2017 has seen a systemic change in influencer marketing. Innovative brands such as Nissan UK have integrated influencer marketing throughout the customer journey, making it an integral part of their marketing and communication strategies.
Other organisations have moved from experimentation to transformation, now acknowledging how influencer marketing is transforming workflows, processes and expertise across multiple organisational groups.
Across the board rising investment, globally scaled programmes, increasing strategic value and rising legal constraints are changing the nature of the role of the Chief Influencer Officer (CIO). From our most recent work advising some of the world’s leading global brands, we see three main areas of attention emerging in 2018 that will dominate their agenda in years to come: Influencer Experience, Attribution and Compliance.
The Influencer Experience
With best performing influencers in scarce resource, creating unique, valuable and respectful relationships with influencers is a must for any brand that wants to outperform the competition and play the long-term game.
the Influencer Experience has its own set of objectives and logic that do not match those of a Customer Experience
Most advanced organisations are recognising that influencers impact multiple parts of their organisation and the challenge thereof, of managing the multiple points of contact so that each interaction is personalised into an optimised Influencer Experience.
This involves integrating touch points in stores (maybe the most powerful in-person potential), through CRM activities, in customer service, through communications and social media teams. But also across the finance, legal or HR functions. Influencers indeed can be in turn customers, prospects, journalists, suppliers… or even employees.
We discussed some time ago the difference between CRM and IRM and why they should not be confused. In the same way, the Influencer Experience has its own set of objectives and logic that do not match those of a Customer Experience. Defining such experiences and building the internal processes and staff guidelines that will make such experience unique and sustainable will be one of the 3 major tasks of the CIO in the years to come.
With increasing budgets allocated to influencer programs, brands have rising expectations in terms of success measurement and “ROI”.
Aligning with the new AMEC guidelines has already enabled brands to track consistent KPIs along Inputs (levels of activity), Outputs (directly measurable impact) and Outcomes (business metrics). But identifying and measuring a direct impact between outputs such as engagement and business metrics (sales, brand awareness) still remains elusive.
Link tracking as a way to measure the direct impact of influencer content on traffic or sales is on the rise. But remains limited in its execution (it requires an explicit agreement with the influencer and is not applicable to many types of content) and focuses only on a “last click” approach to measurement. This is not so dissimilar to an affiliation model and clearly do not capture the full value of influencer activities for brands.
At the other end of the spectrum, some businesses still rely on EMV (Earned Media Value) as a measure of the value of influencer generated content. However this flawed metric that tries to mimic the old “Advertising Value Equivalent” from the PR world provides absolutely no insight into Business Metrics.
So innovative brands are working on building new attribution models that will tie influencer content in to the customer journey.
To initiate the “Attribution” journey, advanced brands have started building strong historical data sets around the performance of their influencer activities around engagement and business metrics. So Influencer measurement is probably a few years behind paid media in terms of measurement and attribution models but it is catching up.
With influencer programmes scaling up from tactical, agency-driven, campaigns to more strategic, long-term activities, compliance is emerging as an increasingly strong requirement in organisations in multiple ways.
First in regards to legal compliance, platforms such as Instagram have introduced built-in functionalities that facilitate the disclosure of paid collaborations. But despite initial crackdowns by the FTC on non-disclosed paid influencer collaboration in the US, disclosure remains a key issue globally and a potential threat to any brand that doesn’t comply.
Legal compliance on paid collaboration includes respecting local regulations and transparency requirements between advertising, influencers and intermediates such as Influencer Networks (For example the Loi Sapin in France). It means formalised contractual agreements that are in line with the company’s legal requirements.
organisations will now need to set-up compliant Influencer Relationship Management platforms
In regards to new privacy regulations organisations will now need to set-up compliant Influencer Relationship Management platforms that will help them store and manage influencer data securely. Further, going forwards all aspects of Influencer programs must remain aligned with brand guidelines and objectives.
So, whilst most organisations still execute programs locally, in the past two years a strategic importance has been placed upon developing global guidelines, data streams and validation processes that cover every aspect of the Influencer program, from selection of influencers to the nature of the planned collaboration and will include building clear internal communication channels, training teams across brands and geographies and setting clear rules to agency partners.
Not a small task!
This is especially true when agencies are involved. Such guidelines usually cover the following:
- No publication of violent, abusive or sexual content
- No political or other types of engagement (for example anti animal testing, or anti sugar activists) that could put the brand at risk
- A tone of voice that is aligned with the brand values. This is especially true in the luxury industry where influencers are in some cases validated one by one to ensure they can represent the brand
- Professionalism in the interaction with brands and no past negative experiences working in the organisation
- Meeting pre-defined minimum performance standards that justify the level of interaction or activity the brand should drive with each influencer
- Alignment of the audience of the influencer with the target group defined by marketing
- Alignment of the price and nature of paid collaboration with standards set by procurement teams
- Post campaign validation that the content effectively published through a collaboration meets the agreed quality standards or terms (if contractualised)
Going forwards brands and organisations will need to entirely re-think the way they structure, manage and control all aspects of their influencer activities.
The role of the CIO going forwards must include ensuring a unified influencer experience across all touch points, building up historical data sets to effectively track the impact of influencer programmes through innovative attribution models and setting up systems and processes that are compliant with legal and company guidelines across teams, partners and geographies.
We see technology playing a very strong role in supporting global organisation in such a significant evolution. Not a small task awaits the CIO in the years to come.