October 13, 2016

The Truth Behind the Three Biggest Influencer Marketing Myths

A photo by Toronto Eaters.

The term “influencer” has spilled a ton of ink in the marketing world over the last year. With Google now getting in the game through its purchase of FameBit (which pairs social media stars with brands to collaborate on sponsored content), and the FTC cracking down on disclosures, influencer relationship management has become a tough but rewarding terrain to traverse for brands. With that, we’re here to debunk three of the most prevalent myths surrounding influencer marketing:

  1. MYTH 1: “Everyone is an influencer!”

While the definition of an “influencer” broadens each day, knowing “who’s who” among the throngs of Insta-famous models, Snapchat stars, YouTubers, editors, journalists and celebrities becomes difficult. It’s important to understand the differences between paid and earned influencers and how each can uniquely support campaign objectives. To understand a bit more, we organize influencers or brand ambassadors into two distinct categories — Earned and Paid:

Earned: This category consists of unpaid or preexisting relationships who are natural brand advocates. For example, Patrón has thousands of influencer advocates who drink the liquor regularly, endorse the product and showcase their love for tequila through social media – simply because they enjoy it. 

Benefits: Built-in consumer audience, loyal brand advocates, high ROI

Challenges: Long term commitment with time and resources, no immediate ROI

Paid: When an influencer receives payment to create content or promote a brand, it functions as paid programming and/or a media buying service. However, says Daniel Newman of Broadsuite Media Group, “there’s a subtle difference between influencer marketing and fully-dedicated paid promotions. When asking influencers to write, speak or attend events on their behalf, payment should be considered not as a means of buying loyalty, but as a fair exchange for taking someone’s time and leveraging their ideas to build your own business.”

Benefits: Built-in consumer audience, control the message, leverage additional reach

Challenges: Increase in time and resources, difficult to measure

  1. MYTH 2: “Massive followings = Best influencers”

A huge audience does not equal huge results.

“Follower counts matter, but they’re a distant second to engagement,” argues Victor Ricci, Social Times. “Those followers could be bots, follow backs, dummy accounts or people who just aren’t interested. The more engaged the audience, the better your results.”

For example, a community mom blogger with 6,000 local followers will most certainly move the needle for the new retailer opening in old town, more so than the Kim Kardashians of world, whose audiences span various interests, demographics and geographies.

“While engagement doesn’t guarantee a positive return on investment, it’s an important indicator if you actually want a return,” says Ricci.

  1. MYTH 3: “There’s no ROI!”

Measuring the value of earned media vs. paid media is a hotly debated subject among marketers as we work to understand what drives sales and discover how to further invest resources.

Specifically in paid influencer marketing, advertisers and agencies scramble to measure how social media stars can deliver on social chatter, audience engagement and action.

A study last year reported that the average influencer marketing campaign received $6.85 in media value for every dollar spent on influencer marketing. A six to one uptick in ROI looks impressive when stacked up against display and print advertising, but we’d argue there’s more to quantifying ROI through the engagement of the influencer audiences.

Perhaps we should be tracking the consumer behaviors holistically, and not through the lens of one blog post, one tweet or one Instagram story?

Until then, “[brand awareness] is important because it creates shelf space inside your customer’s head,” says Ricci. “That’s shelf space you own. The right kind of branding makes you unique in your customer’s eyes, which is exactly the kind of thing you need to boost trust.”