Influencers are suffering from ‘brand overkill’

Brands might say: “Can’t you just get us Zoella?”

Edward East, founder of influencer marketing agency Billion Dollar Boy, says that for a brand, the temptation is to always go for pure scale, which can result in the same pool of influencers being targeted — even though they might not be a good fit for the brand.

“Scale is important, but this can also be achieved by using multi­ple smaller audien­ces. At the forefront of our minds, whenever a brand approaches us, is that the influen­cer’s tone of voice and the creative idea has to fit with the brand objective.”

The issue here is that when scale is the only consideration in picking the right partner, brand overkill is rife. The value of an influen­cer’s recommendation or review declines, and sponsored content becomes meaningless.

It’s key that the same level of review is applied to picking an online influencer to work with that you’d pour in to selecting a complementary brand partnership. East goes on to say that when a partnership is struck with little thought for the creative, the result is poor branded content that is poorly conceived, which in turn suffers from low engagement and negative sentiment.

The thing about online influencers though is that they can deliver high reach, impact, and improved brand reputation — all in one package. When you pick the most appropriate influencer with high reach, magic can happen.

There’s an interesting example of using influen­cers in this way in Twitter’s analysis of why videos go viral.

As you’d probably imagine, one of the things they learned was that videos don’t go viral in the same way. There are no rules to virality — while some pieces of content ignite, others grow in popularity in a much more measured fashion, like ripples spreading across a lake.

Of the three examples they review — Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, the Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal videos and Commander Hadfield’s Space Oddity — , two had very clear links to influencer seeding.

In fact, the success of the Gosling viral points to the power of effectively seeding your content with the top influencers, and how (if you hit just a small number of those) it can in some cases go global.

Similarly with Space Oddity, link mentions peaked fast and were driven by global influencers. The viral effect demonstrated sustained growth that was driven by a single person’s effort. Hadfield’s link was much more appealing to the crowd because of its unique nature than a more earthbound video and, as a result, he featured much more prominently in the sharing of this video than other viral examples.

The Dove video showed less burnout than the others and there were also fewer influencer­induced spikes. Instead, conversation existed in clusters of communities spread around the world, showing the value of local engagement, and highlighted the good use of a digital outreach programme.

In a similar vein to the influencer issue above, there’s a tendency to just pick a partner with the biggest reach. But the bottom line is that you have to base this decision on data.

Where are the people you want to reach spen­ding their time? Find that out, and then co­create with someone that has credibility and impact (to drive action, or generate conversation) in that space; be it a complimentary brand, an influencer, a publisher or some other type of partner.

In terms of then selecting which one, there’s a series of questions to ask. Where does their specialty lie? Are they (and is your audience) mobile focused? Do they have past experience in similar brands? How does their type of content creation/distribution match your brand and audience?

Look for shared cultures, especially when it comes to quality of content and care for the audience.

As a brand, there’s a responsibility to share some insight into why you want to create content in the first place, and how you want people to respond to it.

This sets clear parameters and adds full context to a brief, giving partners the opportunity to not only deliver something that’s truly going to be fit for purpose, but also decline the opportunity if it’s not right for them.

While it might seem like an obvious step, it’s often overlooked, and can save untold amounts of amends, wasted budget and poor outcomes further down the line.

How we can be better at dealing with this

· Use data-led influencer mapping to find the right people to work with in a more scientific way.

· Do your homework: build a robust profile of your ideal influencer in collaboration with your client, assess who your target audience listens to; relevant sectors, product USPs and desired influencer behaviours.

· Consider that ‘influencers’ can also be defined as large groups of everyday people, superfans, academics, or thought leaders — it’s not always about scale.