Review: Influencer Marketing - Prolific London Roundtable Discussion

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Influencer Marketing - Roundtable Discussion, held on May 16th, 2019.

Sponsored by Smoking Gun PR.

Influencer marketing is becoming an increasingly important tool for brands in virtually every industry. With the right influencers and the right messaging, it can be a highly effective way to tell brand stories, raise awareness, and reach new audiences.

But influencer marketing is still in its infancy, and it can feel like unfamiliar terrain. To address this, Prolific London brought together a group of leading marketers from companies across the capital to discuss the state of influencer marketing, and to share experiences in this new and exciting field.

 

How do you find a balance between the immediate impact of an influencer campaign and the importance of longer-term brand-building?

Rick Guttridge (Smoking Gun) said that finding influencers who are a long-term fit is crucial, especially if your brand is going to pivot. Brands need to identify the right channels and formats - for example, video content could be ranking for years to come. He said brands should ask: "Why are we selecting these people, and what are the business challenges we're trying to meet?"

Abby Watson (Mumsnet) pointed out the importance of KPIs. She said you can do an awareness campaign really quickly, particularly on Instagram, but that brands should also be building longer-form evergreen content such as blogs. If the KPI is mass awareness, Abby said you can facilitate that quickly - but the influencers still need to be targeted, and to have real authenticity. She suggested that we're moving towards a phase in influencer marketing that's about longer-term relationships, with repeated but light-touch messaging. She said that Mumsnet mainly use mini- and micro-influencers, and that it requires work to get engagement on those accounts. She urged influencers to think of themselves as a brand in their own right, regardless of the number of followers, pointing out that a tactical, stats-based approach is mutually beneficial. By way of example, Abby reported that Mumsnet recently ran an 8-month ambassadorship in which the content was inspired by 'moments', rather than the brand demanding for example a post every week. It was ad hoc, and it needed to fit in with their life and style in order to feel organic.

Georgie Davies (HelloFresh) agreed, saying that while she will brief influencers, the content needs to fit in with their lifestyle, and that brands will see more value if they give influencers freedom. HelloFresh concentrate on KPIs, and the business goals for each campaign help to determine the platform, strategy, and type of influencer. Some of their best-performing campaigns have been with micro-influencers, but the results from these accounts are incremental compared with celebrity campaigns such as recent activity with Davina McCall. Georgie said she wants to work with a large number of micro-influencers, but that there is a huge amount of work involved in background checks and vetting.

David White (Loaf) pointed out the difficulties in measurement and tracking, particularly for a business like Loaf as people are very unlikely to swipe up on an Instagram story and immediately buy a sofa. For him, success is partly about engagement in the first instance.

Rick Guttridge (Smoking Gun) agreed that tracking is crucial. He also suggested that attitude surveys conducted before and after campaigns can be an effective way of measuring success.

Abby Watson (Mumsnet) said that Mumsnet takes this approach, running conception surveys with insight panels before and after campaigns. She also pointed out the important differences in specific influencer demographics. For example, the influencers involved in Gransnet tend to be expensive and savvy, only want to work with specific brands. They don't want to be doing stairlifts, but instead want to be doing holidays, fashion, and beauty. Over-50s feel unrepresented in advertising, she said. Influencers can change perceptions, but only with the right brands.

Rick Guttridge (Smoking Gun) agreed that the most influential or authoritative voices aren't necessarily the ones you'd expect. Brands need to do the groundwork in advance to find not just the obvious players but also the people who make up the glue that keeps the conversation together. Campaigns go wrong when brands don't see beyond the obvious voices.

Georgie Davies (HelloFresh) agreed, saying that we shouldn't be targeting an age, but an attitude. Who are we to say what a 65-year-old does or doesn't enjoy?

B2B campaigns tend to use more 'hard facts', delivered by independent experts. Can B2C marketers learn anything from these techniques?

Rick Guttridge (Smoking Gun) said the message and the choice of person delivering the message are both important. People listen more to doctors, academics, etc - that's PR 101. He talked about successful mattress campaigns, which are rarely about product endorsements but are instead focused on topics such as 'how to get the best night's sleep', delivered by reputable medical professionals.

Georgie Davies (HelloFresh) said that the 'factual' side of the brand's pitch is dealt with through PR, while influencer campaigns are more about authenticity and lifestyle. She said HelloFresh use health experts, but not in influencer content. They're careful about the terms they ask influencers to use as they're aware people take things literally.

How do you find a balance between the immediate impact of an influencer campaign and the importance of longer-term brand-building?

Rick Guttridge (Smoking Gun) said that finding influencers who are a long-term fit is crucial, especially if your brand is going to pivot. Brands need to identify the right channels and formats - for example, video content could be ranking for years to come. He said brands should ask: "Why are we selecting these people, and what are the business challenges we're trying to meet?"

Abby Watson (Mumsnet) pointed out the importance of KPIs. She said you can do an awareness campaign really quickly, particularly on Instagram, but that brands should also be building longer-form evergreen content such as blogs. If the KPI is mass awareness, Abby said you can facilitate that quickly - but the influencers still need to be targeted, and to have real authenticity. She suggested that we're moving towards a phase in influencer marketing that's about longer-term relationships, with repeated but light-touch messaging. She said that Mumsnet mainly use mini- and micro-influencers, and that it requires work to get engagement on those accounts. She urged influencers to think of themselves as a brand in their own right, regardless of the number of followers, pointing out that a tactical, stats-based approach is mutually beneficial. By way of example, Abby reported that Mumsnet recently ran an 8-month ambassadorship in which the content was inspired by 'moments', rather than the brand demanding for example a post every week. It was ad hoc, and it needed to fit in with their life and style in order to feel organic.

Georgie Davies (HelloFresh) agreed, saying that while she will brief influencers, the content needs to fit in with their lifestyle, and that brands will see more value if they give influencers freedom. HelloFresh concentrate on KPIs, and the business goals for each campaign help to determine the platform, strategy, and type of influencer. Some of their best-performing campaigns have been with micro-influencers, but the results from these accounts are incremental compared with celebrity campaigns such as recent activity with Davina McCall. Georgie said she wants to work with a large number of micro-influencers, but that there is a huge amount of work involved in background checks and vetting.

David White (Loaf) pointed out the difficulties in measurement and tracking, particularly for a business like Loaf as people are very unlikely to swipe up on an Instagram story and immediately buy a sofa. For him, success is partly about engagement in the first instance.

Rick Guttridge (Smoking Gun) agreed that tracking is crucial. He also suggested that attitude surveys conducted before and after campaigns can be an effective way of measuring success.

Abby Watson (Mumsnet) said that Mumsnet takes this approach, running conception surveys with insight panels before and after campaigns. She also pointed out the important differences in specific influencer demographics. For example, the influencers involved in Gransnet tend to be expensive and savvy, only want to work with specific brands. They don't want to be doing stairlifts, but instead want to be doing holidays, fashion, and beauty. Over-50s feel unrepresented in advertising, she said. Influencers can change perceptions, but only with the right brands.

Rick Guttridge (Smoking Gun) agreed that the most influential or authoritative voices aren't necessarily the ones you'd expect. Brands need to do the groundwork in advance to find not just the obvious players but also the people who make up the glue that keeps the conversation together. Campaigns go wrong when brands don't see beyond the obvious voices.

Georgie Davies (HelloFresh) agreed, saying that we shouldn't be targeting an age, but an attitude. Who are we to say what a 65-year-old does or doesn't enjoy?

B2B campaigns tend to use more 'hard facts', delivered by independent experts. Can B2C marketers learn anything from these techniques?

Rick Guttridge (Smoking Gun) said the message and the choice of person delivering the message are both important. People listen more to doctors, academics, etc - that's PR 101. He talked about successful mattress campaigns, which are rarely about product endorsements but are instead focused on topics such as 'how to get the best night's sleep', delivered by reputable medical professionals.

Georgie Davies (HelloFresh) said that the 'factual' side of the brand's pitch is dealt with through PR, while influencer campaigns are more about authenticity and lifestyle. She said HelloFresh use health experts, but not in influencer content. They're careful about the terms they ask influencers to use as they're aware people take things literally.

What is the impact of tougher ASA regulation, and do you seek legal input on your campaigns?

Georgie Davies (HelloFresh) said there's a careful balance to be found between quantity and quality, and that she is very aware that poorly executed campaigns can backfire dramatically.

David White (Loaf) makes very clear that their influencers must use #spon tags or similar. However, even this has drawbacks; Loaf once worked with a prominent celebrity, and their sponsored posts were negatively received because they didn't appear authentic to the audience.

Laura Ely (Loaf) said sponsored posts are completely accepted amongst people within the interiors field and who've built their voice organically, but that the tactic hasn't yet worked with celebrities.

Georgie Davies (HelloFresh) said that negative sentiment from followers gets greater as you work with larger accounts, but also cautioned against working with the same audiences constantly.

How long has influencer marketing been part of your marketing mix?

David White (Loaf) said the last two years have been about experimenting at the company. The question is about resource: how do you work with the number of people you'd like to? Eventually, he said, Loaf would like to focus on regional influencers as well, especially when they open new showrooms. About two years ago they started putting more emphasis on analysing success, particularly around gifting. They've become stricter internally, putting together comprehensive campaign briefs and making sure that they are getting the right deliverables for the right fee.

Abby Watson (Mumsnet) said that Mumsnet have had a network for over ten years. Some members have been with them from the start, while others are new, but in the last two years they've worked to build a solid team internally. She said it's clear now that influencer marketing isn't just a trend, but is here to stay.

How important are video and podcasting to your brands?

Abby Watson (Mumsnet) suggested that if brands are going to get into podcasting, they should have done so last year. Brands need to make a splash when they enter that space. She said that Mumsnet have an in-house video team, but that blogging is stronger than video amongst Mumsnet network members - in great part because parents don't have the time to make videos, and that YouTube is more difficult to maintain than a social channel. However, she pointed out that YouTube can be very effective for factual content, with more people using it like a search engine. Again, she said the channel will depend on the campaign.

Georgie Davies (HelloFresh) said HelloFresh used to work almost exclusively with influencers on YouTube. But she now mainly goes to YouTube for practical answers to questions like 'how do I fix my washing machine?'. Two years ago it was a great platform for education about HelloFresh, but they've moved away from it for reasons of efficiency. She said they are exploring IGTV now that the content appears in newsfeeds, suggesting that there could be a shift away from YouTube. She said that video generally performs much better than static images for HelloFresh.

Rick Guttride (Smoking Gun) said that IGTV is interesting for longform, for example LadBible's half-hour documentaries on mental health. It's not just about silly viral videos anymore. IGTV can fit into that, he said, but it's not taken off as fast as Instagram had hoped. He hasn't seen brands using it as much as he'd expected, and suggested that there's still a first-mover advantage to be had in that space.

Abby Watson (Mumsnet) said that IGTV is much more appealing now that it comes into the grid. She'd never visited it specifically to watch content, but if there's something in her feed she will often now watch the whole video. She also said that measurement and expectations need to take into account the nature of the format. For example, in one campaign in which she ran an IGTV post rather than a conventional Instagram post, impressions were very strong but, because of the way the format works, engagements were low.

Georgie Davies (HelloFresh) said the company sponsors podcasts. They know they're buying a certain number of impressions, but it's impossible to track actual conversions - particularly as listeners have to remember a code. In this case, she's looking at impressions over other metrics. She said she's starting to see that it's hard to drive the value the brand anticipated through voucher codes, so now they're focusing more on an always-on strategy.

David White (Loaf) said the company are having a lot of discussions about podcasting, but are questioning whether they are feeling pushed into doing it simply because everyone else is. He said that he is keen to explore podcast sponsorships, and to potentially tie them in with live podcasting events in newly-opened showrooms.

Where's the future of influencer marketing? What will the role be in the next two to three years?

David White (Loaf) said Loaf want to expand their activities. They are building a more concrete calendar, and making sure influencer marketing fits in with overarching campaigns.

Abby Watson (Mumsnet) said more brands will be putting money towards influencer marketing, and that there will be bigger opportunities. She thinks ambassadorships will be the way forward, making specific influencers an authoritative voice for a brand. She also said, however, that it's impossible to plan for some changes, such as the potential removal of 'like' counters or changes to the Facebook algorithm. 

Laura Ely (Loaf) said the brand is integrating influencers much more solidly into their overall marketing efforts, and the value is being seen more clearly internally.

Georgie Davies (HelloFresh) said the company has established the type of influencer they want to work with, and that next year's vision will be about developing voices of the brand. Rather than creating a brief in a silo, she said she will move towards three or four longer-term partnerships with influencers who tell HelloFresh's brand story, plus a range of micro-influencers. She wants to leverage the assets that HelloFresh have created with through influencers, having proven that it's a channel with real ROI benefits.

Rick Guttridge (Smoking Gun) predicted that there will be more emphasis placed on fake followers. Some of this activity cheating is as clear as day, and brands aren't getting what they're paying for. He also said that brands need to write tighter contracts with influencers, and even consider things like influencer insurance. We're concluded by saying that marketers are doing a lot of the same things they've been doing for a hundred years, but now we're calling them 'influencer marketing' or 'content marketing'. We're using the same tactics, just different language.