Now don't get me wrong -- there's a lot to be said for getting people who have a following to say your stuff is great. It's even better if they actually mean it. And then again, it's even better if they flag up a financial relationship with the brand they are supporting. It saves a lot of raised eyebrows among consumers and heads off the potential for brand-image damage further down the line.
The fact that so many top celebrities in the U.S. had to be reminded of this recently, not long after the UK authorities wrapped UK influencers on the knuckles, demonstrates the potential pitfalls of not getting the right influencers to say the right things, including acknowledging their views are advertising.
So, the major points that prove influencers are where it's at include research on what marketers think of the channel and how much extra budget they are going to devote to it. Most tellingly, a Tomoson piece of research from a couple of months ago tells a fascinating story.
When questioned, just under a quarter -- 22% -- of digital marketers named influencer marketing as their most cost-effective way of winning new customers. This put the channel at the top of the ROI league, ahead of search optimisation and paid search in the third and fourth spots. So, what was second? Well actually, there wasn't a second placed channel. Just an equal first. You guessed it -- email.
Again, 22% of digital marketers claim that their most cost-effective route for customer acquisition is email. I must say I found it a little surprising to see email doing as well as influencer marketing at the top of the acquisition chart because it's usually a channel you would associate with existing customers and hot prospects. It's more of a channel for converting interest or previous custom in to future custom, isn't it?
This probably underscores a crucial point. Influencer marketing is great, but who ends up owning the people and their data? Sure, if they sign up to receive email updates, then you do. But if they simply click on a photo of a new lipstick or football boots a celebrity assures are fabulous, what then?
Put it this way -- email is up there with influencers for acquisition, and it is almost certainly the best mechanism -- alongside a social following? -- for taking the interest a celebrity can generate and keeping it where it can be fostered and turned into future customer. So that's not a bad place to be.
The irony? Well, I have seen the research quoted in a couple of places, such as here on Tech.co. The funny thing is that it's not even mentioned that influencer marketing ranks alongside email as the number one most cost-effective customer acquisition channel. Guess which one is picked out as the best? It's influencer marketing, without a single nod to email.
Those involved in email marketing will find this to be little surprise. The channel rarely gets the credit it deserves. However, when your marketing team next talks about what new channel to explore and influencers crops up, you have your ammunition all ready. Sure, it's a good channel -- and it has now arrived at the point where it's even as cost-effective as email in winning new customers. That should turn a few heads.