The proliferation of the public voice through the internet and social media has turned the tides between the voices of brands and those of consumers. Suddenly not only the power but also the availability of the customer voice soared, causing brands to have to get a lot more creative in order to generate the same brand trust they once achieved through traditional marketing communications.
How did this come about?
Consider for a moment Nielsen’s findings that 84% of consumers trust peer-recommendations above anything else, and McKinsey and Deloitte’s conclusions that marketing-inspired word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of traditional paid advertising and a 37% higher retention rate. In today’s connected world, consumers not only prefer but expect to see their peers using and enjoying products before they commit to purchasing them.
With users throughout social media platforms and especially on YouTube providing reviews, unboxings, and even just circumstantial use of products in their content, there’s a wealth of data that consumers can turn to when considering their purchasing considerations.
Brands have not wavered with this new finding though, instead jumping on the opportunity through the advent of influencer marketing.
But what makes an ideal influencer?
First and foremost, the individual in question has to be in the most basic sense ‘brandable’. That rule suggests the following guidelines:
- Be highly engaging and engaged: the users should not only incite huge amounts of comments, shares, and likes, they should also regularly participate in conversation with their fans.
- Be professional: producing premium, well-edited content on a regular schedule.
- Be good communicators: well spoken and confident.
- Have mass-appeal: most brands will want to spread their message to as many people within their target; a niche personality might not be ideal.
They should NOT…
- Be a faceless name: they should have some sort of trusted on-screen personality.
- Have any history of offensive content: even if their current content looks brand-safe, any history of offensive content could ruin a brand.
When brands look for influencers they typically start by selecting the individuals who — given they meet the above basic criteria — have the most fans and followers. Makes sense right? Fans = influence. But for a brand’s purposes, there’s so much that isn’t taken into account in that equation.
One article in Forbes magazine aptly added to that equation, saying it should look something like this.
Audience Reach (# of followers)
X Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility)
X Strength of Relationship with Followers
Here, the author suggested that besides reach, the brand must also find someone who has authoritative voice on the topic in question. For example, they’d want to choose a musician to vouch for their new headphones or a chef to herald the flavour of their new frozen dinners. Those aspects, along with the strength of the relationship would make for the ideal match of brand and influencer. Though that equation is a step in the right direction, but it still fails to define the best process for identifying the ideal influencer for your brand.
First off, the above definition of Affinity unnecessarily restricts brands to influencers who already discuss the brand’s product category throughout their content, and in doing so it ignores contextual adaptability. We’ve learned that influencers — especially on YouTube — can be incredibly versatile. The versatility of influencers is best portrayed in a case where Acura meets Seinfeld — Comedians in Cars getting Coffee. The show portrays the ability of suitable and willing influencers to adapt their content to a brand’s message, and overturn the logic of expertise as a precursor to influencer marketing. Brands often shy away from this habit because of the difficulty in finding the influencers and creating the content that will adapt organically to their message.
Here at BBTV, we excel not only in content production but also in knowing our Partners inside out and expertly matching them with brands. For instance, we know that a potential automobile brand might be interested in producing premium content around our Partner Eric the Car Guy, who fits all the necessary prerequisites of a brandable influencer and above all is an expert in the category at hand. But we also know that our stop-motion genius Lozaus1 has the interest and skills to produce a series of epic battles between superhero figurines set in an advertised car, that proceed to deploy all of a car’s advertised features.
Then there’s people who just flat-out kill it in their target demographic, and can sell whatever product is thrown at them. For millennials — as noted by SXSW and NewsCred — that’s The Fat Jew. Influencer campaigns, like the best ads, are about looking outside the box with the best of resources and insights at hand.
Directly informing this contextual adaptability but deserving its very own part of the influencer equation is supporting data. At BBTV we praise data as king, and all our influencer selections and content production decisions are informed by a wealth of data spanning not only the influencer’s audience demographics, but also the identification of white-space around a certain category, detection of categories in which a given topic will generate the most engagement, and analysis of what length and topic of content will garner the most views within an influencer’s networks.
For instance, for a recent influencer marketing campaign for a food brand, we discovered that throughout all of YouTube, the category that had the largest white-space for food-related messaging while also having a high level of engagement around the sparse food-related content that existed was gaming. You don’t have to ponder it for long to understand why it works — gamers love food.
We didn’t stop there though. When we populated a list of ideal influencers for the given campaign based on the above data, we found that one of the influencers in the gaming category had by far the highest engagement around food-related content, particularly when it was in a comedy/entertainment format. With that wealth of data, we were able to produce custom entertainment content for that influencer’s channel and generate the highest possible ROI for our client.
So: The True Formula for Influencer Marketing
X Affinity (expertise [OR] contextual adaptability)
X Supporting Data
X Strength of Relationship with Followers
BBTV’s experience in the industry has helped us determine just how important these facets of the influencer formula are. Today, we would consider an influencer marketing campaign that doesn’t take into account contextual adaptability and supporting data to be a shot in the dark at best.