How important are influencers to our marketing strategies?

Artwork depciting a social media influencer.
How important are influencers to our marketing strategies?
Duncan is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years experience in journalism. Having launched his tech journalism career as editor of Arabian Computer News in Dubai, he has since edited an array of tech and digital marketing publications, including Computer Business Review, TechWeekEurope, Figaro Digital, Digit and Marketing Gazette.

Alongside staples such as content, social media and email marketing, influencers have become an integral part of brands’ marketing mix.

Our recent research revealed that 71% of companies currently use influencer marketing or have used it in the past. What’s more, 42% of companies cite influencer marketing as one of their primary channels. This demonstrates that influencer marketing has become a mainstay in the vast majority of companies across virtually every sector.

However, despite being an established part of our marketing mix the view from senior marketers is that influencers remain an activation, as opposed to an overarching strategy. Just 32% of companies feel that influencers should be considered at the strategic marketing phase. Instead, 48% think influencer marketing should come into the picture much further down the line at the content creation stage.

Baffling

Influencer marketing’s exclusion at the strategic level seems even further baffling when the vast majority of marketers see huge growth potential in the channel. More than three quarters (76%) of marketers agree that the channel will become more important over the next three years. Furthermore, the channel looks to set record levels of investment, with 76% planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets during that time.

The growing investment in influencer marketing is in no small part due to the channel’s ability to help address some of the big questions facing businesses in a post COVID world. The pandemic has greatly accelerated brands’ shift towards the digital marketplace. But, while adopting a digital-first approach offers huge potential rewards, it also presents immediate challenges. Namely, how to stand out in the increasingly competitive crowd. Issues, such as how to win the trust and love of your target audience, and how to make sure you’re not being outpaced by competitors, are a tale as old as time. But, the fastly evolving digital space gives these questions a completely different paradigm.

Compounding this, as further data privacy regulations roll out alongside the demise of third-party cookies and the launch of iOS 14.5, traditional marketing tactics will become prohibitively costly where they even remain possible. While this move to a privacy-first mentality is largely a victory for consumers, it will leave many digital marketers scrambling to find substitutes for strategies that have historically relied on users’ behavioural data.

And this is where influencer marketing comes into the picture. With audiences naturally segmented by merit of the influencers they choose to follow, brands with an in-depth influencer strategy can circumvent limitations on behavioural tracking. Further to this, influencer content is seen as more authentic, creating trusted consumer relationships with influencers that share their interest. Brands can benefit from these relationships as a successful influencer partnership can have a big impact on a consumer’s opinion of businesses – 44% of people feel more positive about a brand that uses influencers. As such, influencers offer brands a completely new way to build bridges with their audiences and those that can do this effectively have a much easier time cutting through an increasingly crowded marketplace.

So, if marketers agree that the importance of influencer marketing is only set to increase, why is it still failing to influence the way in which we strategically plan our marketing activity?

Tricky question

What often keeps influencer marketing out of the board room seems to be the tricky question of return on investment (ROI). Firstly, it is worth noting that accurate ROI data is integral to senior decision makers – if we can’t measure our results accurately, then we will never understand what success looks like.

Influencer marketing can be a particularly hard channel to read. This is because more than 70% of the effect is generated via other channels such as organic search, direct traffic and paid search – understanding these synergies is the key to measuring ROI from influencers correctly. Like content marketing, influencers play an important role in passively creating traction higher up in the funnel by starting a thought process that can eventually lead to a purchase. However, from an ROI perspective, the end result is often recorded as a win for other channels (SEO, SEM etc.) that will pull in the customer via the inevitable google search immediately before the purchase takes place.

While influencer marketing is a staple of our marketing mix that’s here to stay, there is clearly much that needs to be done to refine how we implement and measure the channel. The most efficient way to achieve this is by taking a more holistic approach to our marketing mix and never measuring success channel by channel or keeping results in silos. There are many things to consider when measuring ROI in marketing and this is the same in influencer marketing as in any other channel. But, once we solve this missing piece, influencer marketing has the capacity to become even more impactful not just to our marketing mix, but to our commercial goals.

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Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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