While Influencer Marketing has been around for quite some time, I'm surprised by how much confusion there still is around this powerful marketing tactic. Granted, a lot has changed since 2008 when my agency, Trepoint, launched our first campaign with YouTube Blogger Kip Kay on behalf of Trend Micro.
When speaking with my peers in the marketing industry, I find three most common misperceptions about Influencer Marketing which I'd love to clear up.
Myth #1: An Effective Influencer Campaign Requires Celebrities.
I hear this one a lot. Most marketers associated Influencers with Celebrities and use the terms interchangeably. Sure, if you're Nike, it's helpful to have the top athlete of each sport supporting your brand. However, for the past 10 years, celebrities endorsements have been on the decline. While there are multiple factors for this, the one that rings true to marketers comes from the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report which states, "The most credible form of advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust. Eighty-three percent of online respondents in 60 countries say they trust the recommendations of friends and family." In other words, people still want to hear about your products and services, they just want to hear from trusted sources such as their friends.
In May of 2016, Adweek reported on new research from Twitter that says 47 percent of people have bought an item based on an influencer's recommendation. The conclusion of the research is that people trust "influencers" nearly as much as their friends. But these influencers are not celebrities in the traditional sense. They are social media celebrities such as mommy bloggers, YouTube subject matter experts, and people with large followings on social channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Those people on social media who have found their niche are not celebrities in the traditional sense, but rather social media celebrities who have cultivated a rather large following around a particular area of interest.
This trend should be particularly interesting to marketers as social media celebrities are a fraction of the cost of traditional celebrities you'd expect to find in sports, music, movies and television.
Myth #2: Influencer Marketing Doesn't Scale. The next most common myth I frequently hear is all the reasons that Influencer Marketing doesn't scale - usually because the misperception is that you have to reach out to each influencer individually and negotiation with him or her directly. Several companies including Tap Influence have built networks of influencers that are in the tens of thousands. They have pre-vetted these influencers and created standardized agreements with each of the influencers who have signed up for their platform.
So yes, if you're planning on negotiating with each and every influencer you're interested in, then I would agree that this approach to Influencer Marketing would not, in fact, scale. But if you leverage an existing platform that already has significant influencers that fit your needs, then scale is not a problem.
Myth #3: You Can't Prove the ROI of Influencer Marketing ... Especially for Physical Retail Purchases. I had hoped to dispel this myth months ago with my previous article, Influencer Marketing Delivers 11X ROI Over All Other Forms of Digital Media. While there are many case studies from companies who have successfully leveraged Influencer Marketing at scale, it helps to have third-party research from companies like Nielson Catalina Solutions to study the direct sales impact Influencer Marketing has on in-store retail sales. You can review these results for yourself, and see how Influencer Marketing drives incremental sales at a rate of 16x / impression versus traditional digital advertising.
Always Be Testing
Despite all of these myths, the real proof is applying these insights toward your own business and reviewing your own results. Nothing beats a well-constructed A/B test. As long as you can work backwards from your sales process, tactics like Influencer Marketing can easily be tested and ruled in or out. After all, as an entrepreneur, we're constantly looking to see what works and what doesn't. Nobody wants to fail, but the next best thing to success is the ability to fail as quickly and cheaply as possible so that you can learn from the test and find a new way forward. If you haven't tested out Influencer Marketing at scale, perhaps it's worth some time to construct a test and see if you can outperform your current digital marketing efforts.