It’s about time influencer marketing grew out of its teething phase

If brands don't let influencers take back control over the content they produce, savvy consumers are simply going to scroll right past, argues Mark Graham.

For advertisers, there’s never been a better time to invest in influencer marketing. The potent combination of mobile technology and social media has resulted in unprecedented access to consumers, but there’s also a level of resistance around traditional forms of digital advertising. Increasingly, influencers have proven to be an effective way of cutting through the noise and delivering marketing messages to a receptive and captive audience – but the cracks are starting to emerge. 

There’s a worrying trend of influencers producing obvious, product-placed content that’s tarnishing the industry and giving brands – who are investing thousands of dollars into social marketing campaigns – a bad experience.

The question isn’t whether influencer marketing works – because it has already proven its chops. But it’s how can influencer marketing continue to be effective as end users become savvier and hordes of new influencers have hit the scene looking to make an easy buck?

As the space emerges, authenticity has become one of the driving factors of success, and it has changed the way many brands and agencies select influencers. It’s not so much about finding the ones with the biggest following, but about finding genuine brand advocates who are passionate about the brand and can authentically endorse it in a way that appeals to their followers and drives maximum engagement.

This shift towards authenticity has been a very important and necessary evolution in the influencer marketing space, but there’s another shift that needs to occur in order to get the most out of this marketing medium. Brands need to be able to assert more control over the creative content, and this can be established by working collaboratively with influencers. When done the right way, this can result in content that is entertaining, relevant and on message, while at the same time resonating with an influencer’s audience.

Influencers are widely considered to be the ‘new publishers’, and yet they’ve also had the sole responsibility of creating content in social marketing campaigns. If they’re truly looking to commercialise their channel wearing the hat of a publisher, then they need to be ceding some control over media campaigns to the creative agency – just as any publisher would.

A shift in this power structure offers a genuine opportunity for collaboration. Influencers can share the valuable insights they have into the loyal audience they’ve built, while marketers can share specialist tricks of the trade that they’ve garnered from years of experience.

A practical example of how this can work is when you get influencers to step away from the user-generated content paradigm and move them into the role of the star. This is an evolution of the ‘bedroom selfie’ style of content that enables brands to control the messaging while still enabling them to access the influencer’s audience. It’s a technique we’ve used to great effect at HooZu Productions, using film crews and directors to heighten the quality of the content. The key is capturing the influencer engaging with a product in an authentic manner.

We’re at a stage now where influencer marketing needs to evolve. It needs to facilitate an integrated creative process that involves both the brand and the influencer in content development.

As an industry, it’s our responsibility to handhold and evolve this new form of digital creative past the paid placements model. We need to give brands assurance that their dollars are being well-spent on social. With end users becoming more sophisticated with their social media consumption, we content creators need to be upping our game as well, and a more collaborative approach to working with influencers is the way forward.

Mark Graham is head of content at influencer marketing agency Hoozu


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