Commentary

Achieving Consumer Trust Is Balancing Act For Brands

Forrester suggests we’re experiencing a crisis of trust, worsened by a lack of transparency, and amplified by the speed and power of digital. Not surprisingly, influencer marketing is caught in the crosshairs of this battle to restore consumer trust, control and loyalty. 

According to the Association of National Advertisers, 75% of agencies leverage influencers in their marketing strategy, and 43% indicate they’d like to increase their influencer budget in 2018. Further, total brand spending on influencer marketing is projected to reach $101 billion by 2020. It’s easy to understand why brands want to invest in influencer marketing; when done correctly, it equals big business, and it allows brands to find the ideal customer persona and content creator, and ask them to create the perfect brand asset. However, not all influencers are relevant or authentic. Some are fraudulent, enlisting bots or fake followers to “boost” reach. 

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Further, there is a real impact to a business’ bottom line; more than half senior-level agency and marketing professionals believe 10-50% of their ad spending is lost to this type of fraud. 

To prevent your brand from becoming another cautionary tale in influencer marketing, here is a step-by-step guide for initiating a campaign: 

  • Outline your objectives. Ask yourself: Will you want access to data from the influencer’s social handles? Are you looking to drive awareness, or transactions? What is your target audience and platform? Is the campaign scalable? 
  • Choose your influencer(s). Any influencer you engage with should align with your brand. Also just because an individual has a lot of followers, doesn’t mean they’re a fit. Check to ensure the influencer isn’t boosting numbers through bots or fake followers. If an influencer has 100,000 followers but minimal “likes” and comments, then they aren’t engaging their audience, they could have fake followers, or both. 
  • Negotiate contracts and compensation. Know your budget ahead of time. When negotiating payment, ask: Do you charge a flat fee? Do you pay for performance? Get the terms in writing. In some cases, you might exchange goods or vouchers instead of cash. This can be more complex to manage, but there is technology out there to simplify the process, and it may be more cost efficient. Either way, know the conditions beforehand. 
  • Request content approval. Ask to review all content—text or visuals—before it’s published. 
  • Remember disclosure. Disclose the nature of your relationship openly and in accordance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines. 
  • Conduct reporting. Does your company have an internal reporting tool, or should you outsource? Because reporting will be crucial in evaluating ROI, it needs to be a big part of your process, and you should deploy a consistent methodology across campaigns and regions. 
  • Analyze results. Conduct a post-campaign evaluation. Did you achieve your KPIs? What challenges did you face? Is there anything you’d do differently? Record insights for future use. 

Influencer marketing is no different from other marketing vehicles. It can be much more than a buzzword if it’s done transparently and authentically. As brands continue to put a premium on enhanced customer experiences, influencer marketing will play a bigger role. And hopefully, thanks to consumer watchdogs and evolving data privacy regulations, disingenuous influencer marketing practices will expire.

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