Lego, LinkedIn, Dixons Carphone, Oath and the Guardian News and Media speak to The Drum on whether or not the social influencer bubble is ready to burst and how they implement best practice when it comes to running these types of campaigns.
This follows the outrage over a paid-for Instagram post from Scarlett Dixon, companies like Unilever calling for action to crack down on influencer fraud, ASA probes and government investigations, influencer marketing can't catch a break.
Tasnim Bhuiyan, head of social content, Oath
I honestly believe the influencer bubble is as likely to burst as the celebrity endorsement bubble. Influencers, like celebrities, are simply people. People do silly things, from the cringeworthy to the downright despicable. The most brand-friendly face on the outside could be a PR nightmare waiting to explode. The best thing to do is your homework and personally get to know your content creators. Have frequent catch-ups, both in person and on email. Make the effort to know them, which not only builds trust but respect.
I have my own list of artists and influencers that I've collated over the years, people who are passionate about their craft and came by fame as a by-product of their incredible work. Most of the guys on my books are my friends. Everyone of them were endorsed by people I trust. As an artist myself, many of my connections came to me organically just by being in the community.
Engagement is my biggest measure of success in any project I work on with influencers. Did our audience share the content? Did they like it? Were the comments positive? Did the brand help the story instead of hinder it? Did the content have genuine value? Did it fulfill my clients KPIs?
My advice for best practice is to always make content that seems genuine and valuable.
Lars Silberbauer, global director of social media and search, Lego Group
Influencer collaborations are hyped and, in some cases, very overpriced, but it doesn’t change the fact that millions and millions of people all around the world are following and taking inspiration from influencers. So yes, prices will be adjusted, and brands will need to ramp up on their ability to work with influencers. I also find that most brands still consider influencer collaborations as one-offs and don’t invest the needed in-house resources in maintaining the relationships. Brands need to understand that this is not purely a media platform where you only need to invest your dollars, you need to invest yourself in creating and maintaining the relationships.
There’s a huge Lego community that we collaborate with and we're also collaborating with influencers outside the toy space (parent influencers). We approach those influencers where we believe there's a fit with the Lego brand and the influencer’s content and personality. Of course, we also need to consider if we want to create an exclusive partnership or it more about creating an opportunity for creating awareness around creative play in general.
We measure the success of the campaigns with influencers based on the purpose of the collaboration. It can be sales, awareness or engagement, but it's also important to consider the value created long term where influencers can get involved in product development.
Also, don’t just invest your money, invest your time in building those relationships and learning about the business of the influencers.
Imogen Fox, executive editor, Guardian Labs, Guardian News and Media
I don't think these new measures mean that the social influencer bubble is about to burst, just that it is maturing to a better place of transparency. Personally, I follow a lot of influencers on social media and the ones who are the most upfront about their paid partnerships are the ones who persuade me the most. Those who hide #ad under a million hashtags lose my respect pretty quickly.
Transparent labeling is key - I wish everyone played by the same rules. We do use influencers within campaigns at Guardian Labs - for example we used them to help us create the content for our partnership with Google Pixel 2 - but we measure the success of our campaigns from our owned platforms.
Jason Miller, global content marketing leader, LinkedIn
Brands and businesses are ready to call time on a particular type of influencer marketing: where an influencer is defined solely by huge follower numbers and marketers are effectively renting that reach. The problem with that type of influencer marketing isn’t just fraud, it’s the fact that the end-to-end process is by definition lacking in transparency.
B2B influencer marketing, when done right, involves a very different approach. The emphasis is far less on reach and far more on relevant expertise. When your influencers are active on LinkedIn (as most B2B influencers are), you also have a powerful range of analytics available via the LinkedIn insight tag and conversion tracking, to see which type of people are engaging and what they go on to do.
In our case, some of the most valuable platforms for influencer marketing are the webinars that we co-host with relevant experts – and the podcast episodes that we invite influencers to take part in. These are the types of formats in which B2B audiences like to encounter third-party experts – and they are some of the most influential content formats for the early and middle stages of the purchase funnel, according to the B2B buyer content preferences survey.
Angela Bertram, head of social media and content, Dixons Carphone
With influencers like the Kardashians now charging roughly $1m per Instagram post, most of their fans know that the products their pushing are probably not really what’s in their bathroom cabinet, leading brands to turn to the ‘micro influencer’. These are influencers who may not have the reach of Khloe, Kim and Kylie, but will have really strong and more importantly, relevant engagement from their followers when they post. My tips to brands would be to do your research and pick influencers with content that resonates with your brands rather than simply because they have a strong audience.
We use influencers in a different way at Dixons Carphone. For us its more about co-creating content. So leaning on the content style of Chicken Shop Dates or Chabuddy G to make a phone review very entertaining and appeal to a younger audience, we’ll also post this on both our channels and potentially the influencers depending on the level of the agreement so it’s very transparent that it’s an ad.
Success measure really depends on the type of campaign and whether it's supported by paid media who its just about the influencers reach. Either way, I think reach, engagement and sentiment are a good way to track success.
Miller, Fox, Silberbauer and Bhuiyan are judges for The Drum Content Awards and Bertram is a judge for The Drum Social Buzz Awards. Both entry deadlines have passed but you can still enter by applying for an extension. Please email Pepe Terry for the Content Awards and Laura Gregson for the Social Buzz Awards.