6 KEYS TO SUCCESS FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING IN 2018

by Krish Sharma, CEO and Founder, BYGMusic

2018 is fast approaching, and with it comes the typical heads down, head-scratching planning for the year ahead, much of it based on 12 months or more of prior learnings. Influencer and advocacy marketing continue to explode but we still have many questions and challenges to address.

Here we take a look at some of the keys to success in 2018:

#1 SIZE DOES MATTER

Micro-influencers were all the rage in 2017 and for good reason. The bigger an audience – what you would typically see from a “celebrity” with millions of followers – the broader the affinities and interests within,  meaning your brand likely only has relevance to a small fraction of them. Compound that with the fact that only a third, at best, will be reached organically anyway- celebrities can be a reckless way to spend your budget.

Focusing on tastemakers, authorities and subject matter experts in a particular area that aligns closely with your brand or product such as music, fashion or food will help deliver your message more effectively to your intended audience. With a comparable budget to what you might spend on one celebrity you can achieve the same reach through dozens of smaller, up-and-comers.

In 2018 as more brands have found ways to identify and leverage smaller influencers (and now understand their impact), look for the evolution of this category to be focused on SCALE. More partners, more content, more reach and more value.

#2 GET REAL OR GO HOME

One of the biggest issues plaguing the influencer marketing industry is a lack of authenticity. Consequently, “authenticity” became one of the biggest buzzwords of 2017, so it’s worth defining exactly how its absence has manifested: bots, bought followers and fake engagement, product placements on channels of people who have never once used said product, oversaturation and the list goes on…

Conversely, some brands and creative partners are taking authenticity and quality creative to entirely new levels. The key in 2018 will be situating yourself on the latter side of the spectrum. This requires extensive vetting during the identification phase of a program, building real relationships and managing those relationships closely.

#3 A SEAT AT THE BIG KID TABLE

In 2018 influencers will continue to become a serious part of the overall marketing mix. According to Linqia, 48% of marketers planned to increase their budgets in 2017. With so many brands seeing success on this channel and anecdotal evidence such as Google searches for “influencer marketing” more than doubling this year (after seeing a whopping 90x increase from 2013-2016), we can certainly expect to see even bigger budgets in 2018.

Brands like Ford, Mattel, Airbnb, Nestle and many, many others are doubling down to integrate creative partners into tentpole campaigns…as key parts of those campaigns. We have moved beyond testing the waters. Bigger budgets mean greater expectations, and expecting the water to rise.

Measurement and accountability will continue be the holy grail when it comes to anything digital and how we track real impact. We can all agree that there is intangible, immeasurable value in much of the brand building we do online. Still the C-Suite calls and it has demands (read: numbers).

In order to show meaningful results we must figure out ways to measure ROI by being more strategic. Many times influencers are expected to deliver it all – awareness, clickthroughs, installs, hand raisers, attendance, etc. Influencers have one voice and we should only ask them to say one thing at a time. Pick one core KPI per campaign and stick to it, otherwise we will never truly be able to establish standard industry benchmarks for success, whatever that might look like.  

#4 EMPOWERING THE CREATOR GENERATION

There is another movement at play beyond simply seeding your message among vertical interest groups. Some brands are taking a stand to empower creators in ways that lean more toward sponsorship than influencer marketing.

The rise of digital content has made creators – be they musicians, artists, writers, or beyond – so supremely accessible that it actually hurts them. Imagine that. Your value to the world has no barrier to entry. Then what?

Programs like Taco Bell’s “Feed the Beat,” Airbnb’s Music Experiences, the GoPro Awards and many others are embedding brands within the creative community for the greater good of helping deliver quality content to the masses.

When you empower creators, you give their audiences everything they scroll for.  And they will respond enthusiastically – as we have seen with emerging music artists and bands in particular, more than 2x the average engagement of a “traditional” influencer campaign, to be exact.  

Creatives in any category are able to command attention in the places where your audiences are spending their time. Get involved.

#5 AMBASSADORS AND ADVOCACY

As with words like “authenticity” and “millennial,” the term “influencer” has been thrown around loosely (see point #2) and many still ask, “what exactly makes someone an influencer?”

The brands that are succeeding in this space are cultivating lasting, ongoing relationships with genuine lovers of their brand. This goes far beyond one-off pay-to-play content. It’s more about identifying true ambassadors and champions of your brand…partners on your creative team.

Not only does this have tremendous impact on the delivery of your message but it instills a level of trust between brand and creator that is critical in influencer marketing. Brands have come to understand they can’t hold the reigns too tightly (what would be the point of that, anyway?), so trust is paramount. Trust only comes with choosing the right people who are real fans of your brand.

#6 PRICING MODELS

Influencers fees continue to soar, making scalability a challenge. One of the earliest pricing models in influencer marketing was pay-per-post. Looking forward, more brands will seek partnerships where influencers are paid based on performance. When they have some skin in the game, they tend to go above and beyond the ask creating a high volume of high quality content, which is a win for all.

With this will come its own set of challenges as some will undoubtedly attempt to con the system by purchasing fake likes, comments, shares, etc., (again, see point #2), which means it’s important to have trusted partners and/or a dedicated company or managed service with vetted relationships.