Not only can we see when a user is interested in a creator’s post, we can also track that user as they move down the funnel, re-target interested users based on time and location and also track sales. Yes, that’s right, I did say ‘track sales’! We can see when a user makes a purchase. The holy grail, right?
With a plethora of influencer marketing agencies out there, it's outright dizzying and hard to know who to invest with. This is a question clients looked to me to answer in my past life (just two weeks ago!) as an influencer marketing professional largely working on the agency side of things. For a decade, I've watched influencer tech companies/networks rise to the top and then slowly fizzle out of favor. So why, ON EARTH, did I leave my cushy VP of Influencer Marketing title at a top Manhattan PR firm to work with The Cirqle? I'm so glad you asked!
Our interview with Pollyanna Ward
When did you start working with social media and how did it start?
It’s kind of an odd one and it happened a little bit by chance. I think it was probably due to the fact I grew up without computers so when I finally got one I was much later to the game than most and I wanted to download and be involved in everything. I was a little reserved in school so being on socials was a way for me to be a bit cooler than I was in person and that’s how I developed an interest in it. At the end of my first year at Uni, I got a job working an admin in the River Island head office and met the people that did their social media, just by chance, by sitting next to them at lunch, and got to see how it all worked. The following summer I got an internship there and took over their Twitter and Facebook accounts and I used that experience as the basis for my dissertation on different languages to communicate to men and women because again back then targeting was a bit rubbish, it was all kind of organic. In my final year, I worked for iMax as brand ambassador, that was amazing! I learned a lot about using social currency. After working as a brand ambassador for iMax, I realized how obsessed I was with social media and that I wanted to do it as a job and that is kind of where the blog thing came out off. I set up, together with a best friend, The Nottingham Bucket List. I was quite happy just walking into restaurants and be like ‘We got this Instagram, we got this blog, what do you think?”. There was nothing like Nottingham blog out there then and for them it was free advertising, they just had to offer a coffee or a burger. Then I got nominated for the Guardians Student Media Award, because it was most likely to be seen as a business option, since people could receive discounts through me. Then I graduated and moved to London and there was no way I could have continued with a Nottingham-focused blog, but I had taken everything I learned from it and started writing my own blog on another website. When I was in London I also started working at a startup job and one day I got an email from the senior brand manager for Oreo who said they were looking for a social media manager to handle just two biscuit brands at the time, they’d seen my blog.
Do you think if you didn’t receive that offer from Oreo you would have made the switch? Or did you already think that you’d like to become an influencer full time, rather than a media strategist?
My blog’s growth rate was quite strong, if I’d kept up that blog but changed the name to, for example, The London Bucket List, it could have continued. But at the same time I actually quite liked sitting and kind of being the voice of another brand. So I quite like, from a strategy perspective, being able to think how that brand would talk here, here and here.
How does it feel to first be on the influencer side and then being the one that hires and works with them?
From a brand perspective, the influencers I really enjoy working with are the ones that I get to meet. I think the best effort in your roles play with micro and macro and celebrities, but the ones where I’ve had the most fun are the ones I’ve actually gotten to meet, no matter how big or small they are. It’s just amazing to kind of talk through their passions, even if that’s not the content that you use, you create a more human relationship.
Because you have worked as an influencer, and you know the inner-workings of the job, do you think you’re more critical or skeptical of influencer work than most brands?
Yeah, I’m definitely a lot more skeptical just because I know from having met up with so many of them, they’re all great and awesome people, but I can tell very quickly who is in it because they are passionate about it and those who aren’t. So when receiving assets from influencers, now sitting on this side, it’s almost like ‘okay fine you passed your authenticity test and all but your copy looks like you didn’t even try, you’ve just written out exactly the script that I wrote.’
Do you think all companies these days should have an influencer, or former influencer, working in their social media department?
If you’re going to work with influencers you do need people that know them, especially if you’re a massive brand who can afford a PR agency with an influencer.
When do you think that brands really started understanding the potential of influencer marketing to the point where they wanted to implementing it in their strategies?
Thinking back to the Nottingham days, with really small companies, it was really imperative for them, with such low marketing budgets, to be able to send a gift voucher to a Nottingham student that just happens to have a lot of followers. So I almost feel like it’s been growing continuously from a small business perspective and now I see a lot of small startups looking to work with small influencers that can generate some chatter on Twitter or write little blogs on their behalf. I don’t think it’s been driven by small business, but I think the boom has been most useful to small and medium sized businesses because it’s a lot more long-term cost effective if you can bring on people that will represent your brand. I think it’s when brands realized the human connection you can have with influencers that they start considering the market more and more.
What you think is the strength of influencer marketing compared to the other forms of social media marketing?
It’s definitely a combination of the two: authenticity and credibility. I’m slightly skewed to say ‘authenticity’ given the current issue with Instagram bots that we’re facing at the moment. But essentially what a good influencer should do is provide credibility to their fans, so again thinking about what they’re going to put in their captions, have they used our product before and is it actually something that fits into their day to day life; essentially it should be very much a two-way relationship.
Do you think you can reach a different, more targeted audience with influencer marketing in comparison to other methods of social marketing?
Yes, I completely agree with that. One really good example was when I worked for Oreo a few years ago now, we really wanted to reach a specific customer. So we asked ourselves how we could make our offering relevant to that target group. With our PR agency we came up with a proposal to then use four different groups of influencers with four different very specific interests and one of them, for example, was gamers, so YouTuber Twitch users, online gamers. This allowed us to extend into the gaming industry, targeting gaming audiences in an authentic way which worked really well.
Do you think you’ll ever come back to your roots and begin influencing through a blog again, alongside your work as a strategist?
I’d love to be a thought leader, when I am finally running a brand or I’ve got my own company, then I’d like to bring back Pollyanna Ward as a personal brand to get people in. So when it’s my turn to have a brand or work on a product that’s my own, the personal brand would come back.
One of the first things clients ask us when they launch a campaign through The Cirqle platform is how can we help them identify and recruit the best and most affluent influencers for their brand. Of course, this may seem easy from the outset, but the perils of the market have proven otherwise all too often. At best, brands can now only hope to steer opinions that consumers have about them - and to do so, they turn to an ever expanding marketing stack of technology services and media companies. At a time when many are blocking traditional banner ads or skipping TV commercials (Netflix), influencers become the pinnacle of leading conversations with the world.
In South Korea, over 2 trillion South Korean won (KRW, or $2.4 billion USD) was spent on advertising on mobile platforms last year, surpassing that of advertising on cable TV - 1.8 trillion KRW - for the first time. While Instagram influencers in the US charge up to $100,000 USD for a sponsored post, industry insiders say brands in South Korea pay from 100,000 KRW to more than 2 million KRW for a single social media post, depending on the loyalty of the person’s followers.
Beauty and fashion brands are at the forefront of using social media influencers who have millions of followers. We sat down with Jude Kim, who runs Global Business Development at The SMC in Seoul, Korea and serves clients like Google and eBay, and asked him for his vision regarding the Asian (kol/influencer) market.
Transparency is now coming faster than ever, to all industries, including the industry of influencer marketing. We took a moment to sit down with one of our closest partners in the midst of the hustle and bustle that is New York City to talk through some of the latest developments blockchain may bring to the influencer industry.
What follows is a unique interview with experienced digital strategist and Vice-President Influencer Marketing at MMC Alayna Palgon to hear her take on this evolving frontier.
“Quality of content is critical to achieve success in a sea of information”, said Joe Pulizzi Head of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). Yet, even though this is what every marketing campaign strives to achieve, the lack of proxies and measurements make quality one of the most complex factors to determine a campaign’s success.
Indeed, producing great content is one of the most difficult challenges marketers face on a daily basis. Still, when looking at influencer marketing, the quality of the content is often disregarded and undervalued. The biggest mistake made in the popular use of influencers is the extensive focus on the distribution of content in terms of reach and impressions rather than the creation of it.
Integrating content marketing and influencer marketing
In order for influencer marketing to be successful and valuable, it has to be engaging, unique, and targeted to the audience you’re trying to reach. All these elements translate into one and only requirement: quality. It is therefore crucial to require and give influencers enough space to not only distribute but also produce creative and high quality content to make your campaign as beneficial as possible.
Leveraging this expertise becomes a necessity when a brand wants to resonate with its audience and produce authentic and honest content.
Using proxies for quality
However, in order to be able to demand high quality content from influencers, certain measurements need to be set and used in order to be able to assess it.
Measuring quality of content can be based on several basic criteria:
- Quality of content
First and most obvious of all, the quality of the content can be assessed in terms of the creativity of the influencer in its approach to produce new content in line with the brand and its own identity.
- Quality of audience
Second, the quality of the audience needs to be evaluated. Therefore, audience demographics such as country and city of origin, age, gender and even interests and income to fit the specific target and industry are very insightful informations. This then also determines the quality of the content distribution.
- Quality of the influencer
Finally, the quality of the influencer is also an integral part of the overall quality of a campaign. Therefore, measurements such as engagement rates of the influencer with its audience and frequency of posting are relevant measures.
Concluding this attempt to find measurable quality metrics, assessing the quality of influencer content stays a subjective and brand specific judgement. However, referring back to Bill Gates’ essay Content is King, the Influencer Marketing Hub described influencer marketing as being the new « content king », which highlights again the power of quality, over quantity.
After reaching more than 800 million monthly active users in 2017, Instagram has turned into the social media El Dorado. This has made a substantial impact on businesses that rapidly understood the power of the platform for advertising. In fact, Instagram recently estimated the business community to represent 2 Million advertisers (up from 1 million back in March).
Here are some of the key elements behind Instagram's marketing success:
1. Instagram traffic VISITS HAVE HIGHER QUALITY
Visitors from Instagram stay on a site for an average of 192 seconds – this is longer than visitors from any other channel, including Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. This also means that traffic from Instagram is the most engaged and represents a more attractive consumer panel (Yotpo 2017).
2. Instagram has high organic and targeted reach
The organic nature of Instagram’s audience increases the word-of-mouth effect. According to a recent Yotpo research, 83% of consumers confirmed that seeing a post about a brand on Instagram influences their decision to look the brand up.
In addition, with the current available tools, businesses are now able to leverage this instagram audience even more by targeting specific segments (by age, country or even interest).
3. Instagram's hashtags(#) simply work
Not only do hashtags enable categorisation and content discovery, they are also the driving forces behind most of the user-generated advertising campaigns. According to Sproutsocial, "One of the best ways to kick off a UGC campaign on Instagram is with the help of a branded hashtag" in order to optimise exposure. This is also why 7 out of 10 hashtags used are branded (Simply Measured Study).
4. Instagram enables shoppable solutions
Instagram shopping is real. The platform is providing increasingly more links and solutions to connect user generated content to e-commerce websites within the application.
- Instagram stories
By introducing the swipe up option in Instagram stories, direct product referrals are possible, creating a direct linkto an e-commerce website within the platform.
- Shoppable third-party solutions
Companies such as Curalate are also providing solutions to turn your Instagram feed into a shoppable feed. Again here, a direct link within the platform makes instagram scrolling and buying a natural consumer path.
- Shoppable tags
Last but not least, Instagram recently developed it's own shoppable posts, currently only available for businesses in the United States using the Big Commerce platform. The tool is simple: retailers can insert shoppable tags on their Instagram pictures featuring a product to get the Instagram user directly to the store.
This add-on is another proof that Instagram is slowly shifting towards a key selling tool for retailers, something to keep an eye on in Europe as well!
What's more, Instagram is estimated to rake in $4 billion in global advertising revenue by the end of 2017, an impressive growth prospect!
As consumers are increasingly overwhelmed by a variety of product choices, impulse buying seems to become a trend of the past. Consumers look, ask, search, compare, review, and re-think before purchasing advertised products.
The one key element however, that is often forgotten but does fundamentally impact purchase behaviour is a critical one. And that is: Trust.
Word of mouth is entirely based on the fact that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising (Nielsen, 2012). The real question here is: if consumers value word-of-mouth and marketers believe it is effective, then why aren’t marketers more focused on it? One simple answer is the need for tangible measures of word of mouth marketing.
Measures for w-o-m
McKinsey’s report (2011), “A new way to measure word-of-mouth marketing”, attempted to provide a new formula to measure the impact of WOM, also called “word-of-mouth equity”. Yet, this impact is measured on the basis of black or white qualitative criteria such as influential or not, relevant or irrelevant message content, close or large network etc. This leads to think that McKinsey’s new measurement tool only results in two-sided answers, far from the tangible output needed to change marketers’ decisions or budget allocations.
Our objective is to fundamentally understand how and why specific pieces of content perform better in comparison to others. In order to guide our clients towards the right consumers, through the right content and in the right setting, the interpretation of the right data is of critical important. Thus, we make sure brands understand the value of their investment through personalised and substantial feedback on campaign content and through carefully assessing and evaluation the feedback our technology delivers.
This is why we focus on individual content analytics such as impressions, engagement points, followers and demographic data (gender, city, country, age, income data, amongst others) of each influencer and content allocated to a campaign. Coming back to McKinsey's measurement tool, this enables us to look at both volume and impact sides of a campaign.
However, the actual impact of a campaign does not limit itself to the above. The Cirqle, calibrates the impact of a campaign throughout the entire campaign management process, moving away from McKinsey’s 4 impact criteria.
This process moves from the deliberate recruitment and selection of influencers towards the audience the influencer is actually targeting; to the campaign content and channel selection (beyond the continuous communication b/w brand- and influencer). All these factors are taken into account in in the final impact assessment of a campaign.
Despite of these efforts to employ different impact measurements, capturing the campaign's relation to actual customer conversion remains the ultimate goal. A goal which we'll continue to relentlessly pursue and will hope to present our findings for in the next weeks to come.
We're announcing a partnership in the next week which we'll hopefully lay the groundworks for helping us to achieve this mission.
As the founder of The Cirqle, a startup that enables brands, communities and businesses to launch influencer marketing campaigns, I’ve watched the days of exclusive press releases/events disappear. The Internet has changed the inception process. In 2017/2018 companies seed products through influencers, leak "exclusives" to reporters, bloggers, and consumers, live-stream launch events globally and reward brand advocates with pre-access. The velocity of the news cycle and the uprise of social media makes launching a new product far easier in some ways—and more difficult in others.
Marketers love influencer marketing because it takes the brand out of the equation. Instead of filtering the message through a brand’s lens, the influencer makes the product or service his own. We've seen three challenges that will push more brands, agencies and institutions towards the influencer marketing realm:
1. The Rise of Ad Blockers
In the US, more than 32% (Europe > 20%) of all internet users have an Ad Blocker installed. Making online advertising increasingly more inefficient. At the same time, 92% of consumers trust user-generated content and word-of-mouth more than advertising and 74% rely on social network to help guide a purchase (eMarketer).
2. There's a push towards influencer marketing, but it's a time-consuming and expensive ordeal.
- Finding the right influencers for your target audience on the right platform;
- Managing contacts with influencers and negotiating contracts cross-state/country;
- Accurately measuring the effectiveness of the content;
- Managing workflow around influencer marketing solutions;
3. Fragmented landscape
Brands have to contact numerous different types of agencies, tech companies and services to run simple, straightforward campaigns. There’s no efficient full suite solution for running influencer marketing campaigns across different countries.
Influencer marketing, why?
The broader digital advertising industry represents a $14 billion revenue opportunity and is expected to see double-digit growth over the next five year (Forbes). With 84% of brands planning to launch an influencer marketing campaign in the next 12 months, the interest in influencer marketing continues to grow as brands seek the most effective way to target their core audience.
If social influencers didn’t add value to an organization, 84 percent of marketers would look elsewhere for their campaigns.