Incorporating influencers into your marketing mix is a trend on the rise, but despite that, there are many misconceptions about the practice. Here are some of the most common influencer marketing myths:
#1: It is more effective to acquire customers through "traditional" marketing.
The fact is, "traditional" user acquisition costs are too high. Over the past few years we've seen a significant shift in the way digital marketing works. User acquisition costs have risen by over 300% on platforms like Facebook and Google because those platforms have become dramatically more competitive, and largely operate as more of "pay to play" opportunities.
At the same time, people have become blind to digital advertising, with click through rates on ads hitting all-time lows, while the cost of converting a user into a paying customer has skyrocketed, by some accounts as much as 450%.
Consumers have spoken with the rise of ad blocking technology. Over 198 million people were using Ad Blockers by the end of 2015. This year saw Apple open up its iOS operating system to ad blockers, leading to a significant uptick as well.
"The message is clear," says Gil Eyal, founder of HYPR, the leading platform for brands to identify and engage social influencers to promote their products. "People no longer want to see ads, they don't respond to them, or worse, they respond to them negatively."
#2: The public is too cynical to trust influencers.
Compared to traditional advertising, influencer marketing has been accepted by the public, with users expressing a very high level of trust with influencers. According to Twitter, influencers are trusted nearly as much as personal friends. Because the content the influencers create is less intrusive and their fans opt-in to hear influencer messages, influencer marketing, when done correctly, has the potential to generate significant returns.
#3: The bigger the influencer, the better.
Brands need to focus on the right influencers--the ones that speak to their target audience and resonate with them. After all, not all influencers are created equal. "Yes, influencers are definitely trusted, but the question is by whom," says Eyal. "While Kim Kardashian does have an enormous audience, saying as a blanket statement that her audience trusts her could not be farther than the truth. They may trust her on fashion, but when she promotes medical products or an energy drink people see right through it--and you can see it in the comments."
Choosing the right influencers is an extremely important part of an influencer strategy, and often brands are blinded by follower numbers that don't mean much;they are often fake or unengaged. Eyal cites Souljaboy's Twitter and Facebook audience of millions, which barely muster up 300 likes per post, as one example.
#4: Influencer marketing only works for large brands with massive budgets.
There are some executives who mistakenly assume that influencer marketing only works for big brands. Not so, according to Eyal. In the case of HYPR, it works with many smaller brands that use the platform to create advocacy groups for themselves. One such brand is Koa Organic beverages, which created an advocacy group of yoga instructors who receive free product on a regular basis and distribute it to their students. Koa Organic has received a tremendous return with very limited financial investment on their behalf, and the yoga instructors become the champions who explain the product to their students. KOA reported an immediate 200% increase in sales from their online store.
The cost of working with a platform such as HYPR varies. Its subscriptions start at $1K/month, but adding more advanced enterprise features can raise to the $10K/month level. Of course, working with a top-tier influencer may involve a separate cash layout, although usually there's a simple exchange of gratis product in exchange for some type of social media activity.
#5: Influencer marketing has nothing in common with "traditional" marketing.
At its core, influencer marketing is just another form of marketing. "As a marketer, you need to find an audience that is interested in your product, a message that resonates with that audience, and a channel to reach that audience," maintains Eyal. Brands that understand the importance of selecting influencers who have a direct connection to their audience rather than trying to reach giant celebrities who have a very diverse audience, often fare much better by reducing their costs and reaching an audience that really cares.
The key is to avoid one-time spikes and build ongoing relationships with advocates for your brand who genuinely have positive feelings about it.
#6: There is no centralized means to identify and engage with influencers.
This is a myth I've heard repeated all too often, but the reality is that there are companies out there trying to solve the problem of a centralized platform for finding and engaging influencers. HYPR contends that it has the world's largest influencer database, with over 3 million influencers. Moreover, HYPR maintains demographic information about each of their audiences. As of this writing, its services have been used by over one hundred Fortune 500 companies, not to mention thirty of the top fifty PR and Advertising agencies in the world, and three of the five biggest publishers.
#7: Influencer marketing is only big in the United States.
In reality, multinationals are trying to identify influencers to enlist into marketing campaigns across the globe. For example, one ambitious multinational wanted to identify 50-100 influencers in a number of countries, including Malaysia, Ukraine, Poland, and Egypt. Typically, that's a challenging activity for a brand, but HYPR's platform has crawled over 700M social media accounts and has 3 million influencers in the database, along with all of their demographic data. Search engines like this can deliver a long list of hundreds of relevant influencers that hit its clientele's specific audience targets - in this case, teenage trendsetters who are into fashion and fitness.
What myths have you heard about influencer marketing? Are there any of the points above that surprised you? I'd love to know.