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Should businesses be using influencers as part of their 2020 digital marketing strategies?

The world of influencer marketing has had some big shake ups over the 12-months. In January 2019, the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) updated their guidelines for influencers, trying to ensure transparency around the content they post and to make it clear whether it is a paid partnership, products have been gifted or the influencer has otherwise been incentivised by a brand or agency to create specific social posts, blogs or videos. This followed on from similar advice from the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), updated in late 2018.

working with bloggers & influencers

All social platforms claim that they have been cracking down on ‘fake followers’ in recent times and Instagram carried out a noticeable cull on these accounts early last year.

More recently, Instagram started to remove the visibility of ‘likes’ on images and videos on their platform for many influencers, apparently to remove some of the competitiveness associated with posting content and the negative way this can affect some people mentally. It’s yet to be announced if this change will be permanent.

Something we have noticed with the influencers we work with at Hit Search, is that we have seen a shift in recent years from those who used to run their own blog sites and posted most of their content on there, to many switching to produce content purely for their social channels instead. Whilst this is understandable, because much social content (videos aside) doesn’t take nearly as much time and effort to create as writing a meaty blog post, it does leave influencers very much at the whim of the social platforms themselves, their algorithm changes or feature adjustments.

A recent report indicates that Instagram influencers need around 42.5k followers to earn the average UK salary from paid partnerships with brands, but of course this very much depends on the niche that they operate within and the types of content they produce, or how much cross-brand appeal they have. Some influencers will only work for certain brands or on specific campaigns that they feel are most closely matched to their ethos and personal vibe, but others are not so picky about who pays them or gifts them products in return for promotion. A mainstream fashion or lifestyle influencer posting a certain style of content is unlikely to have issues making money from paid partnerships, but influencers who represent smaller subcultures, or post only specifically themed content that might not be what most mainstream brands are looking for, can have a different experience.

Potential new challenges for influencer marketing in 2020

If metrics such as ‘likes’ on Instagram are to be phased out by the social media platforms themselves, it does make the task of assessing an influencer’s potential value to a campaign a little more difficult, but certainly not impossible. This move away from so called ‘vanity metrics’ could actually result in more meaningful metrics being a way for brands to measure potential value in influencers, which may encourage these content creators to up their game too, in order to work with brands like yours. These new metrics could include anything from the number and quality of comments on a campaign social post, to the DMs that an influencer receives off the back of their campaign content, post saves and, of course, the revenue or sales directly generated by the influencer’s posts. We expect influencers to start sharing these types of metrics more in their media packs in 2020, rather than just generic reach or basic engagement rate data, as many have done previously.

If an influencer has a genuine following of engaged users, the chances are that they have built up that follower base with their style of posting and the quality of their content over a period of time. It could be anything from their tone of voice to their own specific look for their images. Brands often have the idea that they should have full creative control over their campaigns – including every aspect of the influencer involvement. However, in order for the influencer activity to reach its full potential, it’s important for the influencer to be the one that creates the content themselves in order for it to resonate best with the intended audience. It shows authenticity and shouldn’t be a million miles from your brand’s ethos if the influencer is well-matched in the first place.

We’ve seen a lot more influencers using more than one platform recently. Whilst Instagram is clearly the social media platform of choice for many influencers, even with IGTV taking a stronger role for some vloggers, YouTube is still going strong. TikTok has really taken off in the last couple of years, especially with the younger demographics, and if influencers are able to monetise each platform separately, it will certainly be a driver for different formats of content to be produced. Brands can utilise this to take advantage of different target market segments who are more likely to be on some platforms than others.

What does this mean for brand influencer marketing strategies in 2020?

Some are predicting that global brand spend on influencers will peak at $10bn in 2020, although others see it rising as high as $15bn.

There is no doubt that an influencer campaign which is effectively researched and implemented, using well-matched influencers to the brand and campaign message, can have a transformative impact on not only brand awareness and positive sentiment towards that business, but also on sales or leads. However, it’s also common for brands to see no tangible return on their investment in an influencer campaign, especially if it was not planned and rolled out strategically, with pre-defined KPIs and metrics.

Should brands look to influencer marketing in 2020?

Absolutely; if your business objectives are aligned with this type of activity and you have a budget that can secure the right influencers (with the right followers) for your campaign. Whilst there is always an element of risk involved with using this type of marketing tactic, you can stack the deck in your favour by ensuring that your influencer marketing activity is managed effectively from the initial ideas stage, all the way through to evaluating results and calculating ROI.

Get in touch with the team at Hit Search if you want some help with running effective and measurable influencer marketing campaigns for your brand.

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