Five signs influencer marketing has come of age

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With more consumers turning away from advertising – 22% of British adults are using ad blockers – and traditional media in freefall, brands and influencers are looking for new ways to reach people.

Influencer marketing has innate appeal because of its human face. But until recently it’s been time consuming, messy, potentially inefficient and hard to measure. But the introduction of automation to the sector via platforms like Buzzoole has streamlined the search for the right influencer, rendering the whole process more robust, cost-effective and scalable. As a result, influencer marketing has matured into something far more exciting and grown up.

Here are five signs that the industry has come of age:

1. Smarter campaigns

Brands have to deliver genuinely innovative campaigns to stand out – paying a celebrity to share a picture and add a hashtag no longer cuts it! So savvy marketers, who know how influencers work, are forming genuinely creative collaborations that cut through the noise and deliver real ROI.

Take CoverGirl’s announcement of its first cover boy, makeup blogger James Charles. It showed that CoverGirl genuinely understood how choosing the right influencer could act as a bold statement. It proved that the brand was really in tune with contemporary trends and how consumers live their lives.

Mercedes’ excellent 360° video is an even more ambitious example. It joined forces with instafamous Loki the Wolf Dog and his owner to create a VR experience promoting the latest Mercedes 4X4. The pair, equipped with a 3D camera, were given free rein to scramble Colorado’s snowy peaks. The recording of their exploits was a resounding success, racking up over 173 million impressions on Instagram and putting Mercedes in front of an entirely new audience.

What’s more, the campaign didn’t just leverage a devoted following, its lifespan was extended with stunning user-generated content.

2. The growing professionalism of influencer marketing

A key benefit of influencer marketing is the ability to track brand mentions and sentiment. Comments and likes, fuelled by real people with real opinions, are akin to live feedback. Brands can grasp precisely how their content is received in real time, which allows them to quickly adapt when needed.

Influencer marketing is fast-becoming governed by clearer regulations too. According to current Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) guidelines, influencers paid to promote a product or service have to do so in a clearly signposted way. Just last week Facebook changed its branded content policy, introducing a framework which allows influencers to officially monetise their following.

3. Recognition of where influencer marketing works best

Influencers have a firm view on their tone of voice, their values and the topics they want to talk about. Smart brands know that influencers will want to weave their own personality into any collaboration – this is after all the value that influencer marketing brings – though brands must provide guidelines and a clear direction.

A partnership approach is vital for brands and influencers to work together successfully. Brands that have a command-and-control mentality will quickly find that influencer marketing is not going to work for them unless they change their ways. Smart brands are increasingly aware of the importance of nurturing long-term relationships with influencers. Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvinscampaign, which involved numerous celebrity influencers, would have been nothing without its social media darling Kendal Jenner at the helm.

4. An end to chasing the numbers

Brands have grasped that the effectiveness of influencer marketing depends on trust and authenticity.

Going after engagement rather than simple follower count is what matters now. This means paying less attention to celebrity influencers and turning instead to the “long-tail” of micro-influencers with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers who are much more likely to have a really engaged audience.

Ribena’s latest Colouring Cafe, aimed at millennial squash-lovers, is a case in point. The pop-up activity was supported by two established influencers, with larger followings, but more importantly 30 micro-influencers, handpicked to appeal to younger adult consumers. The result? A direct line to that ever-elusive age bracket and 66,000 visits to the company website.

5. Automation understands influence

Influencer marketing platforms like Buzzoole effectively match brands with the influencers that suit. Algorithms take on every aspect of a brand’s requirements to ensure that only true ambassadors are chosen, thus connecting brands directly with their audiences. So, marketers can rest assured that their campaigns are rooted in real data-led insight.

Ultimately, automation is powerful because it gets to the true nature of influence. Focussing on reach alone is outdated. What really matters are the types of conversations that influencers are having with their followers and the actual levels of engagement they achieve.

Automation brings the ability to scrutinise all of these things as well as identifying who the key influencers are within specific topics. As a result, brands can target audiences that count.