Like it or not, influencer marketing is changing
A view from Barney Farmer

Like it or not, influencer marketing is changing

The metrics that agencies and brands are using to understand the impact of working with influencers are not fit for purpose.

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With #ad and #spon tags increasingly visible on social platforms and glossy, groomed ambassadors unboxing or live-streaming tutorials, whether cooking or contouring, influencer marketing is a burgeoning advertising channel, with brands set to spend up to $15bn by 2022 (according to Business Insider).

Despite this increase in spend, there is a big measurement gap – brands and agencies still struggle to understand the real impact of influencer campaigns due to a lack of transparent, third-party measurement. The need for greater understanding of the return on investment is especially important at a time when social media platforms are testing the removal of traditional engagement metrics such as "likes", views and shares. If this takes off industry-wide, both influencers and influencer agencies may have a hard time proving the value of a post or story.

Even if this wasn’t an issue, the metrics that agencies and brands are currently using to understand the impact of working with influencers are not fit for purpose. We need a much richer picture of what works and what doesn’t. Influencers have some of the most engaged audiences, who have a real sense of community, familiarity and trust. So how best can brands harness that power and create campaigns that really resonate?

How to win at measurement and influence people

Nielsen recently launched Influencer Brand Effect in the UK to address these challenges and bring clarity and transparency to the influencer space. We gather responses from people who follow influencers to determine how effective campaigns of this sort are at driving key brand metrics.

Indicative findings from our first set of influencer campaigns measured in the UK show that influencer marketing is four times as memorable as traditional digital content, highlighting the high levels of engagement and recall among influencers’ following.

There are also promising signs of influencer content having a significant impact on a range of brand metrics that will give advertisers a broader understanding of the impact of their influencer marketing. Initial findings have shown uplifts across core metrics such as awareness, favourability and brand consideration (12%, 15% and 17% average uplifts respectively) – higher than would be seen in traditional digital display and video campaigns.

That’s because influencer marketing leverages people – it’s the modern-day word of mouth – and we trust and respond well to those we feel familiar with.

Follow my lead: content best practice

More and more agencies are starting to define influencers as content creators, but what qualifies as good content? How can we measure the effectiveness of an influencer post?

Perhaps counterintuitively, we have found that the content that has been most effective at driving brand KPIs tends to have a greater product-led focus in comparison with other influencer posts. This has been the case particularly with the micro-influencers we have assessed through our studies.

Although it’s important to give influencers autonomy and creative freedom over their posts, it’s also vital that the product is the focal point to ensure there’s no misunderstanding among the target audience. If you’re a beverage brand, for example, you need to make sure the bottle and brand are clearly visible – a photo or video of attractive people consuming the product is not enough.

Keep it real: authenticity is key

Influencers have communities of followers who know and trust their aesthetic and content. These engaged audiences are not only more likely to recall branded content but are also more likely to have a deeper sense of trust and familiarity. This provides brands with a platform to collaborate with the influencer and cultivate a relationship with their audience to build brand associations and likeability towards a brand.

Although it should go without saying, brands must always ensure that sponsored posts are tagged as such. Despite some concern from influencers, there is no evidence to suggest that sponsored posts turn followers off.

While the world of advertising is still grappling with the next phase of influencer marketing, some things are a safe bet: great content, partnerships that make sense and, crucially, robust measurement. That really is something to like.

Barney Farmer is commercial director at Nielsen Media UK