Influencer marketing has grown staggeringly in the past decade, with its market value soaring from $1.7 billion in 2016 to almost $10 billion in 2020. While the ROI of influencer marketing can be hard to measure, 89% of marketers agree that it is at least similar to or better than other marketing channels.
The challenge of measuring ROI is actually one of many challenges of influencer marketing that has been on the lips of many marketers. Many brands tend to get attracted by the glitter of getting their products endorsed by high-influence celebrities and social influencers, only to find that it is not as easy or straightforward as it sounds.
This is an honest discussion of the main challenges that most brands experience from working with influencers on their marketing campaigns and some thoughts on how to deal with them.
1. Fake Numbers: Followers, Likes, and Engagement Rates
In this age where bots can give you fake likes and non-existent followers, brands cite fake numbers as one of the biggest problems in the influencer marketing industry. The lucrative nature of influencer marketing attracts shady practices, and it can be incredibly hard to spot such fake numbers without the help of advanced tools.
Sources indicate that 16% of the followers of the top 20 accounts on Instagram are fake. Many of the top influencers have recently spent cash on growing their follower numbers.
Platforms like Instagram and Facebook can only be policed from the inside, which makes it very hard for third-party tools to spot suspicious activity.
Marketers are dealing with the problem by focusing more on the quality of follower engagement as a measure of influencer, but that is difficult to quantify. While it is hard work, you can vet marketers by:
- Analyzing the influencer’s growth over time; it should be slow and steady
- Testing the quality of the audience through engagement
- Monitoring daily follower changes and follower-to-like ratios
- Go through the comments. Naturally, these should be rich and diverse
- Authentic influencers tend to have a cross-platform influence including YouTube and Twitter
- Search for Instagram hashtags and external mentions on other platforms using Google
- The ultimate test is to use the earned media value of an influencer to determine their impact
2. Finding the Right Influencer
Besides the problem of navigating the fake numbers, finding the right influencer involves other challenges.
- Brands have a tough time sifting through influencers to find one with the right contextual relevance. While many influencers are multi-faceted, the best value can only be had by finding an influencer who can create natural engagement for your product
- It is often counter-productive to operate with the same influencer for a long time. Tat makes the process of searching for the right personalities to promote your brand a long-term concern
- Since follower counts and likes are unreliable as measures of engagement, only an intensive manual review process can help pick the right influencers. There are few good tools to achieve this, and most are very expensive
- Most influencers are concentrated around the niches of fitness, travel, food, fashion, lifestyle, gaming, among others. Many other niches such as software technology, construction, farming, and the like have few of these, giving brands fewer choices to work with
3. Eroding User Trust and Confidence in Sponsored Content
About 47% of users are now tired of inauthentic product placement and sponsorships. This points towards declining trust between influencers and their audiences, and yet trust is one of the most valuable assets of influencer marketing.
That is one reason why brands prefer to work with personalities who have already used their product in the past to ensure trust. Brands should also give influencers creative autonomy to ensure that the audience receives the same quality of content.
4. Narrowing Down the Right Market to Influence
Just like other marketing tactics, influencer marketing needs to be highly targeted to achieve the right results. However, this isn’t so easy to in practice. For example, a brand selling kitchen appliances might not know which influencers will reach its targeted customer base most effectively.
Unless you are a national brand with a huge reach, many other brands need to work with micro-influencers to target specific groups of people in specific locations. It can involve expensive audience surveys, data mining, and other procedures before influencer marketing can be useful for your brand.
5. Lack of Quantitative Data to Measure ROI
We have already pinpointed the big problem of measuring ROI from influencer marketing. Since this type of marketing is not transactional in nature, brands have to rely on indirect metrics such as brand lift, increased brand search volume, amplification, links and mentions, pre-conversion touchpoints, among others.
However, these metrics are not easy to measure and quantify. Some brands are satisfied to continue investing so long as they have qualitative evidence that influencer marketing works for them, but they can do it for long without hard evidence. Again, this is hard to measure and often expensive to carry out.
Influencer marketing can have wild success on one end to cringe-worthy disasters. It is not easy to measure how the audience will react to a particular approach, no matter how good it may sound on paper.
Since the different tactics used are expected to have different measures of success, brands should be prepared to have sunny days and rainy days. However, this makes influencer marketing hard to justify over the long term.
7. No Long-Term Influence
Influencer marketing usually has a short-term impact on the audience. Even when your goals are brand awareness and amplification, influencer marketing needs to be done on a long-term basis to be effective.
Big corporations such as Estée Lauder spend over $1 billion a year on marketing, and 75% of that budget on influencers every year. Even then, they feel the need to maintain this kind of spending to maintain relevance in an ever more competitive industry. Similarly, small brands need to think of influencer marketing as a long-term tactic, not just a short-term experiment.
8. FTC Regulations
The FTC has been increasingly tough on influencers who fail to disclosure relationships and sponsorships to users. Doing this makes the content seem less genuine and authentic, so many influencers opt to hide mentions of sponsorships in small text or not at all.
Such tactics could blow back on you as a brand, which is why you need to actively monitor the content posted to ensure it meets minimum requirements. At the end of the day, the challenge is to curate content to appeal to users and adhere to strict consumer protection regulations, which makes the job much more difficult.
9. The Risk for Negative Exposure
Influencers carry the name of your brand for better or for worse. If they are controversial people such as Jake and Logan Paul, Jeffree Star, Zoe LaVerne, among others, they can portray your brand in a negative light and destroy your reputation. Therefore, brands need to be extra careful with how they select influencers and be on the lookout for signs of negative publicity.
Influencer marketing is one of the most successful forms of marketing today. The rise of platforms such as Instagram and TikTok shows that people gravitate more towards authentic, genuine content as opposed to the “boring” kind found on websites. While this creates wonderful opportunities to promote your brand, it also poses many challenges.
Most of these problems stem from the fact that the influencer marketing industry is still largely informal. Despite its meteoric growth, it lacks a foundation of business-like professionalism which is at once its strength and its weakness. If you are looking to put your influencer marketing campaign in the hands of experts in the industry, talk to the team at Poptribe and let us bring you success.