As an expert in managing influencer accounts and measuring the impact of branded influencer content, Lumanu’s CEO, Tony Tran, explains how brands can build successful relationships with social media influencers. He discusses the strategies brands and marketers need to implement for 2022–2025 to gain a competitive edge.
Tran shares his insights on how influencers can best navigate the complexities of working with consumer brands and the issue of content ownership. In this exclusive with MarTech Advisor, he talks about the need to manage influencer data, the impact of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, the role of long form content, and more.
Key takeaways from this Q&A on influencer marketing strategy:
- Learn how to integrate influencer and paid media investments
- Get insights on tools for influencer marketing
- The latest trends in influencer marketing for 2020 and beyond
How valuable is influencer marketing going to remain as a strategy looking forward to 2022–2025?
The number of advertising channels is increasing exponentially, and consumer behavior continues to diverge from the homogenous groupthink that was common in the past. The winning brands are those that economically tap into a diverse set of voices.
The winning influencers are those voices who tell the brand story in a unique and relatable way.
Furthermore, as consumer privacy and data regulations become more stringent, the ability to build unique data partnerships with influencers (akin to building data partnerships with publishers in the past) will increase in value tenfold.
What are your top 3 tips for brands to build successful relationships with social media influencers?
Tip 1: Unless you’re working with a celebrity, do not obsess over an influencer’s specific followers. Influencer content outperforms traditional brand assets even if the end-user doesn’t recognize the influencer if the content is targeted to a receptive audience. Make sure this is clear to influencers to help them understand that their worth extends far beyond a follower count on social, and to encourage them to create truly great content.
Tip 2: You should proactively promote the value of transparency in all your influencer partnerships. Influencers often have no idea how their content, data, and likeness are being used as well as the results they’re driving. A willingness to share data that other brands are reluctant to share will endear brands to influencers and allow for more successful (and economical) relationships in the future.
Tip 3: Leverage influencer data regarding consumer preferences in more than just your Instagram campaigns; bring that data through all marketing strategies to justify your investment in influencers. This requires building relationships with influencers that involve the sharing of not just content rights, but also advertising access and data rights.
Influencers are not just creating great content; they’ve accumulated a valuable set of data on “which consumers respond positively to social recommendations and influencer content.” If you leverage that data throughout your marketing strategies, not just your influencer marketing strategy, it will justify your investment in influencers beyond social media.
How can influencers best navigate the complexities of working with marketers and consumer brands, specifically the issue of transparency and how content is distributed?
Influencers should take the time to educate themselves on the complexities of modern-day brand-influencer relationships. Developing a standard framework for talking to brands in terms of “custom content” versus “licensing” is a great start.
After all, influencers are essentially publishers: they create custom content for brands (“branded content”) and then license the rights to use that content to the brands.
Influencers should also proactively investigate using certain software tools that provide a safe environment for brands and influencers to share data efficiently and securely.
Lumanu's technology, is an example of such a tool, where advertising access and other data can be securely shared and revoked at any time by influencers.
What are the issues marketers face in managing how influencers and their authenticity are perceived?
Most of the problems around influencer authenticity arose because of the fixation on follower counts and engagement rates during the early days of influencer marketing. Both metrics are now extremely easy to fake, causing massive inflation of influencer payments for less-than-ideal outcomes.
Consumers are also jaded by generic-looking content that they know generated “thousands of dollars” for some influencers.
With the myriad of tools available today, it’s extremely easy to prove the ROI of influencers, their content, their followers, and their first-party data. If brands and influencers work together for a more transparent industry, many of the authenticity problems will go away naturally.
Influencer marketing is going through the same growing pains that early PPC advertising went through. Back then, publishers artificially inflated their clicks through click farms, which generated huge revenues and abysmal returns for advertisers.
What concrete steps can marketers take to integrate their influencer and paid media investments?
The first step is having the right framework. Rather than asking “how can paid media make my influencer campaigns perform better,” brands should be asking “how can I incorporate influencers into my holistic media strategy to drive better results across all paid media channels.”
With that mindset, here are some concrete steps to take:
- Start negotiating influencer deals with the expectation of gaining advertiser access (“influencer whitelisting”) to influencer accounts to more easily create influencer ads as well as constructing custom and lookalike audiences.
- Use software to securely gain access and data rights from influencers in a scalable way that is compliant with platform policies and data regulations.
- Incorporate influencer assets (which include content, whitelisted handles, and audience data) into both prospecting and retargeting campaigns.
- Don’t limit yourself to just paid influencers - consider restructuring your partnerships to include media for brand ambassadors, affiliates, even employees.
- Invest upfront in the right strategic partner to ensure your influencer content is created in a way that can resonate with a larger audience, not just the influencer’s followers.
- Use a tool like Lumanu's platform to ensure you are able to A/B test influencer creative and copy in a compliant way (you don’t want influencers to call you out on Instagram because you edited their content without the proper permission and notification!)
What are some of the major differences between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) influencer marketing?
Because B2B audiences tend to be smaller, it’s even more important to carefully select your B2B influencer. Be willing to pay more for a good B2B influencer because their social clout matters a lot more than B2C influencers.
The type of content also matters. Longer form content, like articles and infographics, is key for successful B2B influencer marketing activation. B2C influencer content formats can vary, but typically appeal to shorter attention spans.
The social platform also differs quite a bit. B2B influencer activations should typically involve Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. B2C is typically geared towards Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, Snapchat, and others.
What are the thumb rules for a marketer to invest in the right digital content creators and influencer marketing tools?
Marketers should ask themselves two questions:
- How do I measure the ROI from my influencer investment?
- How do I extract as much ROI as I can from my influencer investment?
With that lens, here are some concrete rules:
- Unless a creator is willing to have an open conversation about sharing data and advertising permission, it will be impossible to quantify and magnify their ROI. Avoid this creator, unless they’re a celebrity (at which point it’s more a matter of branding and hoping their content gets picked up by media outlets).
- Work with digital creators who have experience creating content targeting your demographic, and ideally in the same manner you’re expecting (if you’re a performance marketer, look for creators who have created direct-response oriented content).
- When looking at tools for measuring influencer ROI, see if the tools help you leverage influencers in areas outside of just influencer campaigns. To justify increased budgets in influencers, you need to create a compelling business case on how influencers are helping to drive business results in more ways than just “influencers make my influencer campaigns work better.”
Which are the top 3 initiatives brands and digital content creators can take to combat the issue of lack of transparency, information asymmetry, and inability to measure tangible results from influencer marketing?
- Consider instilling a process or use a tool to help promote two-way transparency between brands and creators on a regular cadence. Make sure your creators understand how their content and likeness are being used in ads that are targeting a much larger audience than just their followers.
- Start standardizing your influencer agreements through the lens of “this is how much I’m paying for custom content” and “this is how much I’m paying to license the rights to use that content” rather than combining everything into one big bucket. Creators should also openly embrace this type of conversation as it ultimately leads to a fairer and more scalable industry.
- Creators and marketers should both embrace whitelisting (i.e., creators sharing advertiser access to the marketers they work with) as a mutually beneficial concept. Whitelisting helps marketers maximize and quantify the ROI from influencer budgets, which in turn means bigger budgets to invest in the same creators for more content or more creators.
Would you like to share some trends or predictions about this space for 2020 and beyond?
The World Advertising and Research Center (WARC) forecasts that global media spending will grow 6% to $656 billion in 2020.
This forecast supports other research that shows advertisers are shifting their spending to digital media as consumers spend more time on smartphones watching videos, interacting on social media or browsing the mobile web.
I believe that as the influencer space becomes more sophisticated, you’ll see it mirror the publisher world more and more in the form of agreements and data partnerships.