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More than half of marketers (56%) cite changing expectations from digital native consumers as one of the biggest drivers of change, per a recent report [download page] from Econsultancy’s Influencer Intelligence. These young consumers prefer more “reliable, authentic influencers” compared to a “celebrity with mass appeal”.

Other studies back this switch away from celebrities, illustrating that today’s young customers are more likely to have their purchasing decisions swayed by influencers than celebrities.

The importance of authenticity and brand affinity is a common theme in the study, with 94% of those surveyed agreeing that “transparency and authenticity are key to influencer marketing success” and 92% agreeing that “working with influencers who have a natural brand affinity and shared ethics with the brand is critical.”

The opinions of these marketers mirrors those of young consumers which have been covered in previous research where influencers are perceived to be honest and authentic.

That being said, this trust isn’t taken at face value – the real size of an influencer’s audience is a top concern, as nearly half (42%) of marketers surveyed said that “the question of fake followers/bots” was their number one concern. This far exceeds the next most common concerns of differentiation (17% choosing it as number one) and knowing if an influencer can change behaviors or attitudes (14%).

This issue of trust also explains why a large majority of marketers (83%) choose “better data and metrics to allow for more transparency and authenticity” as one of their top three trends to dominate influencer marketing strategies over the next two years.

What Marketers Look For in Influencers

For marketers looking to have influencers promote their products, they are unanimous (100%) in agreeing that those they work with should have an audience or following that is relevant to their brand, with 65% saying this is critical and 31% saying this is very important.

Strong ethics come next (90% citing as important, 23% critically so) but there is also an expectation that they should already be a loyal supporter of the brand or have written about them organically (76%, with 10% saying this is critically important).

The majority of marketers also agree that influencers must be following advertising guidance on sponsored partnerships in order to work with them, with nearly 7 in 10 (69%) agreeing that they would “refuse to work with an influencer who was not clearly complying with ASA/FTC guidance.”

How Marketers Find and Choose Influencers

Many marketers seem to take a simplistic approach to identifying influencers. The most commonly used method that marketers employ to find talent is just to manually search social media platforms and forums (54%). Less than a third (29%) are using paid-for social media monitoring tools, with just 14% using specialist talent engagement tools to identify those they want to work with.

This is somewhat surprising given the fact that the data they claim to be using is not necessarily simple to gather exclusively using free tools. More than half (54%) cite audience insights – specifically demographic and psychographic information on a talent’s audience – as the information that has proved most useful in finding the right fit. A similar proportion (53%) state they have also found a “talent’s social media engagement” among the most useful points of information.

ROI Still Remains an Issue

Data from Linqia highlighted ROI earlier in the year as the most significant challenge for influencer marketers, and it appears that this issue is far from being tackled.

Just 18% state that “influencer marketing is an intrinsic part of our digital marketing ROI calculations.” More than 3 in 10 (31%) say that the channel is merely “peripheral” when it comes to working out ROI, while 21% say it is simply “too much of a challenge to include influencer marketing within our overall ROI”.

Separately, around a third (35%) claim that “no action is taken” with ROI calculations when it comes to future strategy and planning.

As the vast majority (84%) agree that demonstrating ROI will be critical to the future success of influencer marketing, making progress in this area should be top of the list in the months and years to come.

The full report is available for download here.

About the data: The survey was fielded among 1,173 marketing specialists including in-house brand marketers, agencies, consultants and talent across a broad range of industry sectors.

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