In which our intrepid reporter, sorry, Head of Digital, concludes his overview of the influencer marketing landscape in 2018…
There’s a platform for that
As I mentioned in Part 1, the influencer marketplace is rapidly becoming commoditised and the evidence of this is in the proliferation of influencer marketing platforms.
The first businesses to realise the appeal of a networked approach (ease, speed and scale of engagement) were probably those bastions of Mummy blogging, BritMums – “Britain’s Biggest Collective of lifestyle bloggers and social influencers” – Mumsnet and erm, Netmums, each with unique users and social followers in the millions.
More recently – and certainly within the last couple of years – these have been joined by platform specialists with technical solutions to the networked approach. This has been driven, at least in part, by entrepreneurs who saw the commercial value in pooling micro-influencers (based on the fact that ‘smaller’ influencers have higher engagement levels).
Unsurprisingly, this is particularly true of Instagram and has seen the rise of Instagram-specialist aggregators such as TribeGrowth (self-service) and Takumi (managed service) – though of course there are many which cover all social channels, including Speakr, TapInfluence and more recent entrant Dyzio.
By the way – although the generally agreed (global) standard for micro-influencers is those with followings of 10-100K, this should be seen in the context of (at least) a couple of factors. Local market size is one: in the UK, a following of 70-100K is very significant and a micro-influencer in this market could be anyone with a following of 5-30K. The second is the size of the ‘passion pool’ – an individual practicing a specialised trade or hobby could be hugely influential with far fewer followers.
(Not) falling foul of The Law
A cursory saunter around the blogosphere and certainly around Instagram and Twitter seem to confirm that brands and influencers have wised up to the need to declare paid content, disclaim the provision of goods or services and to use hashtags #AD or #SPON as appropriate. If you’re still in doubt, #AD is required when the brand in question is responsible for both payment and message content; #SPON only applies to payment, in other words, creative control lies entirely with the influencer.
Where it gets a bit murkier is what actually constitutes ‘payment.’ Whilst the ASA’s CAP Code is quite clear that…
…it’s not clear that giving an influencer a product or experience without financial payment or stipulation of message content (therefore neither #AD nor #SPON) is still OK – assuming the influencer chooses to write positively about what they’ve received, that is.
So let’s turn to Google’s Webmaster Blog, which is – typically – more forthright on the matter: ‘gifting’ requires both a disclosure and the use of no-follow links; doing otherwise is seen as an attempt to game PageRank on the basis of “exchange for goods or services.”
One controversy that I can lay to rest – and this is a question I’m asked frequently – is that there is no Google penalty for duplicate content; Google uses other signals to assess malicious intent – and duplicate content by itself is not enough to provoke the ire of the search giant.
My advice to brands? Play it safe, but be as creative as you can in what you offer influencers. Exclusive access, involvement and insight may – in many cases – not constitute goods or services.
By the numbers…
How to measure the effect of influencer marketing is – arguably – still in its infancy, but is perhaps more readily addressed as part of the bigger conversation around the value of earned media that’s preoccupied the whole PR industry for the last couple of years.
Whilst figures such as social followers and subscribers are visible to all, it’s more difficult to get hold of an influencer’s blog or website traffic. But to look at these data is to take a reductive view, focusing essentially on outputs rather than outcomes.
More valuable is earned reach (online and social buzz), the sentiment of that buzz and the drivers of that sentiment; these at least address brand health metrics such as awareness, perception and preference.
Better still is setting out to encourage consumers to take action – and setting up to track and measure these concrete outcomes in advance, whether they involve consuming content, signing up for an email newsletter, requesting a call or brochure, downloading an app or actually buying something.
Here’s hoping. Thanks for reading – and happy influencing!