The term influencer marketing is one of the most under-appreciated and even misappropriated disciplines in the digital marketing mix. I get it. The notion of engaging people with the capacity to influence desirable audiences is not only alluring, but can also be incredibly effective when managed properly. It can open up an entirely new world for companies to connect with increasingly elusive and discerning audiences in ways that are more natural and relatable. But when influencer marketing is simply a matter of enticing people with large audiences to share brand messages and campaign-cnetered marketing fluff, the results can lead to brand irrelevance. On the other hand, when done strategically, with influencer and customer needs, intentions and aspirations in mind, the result is new brand relevance. This is the difference between how influencer marketing is largely perceived and practiced and what’s possible (and mutually meaningful).
So what’s next? That’s what I set out to answer in a special research project with Traackr and my dear friend Lee Odden of TopRank. The result is a new study and paper on the future of influencer relations that’s free to download, “Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing.”
It’s Time for Something Better Than “Influencer Marketing”
Truth is that influencer marketing as it exists is rife with challenges. It has been overused by brands and agencies so that it often becomes another under-performing tool in the marketing portfolio. Add to that, the saturation of software that tackles only part of the problem by identifying “influencers,” and the service providers that recruit and disband them with each campaign, and the result is that influencer marketing in increasingly cheapened.
At the same time, influencer marketing suffers from the same limitations that plague traditional marketing. New technologies and channels are still governed by legacy perspectives and processes that are resistant to change.
There’s a lot for marketers to both learn and unlearn in order to see influencer marketing’s potential in a different light. Influence isn’t a switch; it doesn’t go on and off. It requires continuous care through an influencer relationship management (IRM) platform and dedicated resources to connect customers with the people who influence them every day. Otherwise, influence marketing succumbs to iteration rather than innovation (doing the same but with new tools vs. doing new things to unlock value) without breaking new ground and introducing new value to the organization.
To help set our bearings, I partnered with influencer relationship management software provider Traackr to survey brand strategists and marketers around the world. The goal was to learn how influencer marketing is evolving and how to connect the dots between “influencer marketing” as it exists today to “influencer relations” of the future. I call it “Influence 2.0” and the moniker is cheekily meant to call attention to the fact that the 1.0 version of influencer marketing must come to an end.
I’d like to share some of the research insights as assembled by Lee Odden from the report with you here…
7 Key Trends To Point Marketers in the Right Direction for Realizing True ROI and Business Impact in 2017
1. 71% of marketers say their influencer marketing programs are strategic or highly strategic.
At the same time, on average, enterprise companies are allocating only a 10% share of marketing budget to influencer marketing. In fact, 50% of the CMOs we surveyed allocate less than $100,000 ≈ cost of Porsche 911
“>[≈ Small rural house, 2011] annually.
Clearly, enterprise companies need to put their money where their strategy is.
The good news is that 55% of marketers surveyed plan to spend more on influencer marketing in the coming year and for those that spend more than $250,000 [≈ Median new home sale price, 2010] annually, that number jumps to 67% and even higher to 77% for those brands using influencer marketing technology.
2. 67% of marketers want to drive lead generation through the use of influencer marketing.
Beyond improving brand advocacy, awareness and reaching new audiences, the majority of marketers are also focused on improving leads and sales conversion (74%) as a result of working with industry influencers. Thinking holistically, influence plays a role throughout the customer lifecycle and in all relationship-drive brand communications. The movement towards brands incorporating influencers in content beyond marketing to sales, customer service, recruiting and PR is gaining momentum.
3. 80% of marketers rate content marketing as most impacted by influencer marketing.
In discussions about the ROI of brand relationships with influencers, there’s simply no better match than content collaboration for creating measurable, impactful business outcomes. The research supports this with content being rated highest in impact from influencer marketing along with social media marketing and media relations.
4. 43% of marketers are experimenting with influencer marketing.
It is still early days for influencer marketing within companies with such a large number still experimenting. 28% of marketers rate the maturity of their influencer marketing program as campaign driven and 24% are implementing ongoing programs. As brands mature their ability and relationships with influencer marketing, I think the trend will change significantly towards the majority of companies implementing always on, ongoing programs.
5. 48% of B2C influencer marketing programs are ongoing.
This is in contrast to only 11% of B2B companies running ongoing influencer marketing programs. With 80% of marketers rating content so important in terms of influencer marketing impact and the importance of content for longer B2B sales journeys, I think we’ll see explosive growth of ongoing programs in the B2B space.
6. Marketing owns influencer marketing (70%) but PR engages with influencers most often (70%).
There is, what seems, an eternal battle between who owns influencer marketing and rather than a turf war, I think what we’ll see more of is convergence between marketing and PR. The same influencers could be engaged by multiple departments within an organization beyond marketing and PR, so a more holistic and strategic view along with the right technology for management of those influencer relationships will be essential.
7. 57% of marketers say influencer marketing will be integrated in all marketing activities in the next 3 years.
Currently, only 5% of marketers rate the maturity of their influencer marketing program as integrated, so the forward looking optimism for the next 3 years towards integration should be a strong signal for the direction influencer marketing is going.
In the Influence 2.0 model, influencers can play a role in each moment of truth during the customer journey through content, engagement and community. A strategic and always on approach to influence enables true customer centricity by placing customer experience at the center of an enterprise business strategy. It is by engaging influencers in authentic, long-term relationships and creating value within the relationships between influencers and their communities, that CMOs can impact sales, satisfaction, retention and overall customer experience.
Please download the report. It dives deep into each of these areas and represents a real evolution in influencer relations.