is StoryStream’s Product Manager, organising the product roadmap, capturing user insight, briefing new feature development and ensuring we have a clear product strategy that consistently pushes the platform forward.