Multinational brands are planning to increase their spending on influencer marketing in the next 12 months, with 65% aiming to spend more, according to new research from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA).
The study found that companies use influencers to boost brand awareness, reach new and targeted audiences and improve brand advocacy.
But the survey also found that marketers are acutely aware of potential pitfalls in the sector. They will invest only where standards on transparency are met. Credibility, reputation and quality of followers are at the top of their selection list when they decide who to work with, per the WFA study.
Some 96% of those polled cited quality of followers as “absolutely essential” or “very important” when deciding which influencers to work Credibility and reputation are also critical factors for the majority of respondents (93%).
The findings are based on a survey of 34 companies representing 15 categories and approximately $59 billion in global media and marketing spend. All respondents use influencers to market their products online, with 54% doing so “only occasionally / in some markets” and 46% using them “very often.”
The WFA said it would use the research as the starting point for the creation of best practice guidance to help brands make the most of the influencer space. It is working with Unilever (among others) on the project.
The CPG giant has been outspoken on its concerns about the sector. Keith Weed, the company’s marketing chief used the Cannes Lions platform last month to lay some of those concerns out, noting for instance that the firm would no longer work with influencers who buy followers.
“Influencer marketing is becoming a key channel for many marketers but it will only be effective if consumers can trust the influencers by declaring paid relationships and marketers can trust that they are reaching real people not bots,” stated Stephan Loerke, CEO of WFA. “This area has evolved rapidly and this research provides a benchmark revealing how marketing teams and their external partners are managing the new channel.”
Other findings from the study include:
Instagram is the most popular platform for collaboration used by 100% of respondents, with Facebook in second at 85% and YouTube used by 67%. Snapchat is used by 44% of respondents, with Twitter next at 33% followed by blogs on platforms such as Tumblr and Wordpress. WeChat and Pinterest were tied on 19%, followed by Line on 7%.
KPIs being used to assess influencer activity are reach and views (96%), engagement (80%), traffic generated (44%) and other earned media (44%). Research into audience sentiment was used by 40%.
Concerns about the risks involved in influencer management were focused around four key areas, with consumer trust and blurred lines cited as “very concerning” and “concerning” by 64%, legal and financial risks by 60%, reputational risks by 64% and brand safety risks by 59%.
Much of the role of identification and management has been outsourced, with 64% using external partners to find relevant influencers and 63% using them to manage the partnership.