Influencer marketing has risen in popularity among brands in recent times. Marketers are noticeably appreciating the value of influencers in raising brand awareness, creating authentic content and driving engagement. But while marketers are continuing to invest in this space, according to a recent report, only 36% of marketers feel their influencer marketing efforts are effective.
Following The Drum’s launch of an influencer marketing survey, in association with Buzzoole, we caught up with Rachel Clay, head of Influencer Marketing at luxury brand agency Matter of Form, to find out about the challenges involved in using influencers and what the future holds in this space.
What is your experience of using influencers in the luxury brand sector?
Luxury brands have so many rich stories to tell around heritage, craftsmanship and inspiration for collections. This can translate really well on social platforms like Instagram. Working with influencers to tell a brand’s story can really bring the brand to life.
What do you look for when choosing an influencer?
Selecting the right influencer is key to the success of any campaign and I consider influencer identification to be an art form. We review the demographic data of all profiles to understand exactly who their audience is in terms of gender, age range, geographic locations and interests to make sure we are speaking to our target group.
We also consider engagement rate as a super important factor when selecting influencers (in many cases much more than reach) as the higher the engagement rate, the more organic visibility and impact the content will have. Next, we consider the look and feel – what is the influencer’s style? Luxury affinity?
Finally, we look at content styles to ensure the type of content we're looking to create would fit naturally into the influencers' feed. For example, if they post a lot of selfies but we're looking to launch a storytelling campaign – maybe they might not be the right fit.
What are the biggest challenges in influencer marketing this year?
I think there are a few - maintaining authenticity as consumers grow more sceptical of influencer content as well as finding new, innovative and creative strategies are two that come to mind. Most of all though I think the biggest challenge will be education. Influencer marketing is such a hot topic for brands in all sectors now that many are keen to start working with influencers without really understanding this space - and this poses a risk to the industry.
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) revealed it was readying for a crackdown on brands and platforms that do not properly signpost paid for content. Are brands transparent about their connections with influencers? Should they be doing more?
This is still a bit of a grey area. Not only is it hard to police, consumers are becoming more and more savvy to the point that they're suspicious of all content so are almost self-policing anyway. In terms of whether brands are being transparent enough, I believe the relationship should always be acknowledged but there are elegant ways to do this. I also believe that brands should be looking to form long term relationships with influencers too which would lead to a mixture of paid and organic content.
Why are some advertisers finding influencer marketing ineffective?
I think there is some still uncertainty because influencer marketing is still such a new area for many brands. The industry is less than five years old and I read somewhere recently that said there were only an estimated 200 people in the world with more than two years of experience. With so little knowledge, many brands are uncertain how to proceed, the results to expect and how much to invest.
Luxury brands in particular can be especially sceptical and late to adopt new approaches, particularly those that they consider will need careful managing to ensure they retain their exclusivity.
How do you see influencer marketing developing over the next few years?
This is a really exciting time for influencer marketing and the industry has definitely not peaked yet! I think we will continue to see an integrated approach to influencer marketing with influencers being further utilised by brands as ambassadors, photographers, stylists and models.
We will continue to see a rise in micro influencers too, especially in the luxury space as brands really start to understand the value of communicating directly with niche audiences. Influencer profiles will continue to diversify, i.e. 'Kidfluencers' is a new and emerging area of influencer marketing and is delivering really strong results. I also believe the industry will become more professionalised over time.
In more general terms, technological developments will likely have an impact too. If we look at what’s happening in China, avatars are some of the biggest influencers in the market, so as we explore virtual reality more, I think this could develop here too. Voice based technologies like Alexa will have an impact as influencers and brands look for ways to have presence on this medium.
The Drum needs your professional know-how to help us gauge a more solid understanding of influencer marketing and how it is evolving. Lend us your vanguard thoughts by filling our survey, and you will be in with a chance to win a £100 Amazon voucher. Fill out the survey here.
The findings from the survey will form the basis of the Influencer Marketing Report and will be unveiled mid-May.