Opinion

What influencer marketing can learn from traditional advertising

The world of influencer marketing is still in its infancy, and there are some important lessons to be learned from the advertising models of old, writes Hypetap's Chris Morfis.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of influencer marketing, but losing focus could mean wasted money and time.

We’ve progressed from the days of building out influencer lists based on manual evaluations thanks to an array of technology (AI and algorithm based), but with all these advances it seems influencer selection has lost some of its rigour. We’re increasingly seeing brands seek out cheaper content creators rather than partnering with true influencers.

Brands need to start thinking about influencer marketing with the same mindset they would traditional advertising. The channels of communication are overtly different, but there are clear parallels when it comes to the overall objective — to drive awareness, purchase intent and ultimately consumer behaviour.

Traditional advertising vs. influencer spend

The driving factor for most traditional advertising investment decisions has been the trade-off between reach and frequency. Influencer marketing can also be viewed through this lens when scheduling lots of influencer to build your reach. Are we building reach or frequency as we build out our influencer schedule?

Unless the audience is seeing the message multiple times, you’re only building reach in small increments and not reinforcing the messages and delivering that all important social proof. All of a sudden it seems that marketers are happy creating white noise, rather than ensuring they’re driving real outcomes. When recommending influencers we always look for engaged reach. Not always a tradeoff, but a benchmark that influencers can sit on either side of.

Looking at traditional avenues of ad spend, there’s always been a clear outline of how much paid content you’re going to see in comparison to organic content.

Take magazines for example, there’s always been a 40/60 split between paid and editorial content. Usually this means brands need to consider who else will be featured, what other advertorial content will be included and how these factors will affect your brand’s positioning.

The same goes for TV shows. Long ad breaks quickly see audiences disengage. It’s why ad breaks are kept (relatively) short, and like magazines, there’s a small window in which ads can capture audience attention before they start to zone out.

The same approach needs to apply when selecting influencers. Is 70 percent of your potential influencers’ Instagram feed just sponsored content?

No one likes getting spammed with ads while watching TV or reading the paper (regardless of how well it’s disgusted as editorial content). The same should apply to influencers’ content. That’s why it’s more important than ever to be selective with your influencers. You’ll lessen your chance of just being white noise on someone’s Instagram feed and actually see real business outcomes.

The sweet spot

Work with influencers who are posting regularly and getting creative about what they’re sharing. Your brand’s agenda should flow seamlessly into their feed.

Influencers who post regularly with a mix of organic and sponsored content build better relationships with their following as they have created more opportunities to gauge what resonates and what flops. Look for contextual relevance in organic content as well as examples of branded content that complements your product.

While this is only one piece of the puzzle when selecting influencers for a campaign, it needs to be front of mind. This is especially true as more content creators rise like the phoenix, hoping to build up their following, when really, they’re just aspiring influencers who are learning the nuances of good quality content but don’t actually have a substantial following to drive results on scale.

When planning an influencer campaign, don’t set out to make ripples — create waves of change that result in inquiries, increased web traffic, sales or justification of shelf space.

We need to remember what influencer marketing is actually about and what value influencers offer. It’s their audience, and the ability to influence this audience in the way they think, feel and act. Sometimes this is forgotten, but don’t fall into the trap.

Chris Morfis is general manager at Hypetap.

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