According to YouTube enterprise rights and marketing firm Zefr, 60% of marketers will increase spend on influencer marketing in the coming year, and 22% say it is a top-ranked customer acquisition tool. The firm’s EVP and global media solutions chief, Rick Song, moderated an Advertising Week “crash course” on influencer marketing on Wednesday.
The event kicked off with a slide demonstrating an interesting data point on social influencers: You may not know their names, but their fans do and their levels of engagement are immense. Digital celeb Connor Franta has way less reach than Jimmy Fallon (12.5 million versus 38.4 million, respectively), but way more engagement — 2 million on average with every social post, versus 1.2 million for Fallon. What's more valuable to a marketer? Fallon's 200 million reach, or Frampton's 2 million engagements with every post. It might be Frampton's engagement levels. After all, reach just means visibility.
Kimberly Yarnell, VP of digital media at Macy's, said use of digital celebs has become very important for the brand, "especially as we hope to build affinity for millennials and the multi-cultural." For instance, Macy's uses YouTube style vlogger Teni Panosian to reach woman 18 to 34 who are looking to be on trend, but not trend forward. “We are data driven, and defined influencer strategy up front. When we started, we fell into the same trap as others: how many fans, and followers. We have tried to refine our approach and find influencers who like our brand. Up the ante in terms of collaborating with talent.” She says Macy's keeps an influencer “score card” and tries to craft long-term relationships with influencers rather one-offs. “Crafting relationships over time helps both influencer and brand feel more comfortable in the relationship.”
On the panel was one of those influencers, Shonduras (Shaun McBride), a visual-media social celeb who uses a channel that is particularly popular with younger millennials and Gen Z: Snapchat. He makes a critical point: from the influencer perspective, dealing with a brand can go one of two ways, depending on how the brand treats him or her, especially around how much control the brand wants to wield. The analogy he uses here is a teenager's bedroom: mom or dad asks the kid to clean it, and the teen either actually cleans it, or kicks his mess under the bed so it looks clean. Except in the case of a marketing negotiation, he says, the responsibility is on the marketer.
“We can check all the boxes in a bad way or good way. If a brand isn't working with me; if it is telling me what to do, well, my fans know its a ‘job.’ But if I'm passionate about something, and believe it, if I actually love that brand, I'll build a long-term relationship and when I do social pushes, I don't hide the fact; I don't hide the brand under the bed.”
As far as what his fans think about his endorsing a brand, he said, “People say that the brand is cool for letting me do my thing. They embrace the brand. It's not like I'm doing cool stuff and hiding the brand behind it.”
Jeff Wolfe, VP of content at brand content firm and Starcom Mediavest unit Liquid Thread, points out that, at end of day, people want to be entertained and that the client and influencer need to meet in the middle. “The brand is being well, and the influencer is being true to their voice and tone; it's not an ad-like object.”