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As It Turns Out, Influencer Marketing Appears To Be Working — On Major Advertisers

"We’ve found that a growing number of marketers are turning to influencers to help them combat ad blocking, and drive engagement," says ANA CEO Bob Liodice.

The rise of Influencer Marketing alongside the evolution of social media marketing generally and the continued importance of online reviews has major advertisers convinced of the form’s efficacy, according to a survey from the ANA (Association of National Advertisers).

About 75 percent of the brand executives surveyed say their companies currently use Influencer Marketing. Almost half (43 percent) are planning to increase their spending on it in the next 12 months, according to the ANA survey of 158 advertiser representatives that was conducted in November 2017.

As for those respondents who do not currently use influencer marketing, 27 percent indicated they plan to do so in the next 12 months

Defining Differences In Influencers

In looking at the profile of the typical Influencer, the ANA survey evinced a wide range of the kind of person who can claim the ability to connect social media users with brands. Brands hire those with audience followings ranging from as few as 50 followers to over 100,000, the survey showed. Overall, Influencers were defined as “micro” (those with 50 to 25,000 followers), mid-level (25,001 to 100,000), and macro (over 100,000).

As GeoMarketing’s Lauryn Chamberlain generally outlined the concept, Influencer Marketing can be broadly defined as marketing that places the focus on people who can singularly guide and inspire a target audience through their popularity or social following — rather than speaking directly from the brand to the target audience itself.

Influencer Marketing therefore often takes the form of having those online guides with a specific following on a certain social platform — someone with a large amount of YouTube subscribers or Instagram followers, for example — directly or indirectly promote a brand or product in their content.

This involves paying an “influencer” to use, promote, or talk about a brand to their audience — with rates and arrangements varying by follower count, number of mentions, and more.

In the survey’s definition, culled from eMarketer, Influencer Marketing is a form of paid communication that “identifies and activates individuals who can sway the brand preferences, buying decisions, and loyalty of the broader population.”

The report also said on social platforms, the term typically describes “the process in which companies compensate celebrities, social media ‘stars,’ or industry experts to create content on behalf of brands or provide endorsements for brands.”

Essentially, “influencer marketing is a form of promotion where an entity partners with outspoken market leaders who have curated their own audience to augment your brand’s message,” as David “Rev” Ciancio, director for Industry Insights at Yext (full disclosure: Yext owns GeoMarketing. More details on that relationship here), told GeoMarketing. “Some modern marketers see it as a form of ‘growth hacking,’ where the leverage these market leaders give you allows your brand awareness to grow exponentially faster and gain more trust than you would by more traditional advertising or paid media.”

The How And Why Of Influencer Marketing

Not Surprisingly, the ANA survey found that Facebook (86 percent) and Instagram (84 percent) were the primary social media channels for Influencer Marketing. In terms of actually driving performance, Instagram ranking as the single most important channel (36 percent) followed by Facebook at 20 percent.

When it come to why Influencer Marketing is used, the  majority of respondents (86 percent) stated that general brand awareness was an main reason for using this form of communication. In addition, more than two-thirds (69 percent) said they use Influencer Marketing for content creation and distribution, while over half conduct influencer marketing to improve brand perception and drive purchase (56 percent and 51 percent, respectively).

As for the topline findings of the ANA survey:

  • Mid-Level Influencers Most Popular: More than half of brands using influencer marketing (66 percent) use mid-level influencers; 59 percent use micro-influencers and 44 percent use macro-influencers.
  • Influencer Compensation: Almost two-thirds of brands (62 percent) compensate influencers monetarily, while over one-third of companies (35 percent) provide free product in exchange for influencer services. Thirty percent provide monetary compensation for each individual post. Among respondents with knowledge of how much compensation their brands’ influencers receive, 62 percent said they spend under $100,000 annually and 38 percent spend over $100,000.
  • Marketer Satisfaction and Effectiveness: A majority of respondents (54 percent) were either satisfied or very satisfied with the performance of their influencer marketing. However, 39 percent of respondents felt neutral about their influencer marketing performance, as they have not been involved in influencer marketing long enough to judge their performance and/or are engaging in small-scale testing. 44 percent of respondents stated they were neutral about the effectiveness of their influencer marketing, 36 percent feel their influencer marketing is effective, and 19 percent said it was ineffective.
  • Legal Disclosures: 38 percent use #sponsored and 35 percent use #ad to convey that an influencer post has been paid for and sponsored by a brand. According to FTC guidance, ambiguous disclosures like #thanks, #collab, #sp, #spon, or #ambassador are not sufficient to disclose the material connection between the influencer and the brand, despite their prevalence in influencer marketing.

On the issue of how best to use Influencer Marketing, the ANA suggests that brands “develop an understanding of not just influencers and their content but the makeup of their followers to ensure alignment with pre-determined objectives. Know what tracking measures and KPIs an influencer can provide and deliver on before entering into an agreement.”

The ANA also cautioned that “more followers don’t always equal better results.”

For example, an Influencer with a large following may generate extensive exposure, unless this individual is viewed as credible by those followers, as opposed to offering mere curiosity, the brand is just as likely to see fewer sales from such a recommendation.

Separately, many Influencers may share similar followings, meaning that when  marketer works with two accounts that have 10 million followers each, the message doesn’t necessarily reach 20 million people.

But for the most part, the ANA sees Influencer Marketing as offering more upside than downside for brands.

“It’s clear that the popularity of Influencer marketing has increased among marketers in recent years, largely due to the growth and evolution of social media,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “We’ve found that a growing number of marketers are turning to influencers to help them combat ad blocking, leverage creative content in an authentic way, drive engagement, and reach Millennial and Gen Z audiences who avidly follow and genuinely trust social media celebrities.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.