I recently came across a post on LinkedIn titled Has the influencer bubble finally burst? The more important question, however, is did ever exist to begin with?
You may have heard the news story last month of the Instagram influencer with over two million followers who failed to sell 36 t-shirts to any of her audience. You could argue this is a rare occurrence, but I’d stipulate that it is rarer in fact to be able to quantify influencers’ ROI.
Having worked in digital and social media marketing for almost five years, I have witnessed first-hand the eagerness with which both brands and senior marketing executives wish to jump on the ‘influencer marketing’ bandwagon in the belief that this will help them target millennials and the youth.
The problem with influencer marketing is that it is incredibly difficult to measure whether their content converts to actual product sales, and more importantly, profit.
Instagram, the most widely used social media channel by influencers, may now be attempting to tackle this.
Earlier this month, it announced that it would be allowing brands to promote influencer-created content in people’s feeds even if those people do not follow the influencer’s account.
This new strategy follows on from their existing in-app purchasing features such as the shopping tags implemented in 2016 which allowed users to tap on images of products and be linked to off-platform e-commerce, which then evolved to allow users to store their payment details and complete all transactions within the app.
However, it is unclear whether brands will incorporate this payment system for their influencer-created content — and so once again I ask, how much influence on actual product sales do influencers have?
Perhaps where brands should actually be focusing their efforts is on the employment of high-profile household name-type individuals and minor celebrities to promote their products not only on social media, but through an entire campaign. In marketing speak we call these brand ambassadors or brand partnerships. And here are a few reasons why brand ambassadorships are more effective:
- Exposure — why limit your brand’s exposure to social media and the advertisement of products, when you can offer your consumers the opportunity to see your ambassador engaging with your brand in real life at events and appearances? Subsequently this offers an experiential element to your marketing campaign.
- Longevity — a one-off social media post, created by an influencer captures a user’s attention for all of seconds, whereas a brand partnership with a particular individual or group can last for as long as the agreed upon time period, usually several months.
- Cost — again, a single post can cost thousands, depending on the influencer, whereas a partnership for a longer period of time means costs can be negotiated.
- Choice — brands using social media influencers usually target those within their industries i.e. food, travel, fashion, beauty or health bloggers, whereas a brand ambassador does not need to be specific to an industry, they just need to be a notable individual who uses your product.
Though businesses don’t just need to look externally for these brand ambassadors. Some companies employ strategies to leverage their existing talent and create campaigns around individual team members who then become the face of the brand. Content is created around these individuals and shared on various platforms which not only humanises the brand and makes it more relatable, but also then presents that team member as an ambassador for the product or campaign the brand is promoting, and in this day and age where brands are capitalising on social causes and topical issues, many will want to have a company representative, aka a brand ambassador, act as their mouthpiece.