The Influencer Economy Is Taking Off As Content Marketing Collapses
Updated: Feb 13
By Tom Augenthaler
Founder of The Influencer Marketer as well as a speaker and trainer, coaching business owners and marketers how to reach new consumers and promote their brands more easily by working with online influencers.
Back in 2009, journalist turned influencer, Tom Foremski, predicted that all companies would become media companies one day.
He was right. The future has arrived.
Today most companies are, to some extent, media companies because they consistently produce content about their brands and products in the attempt to reach and engage their respective audiences.
They publish ads, articles on their websites, white papers, content on their blogs, videos on their YouTube channels and promote all of this on their social channels.
It’s not just consumer brands either. Business to business (B2B) firms are on the content marketing kick too with 70% of them creating more content than they did last year:
Everyday brands are pumping out “owned content.” This takes the form content published on their blogs and social channels as well as advertising.
Sounds great, right? Invest in producing your own content marketing engine so you can reach your customers and prospects directly, develop a better relationship with them and sell more widgets.
But there is a little problem with this scenario…
The hard reality is that brands are not trusted and that means much of their content gets overlooked and dismissed entirely by consumers they want to reach and persuade. The following illustration by McKinsey & Co. shines a harsh light on this truth:
The pie chart by McKinsey & Co demonstrates an inverse relationship between marketing dollars spent and level of consumer trust. A majority of the consumers surveyed don’t trust paid media – which is not a surprise.
Consumers don’t want ads. They find them annoying so they find ways to turn them off and ignore them.
According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, 26% of desktop user and 15% of mobile users are blocking ads as of July 2016. That figure has probably grown in the intervening months. Consumers want more control over what they see and ad blocking software gives that to them.
Brands had to do something to combat lower ad visibility. The easiest route was to put more resources into content marketing – which was great for a while. The trouble is, in-house content marketing is hitting a wall.
Content Marketing Implosion
Just a couple of years ago, 78 percent of brands increased their content output. At the same time, average content engagement decreased by a shocking 60 percent!
Engagement decreased by 60 percent!
We have arrived at what content marketing expert, Mark Schaefer, calls “Content Shock.” Mark’s premise is this:
“In any human, natural, or economic system, when there is an overabundance of some commodity, and there is a limited capacity to consume that good, something has to change. My post was a call to arms, pointing out that what worked in content marketing a few years ago — when content was a novelty — will not work in this era or overwhelming information density. Simply, the economics of content are changing.”
We’ve arrived. Content shock is here.
But here’s the good news:
Taking another look at the McKinsey & Co pie chart above (right hand side) that people DO trust word of mouth.
But, let’s be clear, “word of mouth” is a broad term and can mean a number of things, including:
Online reviews as seen on marketplace platforms like Amazon.com and YelpFriends and neighbors … when they recommend something to youAuthorities … authors and consultantsAnd online influencers … social media personalities including celebrities, bloggers (micro influencers), thought leaders and more.
Embrace Influencers & Cut Through The Noise
It makes perfect sense. People like to buy from other people, not brands or companies.
Why do you think every brand out there places images of people in their ads? Why do you think celebrities are paid to endorse products and be seen wearing and using those products?
It’s all about placing products where they will get attention – and it’s the attention that’s key.
Influencers are a way for brands to naturally incorporate their products, services and messaging into the content that is already being produced and consumed.
It’s not about force fitting where a consumer’s attention is placed. It’s about collaborating with influencers who have the audience to integrate organically and be a part of it.
The last year has seen a big shift by marketers into the influencer strategy.
How big is the shift?
When Inc Magazine writes a story about the rising interest in influencer marketing – and that it’s about to “go through the roof” – it’s fair to say marketers are interested:
But when mainstream media organizations are not only working with influencers, but BUYING digital agencies that specialize in influencer marketing, it might be time to take notice.
Let’s take a look:
Last year TechCrunch reported that the New York Times purchased an influencer marketing agency called HelloSociety…
Without a doubt, these stories are tantalizing but the cash investment is more telling.
Now let’s take a look at some other statistics and see if there’s a way to figure out what others in our industry are thinking.
According to eMarketer, marketers are hot on reaching millennial consumers with influencers seen as an effective way to do that.
Here’s what the findings say…
“According to the data, 48% respondents said they will boost their influencer marketing budget in the new year. Just 4% said they plan to decrease investment in this area.”
Okay, it’s helpful to get a handle on how much other marketers value the strategy.
Drilling a little deeper you can find a more specific rationale:
“Influencer marketing appeals to marketers for a number of reasons, not least of which is it allows them to do an end run around ad blocking. eMarketer forecasts that in 2017, more than one in four internet users will employ software to block ads.”
But what about the specific tactics marketers are working with influencers? Fortunately, eMarketer gives us some insight there too:
I have to admit that “ongoing ambassadorships” is rather vague, but product reviews and brand mentions along with event coverage and sponsored content are very clear.
Even better is that 51 percent of marketers believe they get a high quality customer from influencer marketing. That’s because the relationship begins with the consumer’s trust in the influencer. Brands benefit from that trust.
Oh, and here’s one last point, a statistic that’s sure to get your attention:
70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTuber influencers more than to traditional celebrities, according to a recent Google study.
You can be sure that’s not just happening on YouTube!
Now that you know why influencer marketing is good for business, here’s some advice about how to put together your own campaign.
I go into much more depth in my online course and training community, but the following best practices will get you up and running.
Best Practices For Working With Influencers
First, know that finding and assessing influencers takes an investment of time. You want to be sure you are selecting the influencers that are congruent with your brand and product.
There are many ways to go about this, but you should know that a tool like Fourstarzz makes this entire process MUCH easier!
With a few clicks you can select influencers based on niche, platform, language and more. You even get an ROI prediction for your planned campaign.
Use this methodology when finding and selecting your influencers…
Have a clear idea of your ideal audience – the audience you want to reach Know who they are (age, gender, what they want, what they like)Where do they go online (social platforms, forums) for informationWho do they trust & follow online. The example of Millennials on YouTube above is a place to start.Create a customer avatar before you start to help you pinpoint your ideal audience.If you are unsure about how to do this here is a helpful example of how to create your avatar.
Set a goal for your influencer campaign. Is it to boost awareness about your brand with consumers?Is it to boost the SEO (search engine optimization) for your website?Is it get product reviews to drive interest and consideration?Is it to create content about an event? Be sure to write it down and design your strategy to achieve this goal.
Be clear about what you have to offer the influencers. Have a clear idea of why influencers should work with you. Influencers want to know what value you are bringing to the relationship (you provide something of value to them and get something in return). Are you planning to pay them by sponsoring content? Do you have a cool product or service that you want them to evaluate and review? Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake this executive did by throwing money at the influencers. Be smart and think about the ROI you want.
Know the kind of influencers you want to work with and who makes the most sense for your brand/product. Be honest with yourself. Just because someone is a celebrity or has an impressive reach through social media channels doesn’t mean it makes sense to work with them. Take a careful look at who your ideal customer follows online. Is it YouTube influencers? Micro influencers (bloggers)? Who is it? You might find that your ideal customer follows a mix of influencers. Note: Celebrities normally charge a lot so be sure your budget can handle it.
Identify and assess influencers using 4 metrics. Relevance: How applicable are they to your brand/product. Resonance: Does the audience respond to their content? Reaction: Are they able to motivate their audience to a specific action such as buying a product? Reach: Aggregate audience size.
Remember, an influencer may have smaller reach but be more applicable to your niche so keep that in mind when doing your assessment. You now have a firm foundation to begin. If your company is not working with influencers, you’re going to want to change that quickly. The best influencers in your niche will become more popular – and expensive – as they begin to realize what they are worth.
By Tom Augenthaler
Founder and director of The Influencer Marketer