As consumers navigate through an increasingly complex ecosystem from awareness to purchase, could a smarter, more integrated approach to Influencer Marketing be the solution?
In marketing speech, the ‘messy middle’ is a Google concept to explain what happens between a consumer’s interest being triggered in something and the point when we decide to make a purchase.
As a relatively new marketing channel, Influencer Marketing risks being pigeonholed as a B2C Awareness function - but with consumer behaviour getting more complex by the day, and scepticism of advertising grows, the potential of Influencer Marketing to build trust and drive audiences to your business grows too.
In our recent panel with McCann Worldgroup (IPG), Sensate (BioSelf Technology), Ketchum (Omnicom), and Influence Network, we explored how brands can earnestly bring Influencer Marketing into their broader strategy to guide consumers through the 'messy middle'.
Alec Harden-Henry, Managing Director at the Influence Network explains that the path to purchase isn’t as linear as we would like as marketers, and it's why Google first coined the 'messy middle' phrase in the first place.
“What Google says is that you need to give your audience enough information and reassurance to help them tip over into making a purchasing decision.”
Influencers work hard on creating highly engaged audiences who like following their lifestyle and advice. This includes everything from their daily routines and which brands they use for what. If a highly engaged and trusted influencer is using one of your products or services, they will build credibility and trust for your brand.
Influencers also largely create audiences based on their own niche. Partnering with an influencer whose audience is the same niche as yours means that you have the perfect target audience at your fingertips, which means any leads that are generated should be relevant ones.
Influencers are fast becoming one of the largest channels for consumer buying, particularly amongst younger generations:
Creating ad campaigns takes time and resources, from crafting the images, creating copy and scheduling content across multiple social channels. Influencers take all of this off your hands, because they create the imagery and can write their own copy, saving you that time.
In terms of cost, when compared to other ways to advertising, Influencer Marketing isn't as pricey.
For example - the average cost is around £10 per 1000 followers. Whether you want to increase brand awareness of drive conversions or increase brand awareness, Influencer Marketing can get you some great results. So, when talking about the "messy middle," how do influencers fit into the mix?
Unfortunately, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ template when it comes to making an Influencer Marketing strategy work, and it's often considered as a heavily 'B2C' opportunity.
However, with the right planning and research process, almost any business can benefit from an integrated approach to influencers.
Here's how to decide if Influencer Marketing is right for your business:
Monica Tailor, SVP, Global Director of Social at McCann LIVE, recommends asking yourself what influencer marketing will add to your current established social media strategy.
“Influencer marketing sits in a really interesting place. It can add really well into an established PR and social strategy, but if you don’t have a plan around either of those, it will struggle a bit. Know what you want to achieve from adding influencers into the mix.”
When thinking on where to deploy influencers in the marketing funnel, most people would suggest the awareness phase - after all, influencers have become known for debuting new products and services to the market.
Influencer ‘awareness’ campaigns are normally measured against KPIs such as reach and engagement, but this is a relatively superficial use of Influencer Marketing in a strategic sense.
Aside from using 'Super Influencers' to read broad audiences, Influence Network categorise Influencers into five tiers, all with different goals and potential to impact your campaign.
Good for reach on significant brand campaigns, Super Influencers are celebrities in their own right, and are likely to be visible in popular culture. Their social media accounts are sometimes just an extension of their own personal brand .
Ideal for favouring reach and brand presence over targeted audiences, macro Influencers are good for a mature approach to sponsorship opportunities and increasing profile in popular culture outside of the immediate sphere of influence.
By balancing larger reach whilst also retaining some of the qualities of Micro Influencers, Mid Influencers are characterised by a mixture of Micro and Macro Influencers, depending on the individual influencers and their system of working with brands.
Good for niche audience engagement with expert reviews and recommendations, Micro Influencers achieve extremely high engagement levels and increased levels of experience in sponsored content.
Nano Influencers are a great starting point for influencer marketing at a low cost. Nano Influencers reach ultra-niche audiences and have fast-growing follower counts.
Understanding the different uses and opportunities in each ‘tier’ of influencer can massively widen the purposes this strategy can serve - now it’s just about finding your fit.
While many find success with Influencer Marketing, it doesn’t mean it will work seamlessly for everyone who tries to launch a campaign. There are many common challenges that brands face, and pitfalls they need to avoid from the very beginning.
Here are the ones that our experts have highlighted:
Very often, clients go into an influencer strategy believing they can control it. Monica Tailor says that you need to trust the influencer with what they’re doing. “These people know how to build their network and they’re very good at it. You need to allow them to do it their way, because that’s how you’re going to get the best results.”
“Reviewing a piece of content after the influencer spends time creating it is not a good use of time. Ensure that you have a robust review process in place, and work with the influencer upfront to understand their creative processes.”
Michelle Laven, Head of Brand & Partnerships at Sensate by BioSelf Technology Ltd says that before handing anything over to an influencer, you need to ensure that your strategy aligns with your brand.
“You need to have your brand solid, because you are handing it off to these influencers.
There will be a lot to review, but you have to trust them. They’ve become successful because they produce content they know their audience will love."
For Alec Harden-Henry, not using the content to its full potential is one thing that brands should avoid.
“Content can be utilised in other forms of digital by putting some spend behind it or putting it in a website or supermarket magazine.”
It’s key not to treat your influencer strategy like a bolt-on. Treat your influencer content the same way you would your editorial calendar.
“Give the influencer very clear guidelines of dos and don’ts, and have a robust process in place so that content isn’t sat around for weeks on end waiting to be approved.”
As with any marketing strategy, significant time, money, and resource goes into the execution of an influencer strategy.
As such, it’s important to know how the campaign is performing and that the time and money was well worth the effort. However, measuring the success of an influencer program can sometimes be tricky.
Monica Tailor emphasises that to see success from your influencers, you need to let them know what success looks like for you.
"You have to assess what’s important to you, and how you’re going to measure it, but it goes back to setting your comms objectives that ladder into your business objectives.
You’ve got to keep front-of-mind ‘why am I doing [Influencer Marketing] in the first place, and what do I want out of it?”
Choosing which influencers you will use is a key point in any influencer strategy, so how do you ensure that they’re right for your campaign?
It’s important to have a robust vetting and decision-making process in place on what makes a good influencer for your brand.
Don’t stray from your marketing plan on targeting an audience. An influencer’s audience will be one you should already be targeting; you’ll just be targeting them via a new platform. When knowing how to choose influencers, refer back to your brand guidelines and culture of the business.
For Stephen Farrell, Associate Director – Influencer Relations at Ketchum, it’s important to see Influencer Marketing as more than a short-term solution.
“People want to get results as quickly as possible, but you need to take a step back. We’ve got to think about it in the long term rather than the short term.”
Influencer Marketing takes time to get right, but starting out isn’t impossible. For example, you might already know a few people that you want to work with.
Industry knowledge and recommendations can go a long way with the first foray into Influencer Marketing, but for global campaigns or large-scale strategies, researching and working with the right influencers quickly becomes unmanageable.
Alec Harden-Henry recommends preparing for scale right out the gate when it comes to your processes and approach.
Things to think about include:
“Just try as much as you can to add some structure to whatever it is that your process or tailor-made influencer programme is going to be, so that if someone is off work one day or someone joins the team, there is a uniform way of doing things.”
If you’re wanting to implement an Influencer strategy but feel you need some extra support or advice, GO! can help. Get in touch here to let us know your requirements.
With thanks to our contributors: