Brands are turning to influencers primarily because they can offer them a greater degree of authenticity, research from TapInfluence and Altimeter, a Prophet Company [download page] has found. Influencers themselves seem well aligned with this sentiment, saying that their own honesty and authenticity is what keeps them engaged with their audiences.
The study – The Influencer Marketing Manifesto – argues that social capital is at the heart of influencer marketing. Basically, it’s not the size of the audience that counts but the way the audience can be moved.
For influencers, it’s their authenticity more than anything else that keeps the audience engaged. More than 70% of the almost 2,000 influencers surveyed as part of the report said that being themselves – honest, funny, open – is what their audience loves about their work and what keeps them engaged. Actually engaging with them – interacting with the audience, listening and responding online – is not quite as important, cited by less than 6 in 10 influencers as part of their appeal.
Brands are looking to cotton on to that authenticity, and they’re wise to do so given research indicating that this is a crucial brand attribute. It’s worth noting, though, that some research suggests that professional bloggers and YouTube celebrities are low on the totem pole of trustworthiness when it comes to content sources.
It may be simply that in the abstract, social influencers aren’t highly trusted – but there seems no denying that they have built up social capital with their followers. And this is where brands are looking to benefit. A separate survey of 102 marketers for the TapInfluence and Altimeter Group report shows that they perceive the ability to showcase a more authentic story for the brand to be the most important aspect of influencer marketing. This trumps other benefits of influencer marketing, including better reach (including to Millennials and Gen Z) and higher ROI than alternative channels.
It stands to reason that for both brand and influencer to be perceived as authentic, an ongoing relationship helps – as does one where the influencer is an ambassador. Indeed, marketers feel that an ongoing ambassadorship is the most effective form of influencer marketing, ahead of product reviews and brand mentions. Influencers themselves, though, note that brands most typically want them to sponsor content, with only about half saying that brands usually approach them for ongoing ambassadorships.
Curiously, marketers don’t believe that influencers who act as ongoing ambassadors are the most successful. But what they clearly feel is that the composition of the influencers’ audiences are more important than the influencers themselves or the size of their audiences, saying that a popular person with a significant and desirable audience is the most successful type of influencer.
Finding the right influencer can be a challenge, though. Given the desire for authenticity – and the need for influencers to maintain their audiences’ trust – it’s important that there’s an alignment between the brand and the influencer. So for marketers, finding relevant influencers is more of a challenge than more logistic details such as negotiation of terms and communication.
Still, there is one area where negotiations might be tricky: budgets. On an organizational basis, the lack of assigned budget for influencers is one of the most prominent challenges faced by marketers. And influencers themselves seem to have noticed: a leading 72% said that the biggest mistake made by brands is not offering adequate compensation. After all, revenue opportunities are the top inspiration cited for becoming an influencer in the first place…
In other results from the surveys:
- Marketers most commonly manage influencers directly or through their management, and influencers agree that the most effective way of working with brands is directly;
- Marketers – not surprisingly – find that engagement metrics are the most important, though influencers measure their success mostly through traffic;
- Facebook and Twitter are the most important platforms for marketers, while personal blogs top the list for influencers, followed by Facebook and Instagram.
The full report – containing further results from the survey – can be downloaded here.
For more on the rise of social stars in celebrity marketing, see this article covering research from Econsultancy and Celebrity Intelligence.
About the Data: The study reports its methodology as follows:
“This study was commissioned by TapInfluence to understand the current state of influencer marketing. Research was conducted by Altimeter, a Prophet Company, using an anonymous online questionnaire between February 26, 2016 and April 29, 2016. In total, 1,753 influencers responded and 102 marketers responded. We would like to acknowledge Convince and Convert and Bryan Kramer for distribution support.
This custom research report is sponsored by TapInfluence. While the research in this report may have been informed by TapInfluence, all findings and analysis are independent and represent Altimeter’s body of research.”