Influencer marketing: Let's bring full professional rigour to this near-$10bn sector

Businesses of all sizes are investing more in this area, but must ensure they do their homework - and content creators need to demonstrate the highest ethical standards.

Influencer marketing: Let's bring full professional rigour to this near-$10bn sector

More and more brands are now delving into the space due to a good network of agency and platform support. The big story of 2019 was Estee Lauder saying that now 75 per cent of its marketing spend will be focused in this area.

Influencer marketing: investment plans to 'seismic' scams... brands and agencies reveal priorities

Our survey backs this up, suggesting that 38 per cent of respondents will be spending more. Certainly the bigger brands in the space now have influencer marketing departments and specifically aligned individuals to manage campaigns.

My advice for those trying influencer marketing is to work with a professional agency or influencer platform dedicated to this sector. Influencer marketing, when done well – which means going through due process, assessing influencer relevance, authenticity and engagement, ensuring that contracts are in place and everyone understands the expectations involved – has been noted to achieve an 11-times return on investment.

Involving influencers at the early stage of a campaign can be so much more beneficial for all parties, and they can add so much to the creative output, rather than them being used as an add-on media asset.

The survey backs up ‘relevance to target market’ as the top reason why brands use influencers. You ideally want to find influencers with a passion for the product – in other words, would they buy it anyway?

There has been a real trend in developing more long-term campaigns, like the ambassador programmes many brands are running. We are also starting to see influencers used in other advertising media; in other words, being central to the campaign.

Lifestyle influencer Anthea Biggs has said: "I can see the boundaries between types of campaigns are beginning to blur – for example, influencers from one platform being used in other advertising mediums; I recently heard an Instagram influencer on a radio ad for a brand."

A common problem for some organisations is where influencer marketing sits. For example, is it in the PR and comms team or the market- ing team? Influencer marketing consultant Scott Guthrie says: "The future of influencer marketing should not be decided by one creative industry alone. As the discipline seeks to professionalise, marketing, advertising and public relations practitioners should work together to build on best practice and define a channel that works best for audiences and organisations alike."

It’s also true that influencer marketing has helped many start-up businesses that have limited budgets. Designer fashion brands, restaurants, bars, health and fitness products and many food and drink brands are a case in point.

There are close to 47 million influencers with nearly 750 influencer platforms around the world. The recently launched BCMA Influence is aiming to promote and support the industry through best practice and education.

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Blogger John Adams (aka @dadbloguk) said: "In 2020, we are going to see a more professional class of content creator emerge and split away from those who do it as a hobby. It’s already happening, but I think we’ll see this trend accelerate as agencies choose to work with the most experienced content-creators with a demonstrable track record and high ethical and professional standards."

Trust is a key issue for influencer marketing and fraudulent influencers still exist, sadly, despite a crackdown by the social-media plat- forms. The industry together must stamp this practice out.

There have been some influencer scams too, which is a blight on those that do an amazing job of creating great content. However, there has been a marked increase in the use of the #ad, which clearly means the message is get- ting through. The Competition and Markets Authority calling out some celebrities and influencers over this certainly created a wave of publicity, and there is more to come, I am sure.

Gordon Glenister is global head of influencer marketing at The Branded Content Marketing Association

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