Influencer campaigns aren’t new; the strategy relies on the same idea marketers have been using for years – find the target consumer’s cool kid (aka “The Influencer”), have them promote and engage with a brand, and reap the rewards of their implied endorsement. At the core, influencer relations is no different from traditional public relations or experiential campaigns that utilize third-party credibility.
Similarly, the influencer is not a new idea nor only the territory of digital marketing. An influencer can be a celebrity or a respected editor of course, but equally the chairman of the school board, the most outspoken mommy in the group, or a social leader among a certain friend group. What has changed are the digital communication channels that allow these people to both increase their reach and monetize their influence.
However, like all great things that catch on with speed, there comes the inevitable drop in attraction and questions of validity that follow. Influencer marketing has been a favorite buzz tactic of late, with budgets increasing and increased scrutiny from all industries.
Have we reached influencer marketing burnout? Quite the contrary — instead, it has become a necessary item in the marketing mix. What has changed is that both practitioners and brands are recognizing that doing it well is easier said than done. To that end, there are two major considerations facing those of us incorporating influencer collaborations into our strategy: establishing ROI and determining appropriate pricing.
1. The ROI of Influencer Outreach
With bigger budgets being dedicated to influencer marketing (and bigger asks coming in from advertisers themselves), there in increasing pressure to be explicit about the ROI for this types of campaign. Platform limitations and complex analytics can be a challenge. Often, it’s more about client education than a new tool or dashboard. For example, we recently purchased tickets to a show based on a social post an influencer had published. We didn’t use the tracking code or comment on the post – but we did purchase. Who tracked that ROI?
Marketer Gary Vaynerchuk recently posted a video on this topic, which we include among the greatest rebuttals to the ROI debate we’ve heard. “What’s the ROI of a $10 million commercial?” Truth be told, even with all the tricks and tools available today, it is really difficult to determine the true impact of a social collaboration. Further, the more public relations professionals input traceable tactics like contesting, discount codes and unique links, the more we tread into the space of advertising, diluting the power of what authentic influencer endorsements can do for a brand.
We recently purchased tickets to a show based on a social post an influencer had published. We didn’t use the tracking code or comment on the post – but we did purchase. Who saw that ROI?
2. Appropriate Influencer Collaboration Budgets
As for pricing, we are all trying to figure out the appropriate threshold. There is no accurate calculator based on followership, and there are serious concerns about fraudulent inflation of influence. There are micro-influencers with niche followings who can have an incredible impact, and big names that may create a high-quality collaboration, but not drive conversions or sales. Some influencers are just more in demand at any given time, that “it factor,” so their fees are higher. It is simply a matter of supply and demand.
We like to approach conversations on pricing based on related marketing activities. What would it cost a brand to stage a shot with a photographer, creative director, and stylist and then pay for ad placement? Influencer collaborations should be a cost-effective choice in comparison while still respecting the time and creative output that comes along with producing brand content.
A campaign has to communicate the right message to the right audience in an authentic and actionable manner. Nothing is 100% traceable per campaign, so metrics like, long-term sales growth, new opportunities, changes in attitude/awareness, may be a more accurate view of success.
About Jess Hunichen and Emily Ward
Jess Hunichen and Emily Ward are the founders of Shine Influencers, a Toronto-based talent management agency for social creators that works with brands and agencies to create impactful social collaborations.