Money is being poured into influencer marketing, often without a proper understanding of the channel. Whalar’s Neil Waller explains how influencer marketing can make advertising more personable, culturally relevant and more effective.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of advertisers plan to increase their influencer marketing spend this year, according to a recent survey by the World Federation of Advertisers. Yet despite this growth, confusion remains over how influencer marketing should be done to be most effective.

Beyond the numbers

It has often fallen back on vanity metrics – a popularity contest of just getting whoever has the most followers, with little consideration given to the context, audience suitability or what’s actually being published. This reduces it to nothing more than a game of follower numbers. As a result, people have tried to game the system and marketers are, rightfully, starting to question the ROI.

Thankfully, the days of the Wild West are behind us. What’s more, as evidenced by some of the 2018 IPA Effectiveness Awards winners, when properly approached, influencer marketing can be a powerful tool to help create advertising that’s led from consumer insight, that feels trustworthy and that is culturally relevant to both the brand and the audience.

Take L’Oréal. It used influencers to promote inclusion and ramped up its UK market share as a result, at the same time as spinning its ‘Because you’re worth it’ into a new iteration ‘Because we’re all worth it’. Genius. Ella’s Kitchen tapped into the huge power of WOM among parents, successfully transforming them into vocal advocates for the brand. Barclays enlisted the help of ‘Digital Eagles’ from within its business to help customers understand internet safety, a step which helped galvanise its workforce. The Starbucks campaign used influencers in a very natural way to turn the cups into an iconic social media post. SK-II enlisted influencers to rally behind its message, something that was a million miles away from the celebrity-studded 15-second TV ads that tend to typify advertising in the Chinese skincare category.

Not just box-ticking

What all of the most effective influencer campaigns have in common is that they’re not just using influencers as an audience rental opportunity that’s been bolted onto a campaign with a bit of leftover budget to tick the influencer marketing box.

These campaigns have actually been allowed to be shaped, in part, by the influencers, with the messaging and insights they help develop being integrated across all the media involved. They have not only driven incredible business outcomes to date, they are also continuing to live on through the ongoing conversations that consumers and influencers are now having with and around the brand.

Here are five tips on including influencers:

1. Define your business objective

Make sure you are crystal clear on this because how else can you make decisions and brief people properly, let alone ascertain if influencer marketing has worked for you?

2. Have a clear insight and brief

This is central to any advertising strategy and is no different with influencer marketing. The brief shouldn’t be to create a photo and promote a product. You need a clearly defined understanding of the message and concept that you’re trying to land with your marketing strategy. Of course, one part of your influencer marketing campaign could be to do research with influencers to help actually uncover and establish the insights. The brief should then be clear on what you are wishing to achieve along with setting all the visual parameters and guidelines which need to be followed to ensure what gets produced is going to be both on brand and capable of delivering on your objectives.

3. Carefully select influencers

One of the key challenges when thinking about the influencer space is the fact that the term ‘influencer’ describes such a vast landscape of individuals, from globally known celebrities to the social media famous to the micro and nano influencers. The simplest approach is to think of every influencer as a publisher. They will have a topic in which they are a thought leader, they will have a clear point of view and a defined audience demographic and size. For instance, you wouldn’t advertise an everyday cooking utensil in Vogue.

4. Trust, listen and learn

Having done the hard part of setting the objective, creating the brief and having carefully chosen the influencers, you can risk throwing away a lot of the benefits of influencer marketing by then not trusting the influencers to do their thing. With the right influencers you’ll have an individual that represents your consumers. They will be seen as a taste-maker to their audience and have learnt the craft of speaking and publishing to that audience through the channels where they wield some influence. Resist the temptation to micromanage them. If you’ve set the objective, articulated the insight through a clear brief and selected the right influencers, then their creativity and opinions are exactly the value they represent to you.

5. Take a fully-integrated approach

Avoid having influencer marketing as a bolt-on channel that’s simply using up some leftover budget. Make influencer marketing an integrated part of your entire marketing strategy for the campaign. Leverage the insights, utilise the creative across all your channels and tie up the messaging. Influencer marketing’s ability to help break down the walls between marketers and their consumers is where the 0true power of this marketing channel exists. Embraced fully, it can help make advertising more personable, more culturally relevant and, crucially, more effective.

This is an extract from the 2018 IPA Effectiveness Awards Report, available in full for subscribers here or read a sample of the report here. Influencer marketing is the focus of the February issue of Admap, published Monday 4th.