Reach, frequency and influence: understanding the third pillar of brand growth
Luke Barnes of agency Influencer argues that alongside reach and frequency, the social world has built a third coefficient of brand growth: influence.
Reach, growth and influence: the new brand growth triumvirate? / Nadine Redlich via Unsplash
According to this year’s Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report, almost 1% of us consider ourselves to be creators. And one much-cited study forecasted that $32bn of global ad spend will be funneled into influencer marketing in 2023.
Clearly, the days of influencer marketing being seen as an executional tactic for brand PR campaigns are far behind us. But are we seeing more monumental shifts in the marketing landscape that point to the opportunity for influencer marketing to become an even more important part of the overall marketing mix?
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest we are. For one thing, historically hard-to-reach youth audiences are not watching linear TV and opting for ad-free streaming services. ‘Youth media unicorns’ like Buzzfeed and Vice are collapsing, showing the challenges of winning these audiences’ attention with traditional models of media consumption.
For another, 38% of Gen Z say they spend more than 4 hours per day on social media; 60% say they’re using TikTok to consume video content at least once a week (just behind Netflix at 69%). Almost the only time they are exposed to digital advertising is when scrolling through platforms like TikTok, Instagram or Snapchat.
And as we stare over the precipice of the AI revolution, more and more of the information we consume will be generated by something that is not human (and thus, though efficient, by definition not authentic).
Given the importance of authenticity in advertising for Gen Z, creators just might be the cut-through tactic that will allow marketers to effectively communicate with this audience.
How brands grow in 2023
Byron Sharp’s marketing bible How Brands Grow calls out the importance of using reach to continuously expose your target audience to your brand, and frequency to get noticed and remain salient. But could influence be the new coefficient in the era of authenticity that will help brands build consideration in a way that drives cut-through and real business results?
With any opportunity comes a challenge. While the opportunity for influencer marketing to deliver brand performance when done right is clear, its relative nascency means marketers are having to answer three fundamental questions. First, how do we navigate a complex and evolving creator universe? Second, how do we execute influencer marketing at a sufficient scale? And, finally, how do we prove the value of influencer marketing?
The old media adage ‘nobody ever got fired for buying TV’ is particularly relevant to influencer marketers in this pivotal phase where we’re asked to ‘de-risk’ buying decisions.
The complex creator universe
With 50 million creators in the mix worldwide, you’d be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. That might lead marketers toward tactics they already understand: pick a platform, set a target audience and budget, and let it run.
However, the data shows that this aversion can lead to an inefficient return on advertising spend; a recent study from TikTok showed that creator content outperforms branded content at the awareness, consideration and conversion levels.
De-risking the complexity of the creator universe lies in a combined platform power and people power approach. Technology to filter and refine the universe by your own requirements is a must, but we must also understand the relationship a creator has with their audience, and whether that relationship is something a brand can leverage.
This process does leave you exposed to risk without the context that true influencer experts can bring. The science needs to be complemented by understanding synergy with your brand or brief, and the style in which the creator communicates with their audience, to see whether there’s an opportunity for authentic brand communication.
Execution at scale
The world's biggest brands have huge marketing budgets with which to achieve scale among their target audience. Buying a billion impressions on Facebook is (relatively) easy. Delivering an influencer campaign at a billion impressions is more of a logistical challenge. The latter requires multiple (sometimes hundreds of) influencers, boatloads of content to be received, reviewed and approved, a complex publishing coordination effort and a fair bit of proprietary data access to effectively track its performance.
Doing this without effective technology is a recipe for disaster, as ‘final-final-final’ files clog up your inbox. Collating screenshots from every creator to validate publishing and performance can feel like a wild goose chase. Working with a specialist influencer business with powerful technology and people who know how to get the best out of it is an essential cornerstone.
There’s a fundamental problem with the established advertising measurement methodologies in the market that were built for more ‘traditional’ forms of marketing: many are rooted in creating ‘test’ environments to measure whether the uplift among a group exposed to an ad is greater than a group that was not.
This misses the point of one of the key virtues of influencer marketing as a medium: influence. If a person exposed to a piece of influencer marketing has no affinity with the creator, their reaction will not reflect the intention of the campaign, so cannot be used as an effective measurement methodology.
Marketers that believe in the value of creator-led marketing need to adopt measurement methodologies that are tailored to the medium to truly measure its impact, rather than relying on approaches that were designed for measuring the impact of reach and frequency alone. Only then will brands be able to value their true impact against their wider marketing mix.
Influencer marketing offers a compelling opportunity for marketers to reach, engage, and impact young and emerging audiences, and the increasing rate of adoption among global advertisers appears to back up this trend. But, as with any new advertising tactic, they need to embrace the expertise that the fast-growing influencer marketing industry provides in order to truly take advantage of this opportunity – and perhaps even ride a paradigm-shifting wave to build authentic connections with their most valuable audiences and customers.
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