Leona McCaul, Head of Influencer Partnerships, Found, examines why high follower counts don’t always equate to high reach and engagement.
With almost 90% of businesses dedicating budget to Influencer Marketing this year, and well over half of them aiming to increase their spend next year*, there’s no denying that this latest marketing kid on the block is here to stay. But like all new shiny toys, there’s a few teething problems.
Putting aside these burgeoning investment numbers and almost sheep-like following that this new channel now attracts, there is however simmering industry concern as to whether all these influencers are actually worth their salt. And that’s down to two key factors: the fact that there’s still no clear-cut ROI calculation to enable marketers to truly understand their campaign results and the selection of irrelevant influencers being on-boarded under the assumption that large follower numbers will mean sales, and lots of them. A classic example of this being the Instagram influencer with over 2 million followers that failed to sell 36 t-shirts to make her production quota!
Typically, marketers use influencers to amplify their brand stories, commonly centred around product launches. Whether they are micro or macro influencers, their varying sized networks of loyal followers resemble gold dust to a brand wanting to drive both awareness and sales. Sadly however, the authenticity of some influencers’ reach and engagement levels is increasingly coming under the spotlight with the biggest worry being around the use of bots, like farms and engagement pods.
For those yet to discover engagement pods, these groups allow influencers to sign-up and instantly boost their engagement levels as other group members flock to double tap on their latest content. In effect, it’s cheating the system and although marketers might be pleased to see such large engagement numbers, the likelihood is that these supposedly ‘engaged-followers’ won’t be the like-minded people or potential customers who’ll deliver the conversions they need.
Companies therefore mustn’t just take their influencer data at face value, and instead should invest time in digging a little deeper into the numbers to understand exactly who is hearing their message. Requesting first-party data from the influencers’ or their agents is essential here and if the data doesn’t represent the correct target audience, then ask more questions, and also investigate sourcing new partners!
This is a perfect quality over quantity scenario and brands wanting to really get the best return from their influencer campaigns need to be much more strategic about who they partner with.
Thinking big is best is also not the only option. Smaller influencers, commonly dubbed micro influencers (those who have less than 100k in followers) often make for great ambassadors to reach more niche, and therefore more valuable, customers. And there’s a much greater likelihood that these customers will be better matched to specific brands, their product ranges and even ethos.
Recent research has also shown that 77% of micro influencers create content every day and 48% post more frequently than macro influencers. This highly-engaged band of influencers have the ability to take a brief and make content that promotes a product in a way that pulls on three key deliverables; content that understands, inspires and contributes to a specific cultural group. They equally often engage with their followers on a much deeper level than their macro counterparts.
So forget just simply bolting the channel on to your existing marketing strategy. Instead, why not view it as ‘marketing with influencers’?
Whether it’s signing up to an event, swiping up to purchase or saving a post for research into a future buy, what these creators can bring is the ability to produce content that inspires an audience to take action which can then be fostered further down the sales funnel.
As for finding the perfect influencer, regardless of their follower size, you must look for genuine passion, cultural awareness and authenticity. They should be a reflection of your brand and your consumers, sharing the same values and standards. These key ingredients will then lead to a platform of highly-engaged followers who offer endless potential to your brand as a whole, as well as your next big campaign.
If you then apply a performance metric to these partner relationships, paying purely on sales they generate for example, then the channel becomes an even more robust addition to your marketing strategy.
If you’d like to find out a little more about working with micro influencers and the power they harness, click here.
*Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2019
By Leona McCaul
Head of Influencer Partnerships