For some marketers, influencer marketing may carry a negative connotation or raise questions about its efficacy. People might be unsure about how partnering with influencers can impact their brand.
These stereotypes and assumptions are, of course, misleading. However, distinguishing fact from fiction can be challenging, even in today’s information age. So, it’s useful to address misinformation head on.
In 2018, our team shared five ways to tackle skeptics about influencer marketing. We wanted to illuminate the truth about the trajectory of the industry and how success is measured, among other important topics. Moreover, we strove to challenge stereotypes about influencer marketing and influencers themselves.
That’s because the truth matters–and the public perception of influencer marketing plays a role in its future success. Specifically, the way people view influencer marketing affects marketers' ability to obtain the highest yield in their campaigns and use influencers throughout their different channels.
A lot has changed in two years. Most notably and recently, the Coronavirus pandemic has swept the globe and devastated both people and industries. In light of these profound changes, now is an important time to again explore potential misunderstandings about influencer marketing.
Here are five myths about the industry in 2020 and facts you can use to set the record straight.
Myth #1: The industry is stalling
Before the pandemic hit, the influencer marketing industry was projected to be worth as much as $15 billion by 2022–nearly double that of the $8 billion it was worth just last year. Make no mistake, the industry is growing, and quickly.
However, the pandemic certainly caused hiccups and calls for some readjustments. As Business Insider notes, some influencers lost sponsorship deals and canceled events in the early months of the outbreak. Some agencies saw brands postpone their campaigns, even despite the fact that social media engagement was higher than normal with people spending more time in isolation.
Eventually, several months in, brand deals began to “trickle back.” For instance, as the authors note, after hitting an all-time low in April, sponsored content for travel and tourism bounced back 34% by July. Brands have been creative in engaging users, too. Chipotle, for example, launched virtual hangouts on Zoom as a way to bring people together while they social distance. As stated in the article, these are examples of creators adjusting to a new normal.
Although some industries (such as travel and fashion) have taken hard hits, others (such as fitness creators and plant influencers–more on the latter below) have flourished. In all, despite early-pandemic confusion, there’s no evidence to suggest that influencer marketing is on its way out. Growth projections remain impressive, and with an increase in social media users globally–3.6 billion people use social media today, a number that’s projected to rise to 4.4 billion by 2025–the available audience will only grow alongside the industry. No matter how long the pandemic lasts, influencers can use their platform during this time to entertain people, provide helpful tips, and assist brands in their effort to connect with consumers.
Myth #2: Influencer marketing doesn’t work as well as other paid channels
Paid marketing channels such as pay-per-click and social media ads have proven beneficial for marketers. Among other advantages, paid search ads allow for highly-targeted campaigns, increased exposure on search engines, and quick results. However, influencer marketing has shown to be highly effective, too. In fact, according to Marketing Hub’s 2020 Benchmark Report, for every dollar spent on influencer marketing, brands earn $5.78 in earned media value (EMV)—more on this concept below.
Marketing agencies, brands, and various industry insiders agree: influencer marketing works. In fact, according to the aforementioned survey, 91 percent of industry professionals agree that influencer marketing is effective. Four in five respondents set aside at least 10 percent of their marketing budget for influencer marketing, suggesting that influencer marketing campaigns are an integral part of brands’ strategic media mixes. Marketers can complement paid media channels with influencer marketing and be successful.
Even amid the Coronavirus pandemic, there is evidence to suggest that influencer marketing remains effective. As we alluded to above, indoor plant sales are booming largely on account of “plantfluencers” such as Craig Miller-Randle, whose Instagram following has grown from 20,000 to over 150,000 just this year. Nick Cutsumpas, known as “Farmer Nick,” has likewise seen a surge in followers this year–his following on Instagram has doubled since March to over 65,000. Their explosion in popularity can be attributed to people spending more time inside, and therefore prioritizing indoor decor. Influencers such as Miller-Randle and Cutsumpas play a key role in inspiring their social media followers.
Myth #3: The effectiveness of influencer marketing can’t be measured
As we outlined in a blog last year, there are many metrics marketers can use to measure success of influencer campaigns. The following are among some of the many tools at their disposal.
- Reach and Impressions: How many people saw a post? How many of those views were unique? How many were repeat views? Keep in mind, views can mean different things on different social platforms. For example, users must watch at least 3 seconds of a video on Instagram for it to count as a view.
- Engagement Rate: How actively involved with your content is your audience? Are they clicking “like” or commenting? Are they taking time to interact with your post? This data point is effective in tracking the interest level of your audience.
- Conversions: Are you generating sales? Are people visiting your website? Are they viewing your videos? In simple terms, conversions are the point at which a desirable outcome occurs. Marketers can utilize UTM tracking, or special codes added to the end of a URL, to track how effectively influencer content is generating conversions.
- Earned Media Value: Are people mentioning your brand on social? Are they commenting on your posts? Are they reviewing your products? And how valuable are these interactions? Earned media value assigns a dollar value to every interaction (e.g., like, reshare, tweet) with your influencer’s content.
Myth #4: Influencer marketing should be done solely out-of-house
While there are myriad benefits to working with agencies–reduced time searching for the right influencers, familiarity in the space, and continuity in campaigns, among others–influencer marketing can also be done effectively in house. Some brands, such as Macy’s, have shown this to be true. The retail giant’s “Style Crew,” a group of employees who post company products and services on social media, has grown exponentially from 20 in 2017 to 3,300 in 2020. Company employees are incentivized to share content and receive a percentage of each sale they drive.
There are many reasons why brands opt to keep their influencer marketing in-house. For one, employees are familiar with the brand. For another, it can be a cost-effective way to boost a brand’s profile, as was the case with Macy’s. Perhaps above all else, however, brands can take ownership of the process. Everything from tracking key metrics to forming partnerships with influencers is put under the brand’s control. A dedicated in-house influencer program allows brands to control the strategy and execution of their campaigns.
You might worry about putting too much on your plate; however, there are software programs and automations available that help marketers streamline processes to avoid tedious and time-consuming manual tasks. Some platforms, for instance, allow users to manage a variety of tasks including searching influencer profiles, managing outreach, and even doing deep dive analysis of data to evaluate campaign success and inform future decisions.
Myth #5: You need a big name influencer who costs a lot of money
You don’t need a superstar influencer with millions of followers to get a good return on your investment. Because they’ve proven fruitful, micro-influencers have become more popular in recent years. In fact, Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2020 survey showed that micro-influencers have a better engagement rate than mega-influencers (7.2% to 1.1% on Instagram; 9.38% to 5.3% on TikTok, and 1.4% to 0.3% on Twitter). The survey also found that, since 2016, the amount of micro-influencers hired by large firms has tripled.
In addition to greater engagement rates, micro-influencers benefit brands in various ways. They tend to have loyal followings and credibility within their audience. They have the ability to humanize brands, communicate directly with their followers, and even serve as community leaders. What’s more, they’re affordable and generally easier to work with than mega-influencers who likely have managers to contend with.
While the world is very different than it was two years ago, influencer marketing continues to yield results. Skeptics still exist, so it’s important to point to hard data. Also, keep in mind that there’s not just one avenue for success–depending on their specific needs, brands can go in-house, spend on a mega-influencer, or call on a micro-influencer to achieve great results.