Influencer marketing could be described as a suburb of content marketing, being content produced to promote a brand or one of its products.
According to new research, influencer marketing is going mainstream. Fifty-seven per cent of marketers are set to make it part of their main marketing campaign, while 80 per cent believe content marketing will be the sector most affected by influencer marketing.
All the same there is something a little off-putting about it. Paying someone to promote your product is fine. If it’s ok for Kevin Bacon to do EE or Ben Stiller to plug Chu Hi (a “fruity alcoholic drink” available only in Japan), then it’s ok for Stanley the YouTuber.
Cost and problems
Influencer marketing can give you an easy traffic spike. Furthermore, consumers tend to have a higher level of trust in influencers who they have opted into. Lastly, you can target bloggers and YouTubers much more easily. If you are selling an automotive brand, find someone who reviews cars.
But influencer marketing has reached a crossroads. One early argument in its favour was its relatively low cost. In the past, someone would do it for a free product. Now the agencies have taken over.
In 2015, The&Partnership – part of WPP – opened a specialist agency called The&Collective to pair influencers with brands. It is not alone. Undoubtedly, agencies will drive up costs, but will they also benefit the market?
Possibly the bigger issue has to do with regulations (or lack of them). There has been a growing feeling, in the US and UK at least, that influencers need be upfront about whether they have been paid by a brand.
Last year, the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (Icpen) announced it was to enforce guidelines on bloggers/YouTubers/influencers. For those who don’t know, Icpen is a global association of consumer protection bodies whose presidency passes between its member countries.
The rules are:
- disclose clearly and prominently whether content has been paid for
- be open about other commercial relationships that might be relevant to the content
- give genuine views on markets, businesses, good or services.
There are plenty of good reasons to use influencers. Yet, ultimately, they work like a caffeine hit for your marketing. They can bring you a traffic spike, but you don’t want to end up relying on them.