Professionalization of Influencer Marketing through Influencer Research
In the yearbook of the OMG, the association of media agencies in Germany, I wrote an article on the status quo of influencer marketing research. An excerpt of the article is this blog post. The OMG Yearbook 2019, which is well worth reading, was published on the occasion of the horizont Werbewirkungsgipfel and can now be ordered free of charge as a print edition on the OMG website..
The fact that fragmentation and smartphone omnipresence require a sustained rethink on the part of advertisers is now well established. Generation Z is the first generation to be born with smartphones, tablets and the Internet. The high dwell time on digital channels comes at the expense of traditional media channels, especially print: According to the latest Best for Planning study, for example, only 18 percent of Generation Z “frequently” or “rarely” read daily newspapers. But linear television is also used less frequently: In the 14- to 29-year-old age group, the picture of evening media consumption is shifting in comparison to the “traditional TV evening”: in this young target group, streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon (70%) primarily fill the “normal evening,” followed by watching videos on video portals and in communities (58%), according to the ARD-ZDF online study. And the major consumption and media analysis VuMA Touchpoints also attests to the above-average use of streaming services such as Netflix by the GenZ: The GenZ is more than twice as active here as the population as a whole.
Choosing the right social media platforms is crucial – currently it’s Instagram for B2C and LinkedIn for B2B
If you want to reach Generation Z, you have to address them via the right channels or platforms. Which ones are constantly changing depends on whether you look at the growth rates of the platforms, their net reach or the length of stay. According to the ARD-ZDF Online Study 2018, the use of Facebook is declining slightly, but in the target group up to 49 years of age, it is still the clear leader with over 38 percent reach. But while social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, which have just been hyped, are weakening in the form of declining or stagnating user figures, Instagram is growing unabated: According to Instagram, more than one billion active users worldwide use the platform – 500 million people use the Instagram Stories format.
Advertising Market Influencer Marketing Scratches Billion Mark – Like the Online Advertising Market Back in 2005
But regardless of which platform is ahead, the mechanics are always the same: As soon as the user numbers of the next social media platforms increase, the marketing expenditures follow. According to the BVDW study, 61 percent of advertisers want to increase their budget for influencer marketing in 2019.
Accordingly, the number of influencers using the hashtag “#ad” more than doubled last year, according to Socialbakers. The number grew by 133 percent from Q1/2018 to the end of Q1/2019.
Influencer marketing is quickly becoming a permanent fixture in digital marketing: in total, the approximately 30,000 German-speaking Instagrammers, YouTubers & Co. in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH) already generated net revenues (monetary and non-monetary) of around 560 million euros in 2017, and according to forecasts, the discipline of influencer marketing in DACH will generate a projected 990 million euros by 2020, soon scraping the billion euro mark (see Goldmedia, 03-2018).
Rising budgets require proof of impact for influencer campaigns
As is true for all media types that achieve a relevant advertising volume, the higher the revenues, the louder the call to secure investments with a reliable planning basis. Because uncertainty causes pain, especially when it comes to budget. Thus, the biggest challenges of influencer marketing are “ROI proof and measurability.” The issue of lack of measurability is by far the most frequently cited aspect for 65% of marketing decision-makers, which is currently putting the brakes on more intensive use of influencer marketing (see BVDW, 11-2018). American studies also confirm this.
Brand fit and audience fit as the most important selection criteria for the right influencer
The results of a study by the Berlin University of Applied Sciences (HTW) show that the success of influencer campaigns is determined by the interplay of several factors, including the fit between the corporate brand and the image of the influencer. This so-called “brand fit,” together with the “audience fit,” the fit between the company’s target group and the influencer’s followers, is crucial for successful influencer marketing. And in the BVDW study, brand fit and audience fit, along with proving return on investment, are also at the top of the list of challenges faced by marketing decision-makers. These biggest pain points for media decision-makers need to be alleviated as quickly as possible with valid study results.
Media research helps to resolve uncertainties and make successes visible
The uncertainties of marketing decision-makers regarding the right choice of media, i.e. influencers, and the proof of success are sensibly and empirically countered with media research studies. These can be roughly divided into two groups: studies for advance planning and studies for ex post proof of impact:
- Firstly, market media studies that are used in the run-up to campaigns and serve media planning by making the performance values of individual advertising environments transparent and comparable.
- Secondly, advertising impact studies are set up to accompany campaigns in order to prove the success of the measures ex post and make them visible.
Media research also follows a repeating mechanism and develops in a comparable way to display advertising. If we look back into the past of the online advertising market, we see that the “magic” billion mark predicted by Goldmedia for influencer marketing was already cracked by the online advertising market in 2005, according to OVK statistics. A year earlier, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Online Forschung e.V. (AGOF) published the first wave of the Internet Facts – the reach currency for the online advertising market.
Speed and flexibility are the signs of the times – also in media research
But there is one thing that is different from all media channels before: The speed is increasing. At all levels and so immensely that the sequence of first forming a committee with all the players and then, after lengthy consensus-building, developing and implementing a suitable study approach no longer seems adequate. A market characterized by speed, flexibility and agility also requires new thinking – also in the area of media research.
Against this background, we decided – despite or perhaps because of my many years of experience on various committees such as the Technical Commission of AGOF or IVW – to develop new research approaches for influencer marketing in a different, faster process: We consistently asked what the market needs for professionalization – and fast.
The “Influencer Facts” study as a planning basis for influencer marketing
We provide proof of the advertising impact of influencer campaigns in the form of learned uplift study concepts for influencer campaigns. In the summer of 2018, we were already able to show how well such campaigns work, even in comparison to display advertising in the form of a campaign-accompanying influencer advertising impact study for the Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken . Inspired by this success, we worked together with one of the largest agencies for influencer marketing, Lucky Shareman, to consider which study format could be used to counter the fragmentation and lack of data for a good selection of the right influencers.
Based on our experience and with the often missing “media glasses”, we developed and implemented the first market media study for influencer marketing within a few months. A database to show the accessibility of different target groups via influencers and collected with the help of an innovative approach via the influencers themselves: The innovative target group study “Influencer Facts” was born..
The results of the pilot study were published for the first time in March 2019 in association with the media agency Kontor Digital Media, the influencer marketing agency Lucky Shareman, the market research institute GreenAdz and the media planning tool Medimach.
The idea: to create a target group planning structure database to select the right influencers for campaigns and to professionalize the discipline and bring it out of its niche. Because until now, there were no structured planning options for influencer marketing campaigns, in order to be able to specifically select the right influencers via a planning tool in addition to target group insights for Generation Z.. (Learn everything about the Influencer Facts study in my Webinar – register here for free!)
The biggest success factor for appealing to Gen Z is the sustainable incentive concept of GreenAdz
The relevant micro, mid and macro influencers invite their followers to take part in an online survey via their social media accounts. The decisive highlight of the study is the sustainable incentive concept of the market research institute GreenAdz, in which a tree is planted for each survey participation. The fact that market research can not only be fun, but also does good, is not only well received by Generation Z and leads to an above-average willingness to participate.. (see also my horizont.net article in the GenZ topic special “How to reach young people for surveys”)
It is obvious that a text address such as “Your opinion is important to us!” in combination with disruptive formats such as the otherwise usual recruiting pop-ups or layer formats does not meet with much enthusiasm, especially among Generation Z: For years, click rates for display banners have been at an all-time low, online users suffer from the phenomenon of “content shock” coined by Mark Schaefer and are now confronted with several thousand advertising messages on all channels every day.
A discipline like influencer marketing requires advertisers to rethink how they address the coveted consumer target groups: Empathic, appreciative, respectful – in other words, at eye level – should be the motto of communication. This means that brands can only get so far with push marketing.
A paradigm shift in addressing consumers – and respondents
For advertisers who have not yet grasped this paradigm shift in consumer targeting, influencer marketing will not work. Influencers are not an occupiable advertising environment, a quarter, full or even double page spread, or a timeslot within an ad unit. They are a human gateway to a “following” whose trust they enjoy because of their social media activity and content. As an advertiser, you don’t win an influencer and access to their large followings by “occupying” this channel in the form of predetermined posts that primarily conform to the brand’s corporate design.
Instead, the success of influencer collaborations depends on how good the aforementioned brand fit is and the extent to which a brand is willing to allow the influencer a certain amount of freedom as a content creator to integrate the brand into its content in such a way that its credibility and the relationship of trust do not suffer. For 44 percent of followers, trust in an influencer’s recommendation depends on how much they have trusted the influencer before. The more the influencer deals with the product, the stronger the trust. (see CPC Strategy, 04-2018)
Influencer Facts is the first study that reveals the media performance potential of influencer marketing
The first results of the Influencer Facts published in March 2019 already make clear how important the topics of credibility and trust are and how great the media performance potential of influencer cooperation can be: On average, two-thirds of followers also consider the advertising contributions of “their” influencers to be credible. As a comparison to classify the magnitude of this value: in comparable age groups, a maximum of 30 percent consider advertising in analog media to be credible (b4p 2018). This credibility thrives on the fact that influencers only recommend and present brands that suit them – and in a form that suits them.
On this basis, influencer marketing unfolds its full impact potential, because an average of two-thirds of followers also agree with the statement that the influencer’s promotional posts put the brand in a positive light (see Influencer Facts Pilotstudy 03-2019).
The reason for this lies in the bond that influencers have with their followers. This bond strength also becomes clear in the form of new KPIs, for example in the form of the so-called activation potential. It shows the answer to the question “Can you basically imagine buying or trying out things that the “name of the influencer” has presented as part of an advertising post?” and averages 53 percent. The activation potential among the 38 influencers examined in the pilot study is very different, with 71 percent for the medium-sized family influencer and 33 percent for the large fashion influencer.