Influencer marketing knowledge gap widening according to ‘2018 State of Influence 2.0’ - the annual Traackr and Altimeter survey.
Released today, the second “State of Influence 2.0” report evaluates the current state of influencer marketing (IM) within leading enterprises and predicts the strategic evolution of the practice.
The role that in-house and agency play is evolving as the discipline matures and brands become more practised. When experimenting with influencer marketing, testing the water, it makes sense to de-risk those tests as far as possible. Outsourcing the function to an agency is a sensible approach to limit risk. Once proof of concept has been made it's often time to bring facets of the influencer marketing workflow in-house.
The new survey shows that companies are moving from experimenting with influencer marketing to building IM into marketing programmes - albeit tactical ones. The report refers to this reliance on function over strategic as the “tactical trap”.
While the number of companies investing in IM is extremely high (94%), a large share (73%) are still in the very early stages of Influence. These firms tend to concentrate their IM efforts at the upper edges of the sales funnel as opposed to throughout the entire customer journey.
Influence isn’t confined to top-of-the-funnel activities such as brand awareness and share of voice. Influence can and should operate cross-functionally throughout the enterprise to engage customers and influencers at whatver point they are in their journey. Among advanced brands, IM and digital marketing are focusing on growth and performance without losing sight of relationships and the value of peer-to-peer engagement.
I’ve written before about how bold brands are taking a new approach to product development by integrating influencers and advocates into every step of the development process.
It makes sense. If, as a brand, you have identified a group of influencers who engage the same audience that you're aiming to reach. These influencers know how to create content which resonates with their audience because they know and understand their followers. They listen to them. They answer their followers' questions. They monitor the analytics for each post.
Bringing influencers into the product development process should be win-win for both brand and influencer. It gives influencers access to brand information needed to create fresh content for their followers, and gives brands the influencers' endorsement and fosters follower trust.
Influencer marketing knowledge gap
Two thirds of companies recognise the importance of IM according to the new study. Though they are not experts yet, they are actively investing in learning how to take advantage of it.
“The gap is widening between brands that have understood the ROI, with a clear organisation and use of relevant tools, and those that are still stuck in a tactical approach without a clear understanding of what return they can expect from influencer campaigns.” comments Gregory Pouy, Founder, La Mercatique.
Advanced influencer marketing traits
Organisations at the vanguard of strategic influencer marketing tend to share the following traits:
65% manage IM through internal teams with the internal program lead having influencer marketing experience. They turn to media agencies only for influencer events.
Key elements of influencer programs including influencer identification, programme measurement, content creation and influencer relationship management are all handled internally.
Dedicated influencer marketing department
Influence in the next three years should also be run by a dedicated function according to 27% of participants.
78% of firms considered to have advanced IM practices have budgets above 250K.
Priorities beyond awareness building
The goal for strategic IM practitioners is predominantly to drive brand advocacy, sentiment and share of voice, above awareness. Of the programmes where IM is having the most impact, content marketing takes the lead (jumping from 56% to 81%) and advocacy jumps by 10 points.
Other key highlights of the 2018 State of Influence 2.0
Budgets rising (but are tiny portion of total marketing spend)
70% of respondents allocate more than $100,000 budget to influencer marketing. Last year 50% said they had less than $100,00 to spend on the discipline. These influencer marketing budgets are minuscule. They comprise <10% of the overall marketing spend for over 60% of respondents.
Marketers prize owned and earned first; see paid as means to amplify
This year, respondents put a greater emphasis on leading with genuine relationships, preferring to develop partnerships with influencers in an earned capacity (81%), compared to paid partnerships (61%).
Technology usage is on the rise
Respondents were 30% more likely to use some form of influencer technology this year than last. Usage of influencer identification technology has more than doubled, while opt-in network usage has declined by nearly 20%. Usage of influencer relationship management technology has increased by 32%, demonstrating a growing need within firms to ditch the Excel spreadsheets previously used to track influencer relationships and to centralise their influencer databases in one purpose-built system.
Opportunities for influencer marketing
In the next three years, 63% of those surveyed are driving to integrate IM in all marketing activities and 33% envision IM as becoming a primary area for digital marketing investment.
One-in-three respondents would like to see the role of influence as a cross-functional discipline that will expand across the enterprise.
Lack of ROI data and resources are biggest challenge
Effective influencer marketing programmes must always start with an end in mind. The planning phase must link communication and business objectives together. Key performance indicators must be meaningful to both marketers and business executives.
Teams cannot make the case for greater budgets and cannot demonstrate the impact of IM on business objectives if they don’t have the data or insights necessary to do so.
IM strategists must focus on accessing transparent IM data, establishing measurement frameworks and experimenting with attribution models in order to overcome challenges demonstrating ROI. When that happens, many of the other top barriers will be removed.
Often when an organisation seeks to develop their influencer marketing practice, there is pressure from executives to demonstrate positive results before additional resources are allocated. This can lead to a chicken and egg scenario where marketers find themselves at a standstill because they can’t get the resources they require to deliver the results they need to move forward.
I have written about the importance of effective measurement within influencer marketing for Platinum - a new book published yesterday by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
Current vs state of influencer marketing
The Traackr & Altimeter report points to a disparity across experimentation and maturity. It argues that without vision, strategy and execution, IM will continue to slowly advance.
Building relationships with key influencers who maintain communities that focus on critical touchpoints in the customer/employee journey is under utilised. However, this, combined with cross-functional collaboration, will spread influence across customer and employee journeys to pave the way to Influence 2.0.
"The disparity between experimentation and maturity in influencer marketing at global enterprises is still vast, but our research demonstrates the desire and intent for Influence 2.0 to take root in organisations,” said Brian Solis, co-author of the report. “By connecting the dots between influencer and customer value and business impact, marketers can lay the foundation for influencer strategies that go beyond traditional top-of-funnel campaigns and engage customers cross-functionally throughout their journey.”
The 2018 survey included 118 digital marketers at enterprise organisations ranging from managers on the front lines to directors, vice presidents and chief marketing officers. 73% of respondents work at companies that employ more than 10,000 people.