Influencer Marketing: Is (paid for) content really king?

Author: Philip Brown
Date published: 30.05.2017

When's the last time you've recommended a product or TV show to one of your friends/colleagues?

Today, we'll be focusing on how consumers respond to content, as well as brand experiences.

1. Consistent Great Content is vital.

The title may have thrown you off a bit here, content most definitely is vital component of a successful influencer marketing strategy, but a few caveats:

  1. Content needs to be frequently pushed out by influencers.
  2. Content needs to appeal to an influencers' audience.
  3. Stop focusing on your brand message. True influencer marketing is powered by earned and authentic opinions/content.

Great content doesn't have to be produced with a professional camera, great content, however does have to be genuine and requires a human touch. We (consumers) build up our brand consideration levels each time we see a great piece of content, and you need to leverage all three forms of media in order to create something that will add value to your marketing efforts.

For those still focusing on celebrity endorsements, I would urge you to please stop calling this influencer marketing. (and I'm not the only one)

True Influencer Marketing

Sustainable influencer marketing focuses on the ability to tap into everyone's ability to influence. Making ure that customers/influencers fall in love with your brand, and treating brand advocates in such a way that they will influence their friends & family to talk about your brand. We all have the ability to become a brand advocate, spread word of mouth, content & drive recommendations. 

''Your'' influencers may produce high quality content, but an influencer marketing strategy that primarily focuses on pushing out content to millions of eyeballs, you are treating influencer marketing as an advertising exercise. This form of advertising is not set up to drive and build long-term brand metrics such as advocacy.

Content drives consideration, and that will always make content a vital component of the Influencer Marketing mix.However, if you really want to create a sustainable strategy, you need to look beyond content.

2. Consumers and their reaction to content

Below are a few charts from a quick research on content & trust that I conducted when I worked at Come Round,  by running consumer surveys we could effectively and efficiently find out how consumers feel about sponsored content, and whether it pushes them to recommend / purchase. 

Take a look at the chart below, there's nothing really exciting about it, other than perhaps that it reiterates that friends & family are a type of (earned) influencer that is often overlooked, they will always be trusted more than (paid) influencers. In addition, these consumers have indicated that they don't seem to differentiate much between micro/mid/celebrity status.

Let's move on. The majority of people indicated that they would trust an #ad or #sponsored post less if they knew they were being paid. 

Now the next step is to test this in a more practical way, so we gave them two examples.

Content Example 1

314k followers & 4,793 likes

Two things are noteworthy here:

  • more than 5% (9%) have indicated to be likely to purchase something based on this piece of content.
  • 71% (!) have indicated that it doesn't affect their behaviour at all (!!). This ties back to my theory that people are not often prompted to take direct action as a result of seeing content, but rather it plays a role in their consideration process - more consistent content will lead to this figure being reduced, and consideration levels to increase.

Please bear in mind the consumers were prompted to follow both accounts prior to the survey.

Content Example 2:

3,807 followers & 134 likes

Again - two interesting things come up here:

  • 22% of respondents have indicated to be likely to purchase something based on this piece of paid content, that's 13% higher than the previous post. The content was selected because we felt it appeared more authentic and genuine - the consumer obviously felt the same way. Fewer followers equal stronger ties with those that do follow them - and that translates to more influence.
  • 68% (!) of respondents have said it doesn't affect their purchasing behaviour.

And of course - this is just our own research - and feel free to take into account the following stats:

  • 40% of people say they’ve purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, or YouTube (Twitter and Annalect, 2016)
  • 49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016
  • 53% of women made purchases due to influencer posts (click)

What you need to know based on the above:

  • People trust friends & family (earned influencers) more than that they trust paid influencers
  • Content from micro-influencers tends to be more trusted
  • The majority of consumers are not directly swayed by seeing content

3. Consumers and their reaction to a positive, personal experience

Let the response to the above content sink in for a while, and then take a look at the below graphs, taken from an influener campaign.

All of those involved (earned, paid influencers & unpaid consumers) in our influencer marketing campaign were asked the above questions after an in-home experience that included the brand.

  • 59% (compare this to the 70% who take no action when they see content) have indicated to be likely to purchase brand x again (after having trialled it as part of our campaign).
  • 74% have indicated to be likely to recommend the product directly after our influencer marketing campaign, based on their experience with the brand and the existing relationship they have with ComeRound. (We have been providing these experiences since 2009).

We also did a follow-up spot check with some of those involved a few months after the campaign to see if they had purchased the product, some answers below:

''Yes whenever I see them out and about I'll pick [it] up ''
''Yes, my family have become loyal [brand] consumers and I have recommended to friends.''
''Yeah I’ve been a fan for a while now so I’m a regular and spoke about the campaign with family and colleagues :)''


4. What does this mean?

The insight I've shared with you above is insight you don't typically get when you engage an influencer to create content. You'll only achieve this type of insight when you think beyond content. Back at Come Round, I had the ability to identify brand advocates based on positive experiences, a strategy that helps everyday & micro influencers purchase & recommend your product.

Insights like these, as well as my experience in the industry have been great indicators that real influencer marketing is different to influencer advertising.

5. Education, education, education.

"Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend," Mr Zuckerberg said. "A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.''

The above quote (from 2007) has been a great inspiration for me, it sits at the centre of all of my influencer marketing strategies. It helps me focus on building a strategy where people will fall in love with brands and tell their friends about it and spread the word.

Getting people to fall in love with a brand and recommending it to their friends, and for that cycle to continue is much sexier than showing off a campaign where I've paid big bucks to get digital talent create original content that generated 1,000,000 views.

Views and content are much easier to achieve. A recommendation truly has to be earned, it cannot be purchased directly (like an endorsement), and because of that, it's much more powerful.

Purchasing content is not a stand alone influencer marketing strategy, it's a means to achieve awareness. Awareness in turn is only a small part of the influencer marketing puzzle.

I've said before that I think education is incredibly important within the influencer marketing space, and with this piece I hope that I'm contributing to this process.

To answer the original question, is (paid for) content king? That's up to you to decide, but I think brand advocacy would make for an amazing queen.

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