What kind of influencer marketing platforms are out there? What’s the difference between an influencer and an advocate? How do you make sense of the paid, owned and earned mix? Do earned programmes still even exist? What about meaningful measurement? Or avoiding a tussle with Google or the ASA? And exactly how much do Zoella, Ksi and Dan Middleton earn? Our Head of Digital sets out to answer all of these questions. OK, most of these questions…
From blogs to social
Once upon a time, it was all about Mummy bloggers. Or any bloggers, for that matter. And often there was a marked disparity between the level of traffic to their blogs – immersive, satisfying, useful reads – and the size of their social followings: perhaps just a few thousand on Twitter, sometimes less on Facebook, with Instagram nowhere in sight.
That was five years ago; this is now. A quick online search for ‘top influencers’ in the UK, Europe or the US reveals a social-first, visually-led approach, with Instagram and YouTube dominant. Of course, this hasn’t happened overnight – unboxings, reviews and tutorials have long been a feature of YouTube – but the sheer volume (and reach) of lifestyle, food, music, film, sport and ‘pranking’ vloggers is incredible: these are people who regularly command more eyeballs than primetime TV shows.
Cosmo’s 2017 ’10 Most Powerful UK Social Media Stars’ features influencers in the worlds of lifestyle, fashion, grooming, gaming, humour and sports; even #10 Alfie Deyes clocks in with over 14 million followers and subscribers. And all at the tender age of twenty-three… although perhaps the fact that he’s Zoella’s boyfriend has something to do with it.
Influencer mapping tools such as Traackr and Onalytica and buzz monitoring platforms like Crimson Hexagon, 3 Monkeys Zeno’s (3MZ’s) weapon of choice, boast complex integrations with all of the key social channels, making it easier than ever to rank influencers according to their social impact, to track their social share of voice against competitor brands, and to measure uplift, sentiment and sentiment drivers in earned social conversations. Other platforms *are* available!
To pay, or not to pay
There can be no doubt that the influencer marketing sector has become commoditised: the startling growth of aggregators and paid platforms is evidence enough (see part 2).
Here at 3MZ, we see a number of paid and earned options playing distinct roles in the overall mix:
- The Ambassador – a paid “face of” and typically a celebrity in his / her own right, used to grab headlines at the launch of a campaign and often to create / front video content throughout. Think Blur bassman-cum-cheese fiend Alex James getting busy in the kitchen for Jacob’s, or comedian and comedy writer Holly Walsh starring in our ‘Under The Keys’ series for Microsoft – described as ‘The Office meets Red Dwarf’ and set, quite literally, inside a laptop…
- The Firestarter – tactically using paid routes to quickly drive scale and trigger further, earned engagement in the early stages of a campaign, this could involve engaging individual influencers on a pay-per-post basis, or activating via a paid platform (part 2)
- The Long Burner – deploying an earned programme that creates and sustains valuable long-term relationships, normally through an organic (non-monetary) value exchange that could involve some or all of…
- Products and gifting – either to keep or to trial / review in advance of others (or sometimes both); sometimes these are personalised or customised to the individual in question
- Content and access – exclusive events, spokesperson interviews, insight into research and development / NPD, ‘first glance’ at news, research, trends
- Membership of a ‘club’ of specially-selected influencers, often with accreditation (badging) offered for their blog or social channels. At 3MZ, we run The Kayak Clique for Kayak, The Biscuit Club for McVitie’s, Lenovo Insiders for Lenovo, and The Loop for Microsoft.
Influencer or advocate?
The two words are often used interchangeably, but we see a clear distinction between them. Influencers are defined primarily by their public profile, the size of their audience and the degree to which that audiences acts on the influencer’s word.
Advocates, at the bottom of the ‘Pyramid of Influence,’ are individuals who are already advocating (or are at least prepared to advocate) your product or service on social media, but lack the content or reach to be truly influential. Typically discovered via social listening rather than conventional influencer search, they are consumers and social fans, as well as – potentially – the employees and stakeholders of a business.
As such, the needs of influencers and advocates are different; our own approach to the unique needs of the latter is called Advocacy@Scale, a technology-based solution which flows exclusive content and offers to advocates and rewards them for sharing on their social estates – building their follower base and creating peer kudos for them in the process.