Would you say marketing is art or science? I’d say the best campaigns involve a little of both: You need art to inspire, and you need science to analyze and measure. Influencer marketing is no different in that it involves a blend of strategy and creative, but the reason it works so well has less to do with numbers and far more to do with human connections.
That doesn’t mean influencer campaigns can’t have quantifiable goals and meaningful data, of course. At my firm, we rely on our proprietary systems to track stats and metrics across all social platforms, which makes ROI easy for clients to view and share. Still, while we prioritize evidence-based results, we know it’s the human element that drives our success.
Entrepreneur and investor John Rampton recently claimed in Entrepreneur that the answer to taking the guesswork out of influencer marketing lies in enterprise technology. The idea is that smarter software will not only automate every aspect of the campaign process, it will streamline pricing for brands, which Rampton describes as historically “largely arbitrary” with “no correlation to an actual value.”
As head of a business focused on connecting influencers with brands and agencies, I can tell you there’s nothing arbitrary about how we set our pricing. Our rates are based on the particulars of each sponsorship: the number of influencers working on the campaign, the complexity of the program itself, the specificity of the required demographic, the platforms involved, the targeted audience reach, etc. For spokesperson campaigns we use a pricing algorithm that pulls a number of factors into account, including monthly page views and visitors, level of influence, location, niche specialties, demand, and more. We either pays influencers a flat fee, or we take a percentage of the total amount negotiated, similar to a talent manager.
Rampton also points out the emerging app model for communicating with influencers, which reduces human communication to zero:
Now influencers can receive push notifications for campaign opportunities, making it as simple as selecting “yes” or “no” when they want to opt in or out of an opportunity. Entire campaigns can now be run through an app without the influencer ever having to speak to an agent or manager.
The problem with this approach is amplified with the following:
Companies with enterprise technology have created brand-safe gateways that essentially remove human error from the equation. The enterprise acts as a moderator between the brands and the influencers to get the correct messaging in place. Once this occurs, through an API token, the enterprise takes over the influencer’s account and launches the messaging on their behalf, guaranteeing safety in both the messaging and its launch timing.
When brands supply the message, the creative, and take over the publication process, the influencer is essentially reduced to a billboard location. The power of human storytelling is removed from the equation, along with the credibility that drew audiences in to begin with.
These days, everything from purchasing decisions to ongoing brand loyalty is rooted in conversations and community. With 92 percent of consumers saying they trust word-of-mouth recommendations and reviews above all other forms of advertising, the belief that brands need to maintain ironclad control over their messaging is rapidly becoming outdated. Audiences respond to influencers, but these key individuals won’t be influential for long if their voice is lost in favor of corporate shilling.
While activating the right relationships online can be a powerful strategy, brands are missing the big picture if they aren’t allowing influencers to be their authentic selves. I’m all for tools that improve efficiencies, but I don’t believe in eliminating human conversations. From the important campaign information that gets communicated when we actually talk with an influencer to the response from audiences when that influencer shares his or her unique content, a sense of connection is what it’s all about.
Danielle Wiley is CEO of content marketing firm Sway Group.