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The 2019 Digital Media Forecast: Increased Accountability and Authenticity for Influencers

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To build authentic brand partnerships, Influencers need to provide value beyond reach and engagement.

What’s the difference between an Influencer and Digital Talent?

Often, it’s process and results.

These days, anyone can be an Influencer just like anyone can be a basketball player. However quantifiable achievements, which are typically the result of process, are what separates NBA stars from anyone else who dribbles a ball.

At SMWLA, Forbes 30 Under 30 honorees sat down to discuss insights from the Digital Media frontlines.

Moderated by Janett Haas, SVP Brand Solutions & Strategic Partnerships, Forbes Media – the digital leaders also share their thoughts on what to expect in 2019.

The Rise of the Influencer Network

Influencer Marketing may be a hot buzzword, but it’s certainly not new.

For example, in the late 80’s and early 90’s Spike Lee was featured in several Nike commercials portraying Mars Blackmon, a Brooklyn-loving fan of basketball. Appearing with Michael Jordan, he became well known for his use of the phrase, “It’s gotta be da shoes.”

The ad campaign with Lee as Mars has been credited as a landmark in the evolution of sneakers into massively profitable items of fashion.

Eric Dahan, Co-Founder & CEO, Open Influence – noted how things have changed since the days of Mars Blackmon.

“There’s a whole new generation of talent to where, anyone can be famous. We don’t have to go through the same gatekeepers. Anyone can create content and distribute it as well.”

He goes on to explain how an influencer’s personality can make them particularly appealing to specific advertisers.

“If you look at the traditional ad model with TV, you have several TV networks with several shows. Today, each influencer is essentially their own show, so it opens up a lot of opportunity for advertisers.”

Jerry Media, the agency started by Elliot Tebele of F*ck Jerry, is an excellent example of how Influencer networks can provide both reach and precision for advertisers seeking a more authentic connection with their audience.

With nearly 14 million followers, F*ck Jerry is clearly the most popular handle. However, their total network of influencers reaches over 100 million people. If you’re promoting some outrageous new food item, you may be better off partnering with Foodie, their handle which features mouthwatering images of various dishes. Although Foodie has far less followers, your content would reach a higher intent audience.

More than just a Face, Encouraging Brand Creator Partnerships

Historically, once Influencers have aligned with a brand, they more or less follow a script. They may be given some copy or image to post on their feed, pick up their check, and be on their merry way.

Today, many brands are further increasing authenticity by partnering with Influencers who create their own content.

Maxxie Goldstein, Founder & CEO, MEYVYN – provides additional insight.

“The way we have conversations around influencers has changed. Before we would say, let’s do a paid placement campaign and make sure this mascara gets out on this feed because we know her demo is asking for it. Now were really looking at people and saying, how can we use them as content creators, and then inherently make them brand advocates?”

MEYVYN doubled down on this approach by opening an inhouse photo studio. This is space is utilized for both campaign ideation and execution. Instead of just giving an influencer a theme of the month, they give them the tools to create content.

Instagram Stories have emerged as a leading platform for Influencers to create their own content.

In a recent Forbes article, Jason Pampell stated “Collaborating with an influencer for a dedicated Instagram post that lives in their feed is certainly still effective. But we’re starting to see a shift in what feels staged versus what is a genuine recommendation. If feed photos are viewed as a polished magazine advert, someone reviewing a toothpaste in their bathrobe on stories feels more like you’re receiving a recommendation from a friend you can trust.”

Show me the money, an Increasing Demand for Attribution

How much should I pay an Influencer? That’s a very common question. Traditional marketing states you should first determine your goal and how much you’re willing to achieve that goal. With Influencer Marketing, this attribution can often be a challenge.

With Instagram Stories, you can easily create a trackable link for the Swipe Up feature. While this is a quick fix, it only covers one from of Influencer Marketing. It also only covers traffic and conversions that take place on your website. This isn’t necessarily the use case for all brands.

Eric Dahan explains, “The space has evolved a lot. A lot of advertisers were partnering with influencers based on followers and impressions and engagement. Now, some direct response clients are looking for clicks as well. But a click for detergent doesn’t make sense versus an online product.”

Identifying the correct KPIs and how to measure effectiveness will continue to be a hot button topic.

Many Influencers are paid and report on the amount of impressions a post gets. Brands can then do an analysis around website visits that occurred around the same time as these impressions and determine whether or not there is a correlation. However, correlation isn’t causation, and clicks aren’t always the goal.

Natalie Novak of United Talent Agency – commented on why a more sophisticated process is so important for her company. “It’s becoming more important for us to back up why we ask for the rates we do from our clients.” They use machine learning to prove there is a clear affinity between a client they represent and brand that is considering a partnership.

Influencers – or, Digital Talent – will continue to be a popular method for brands to connect with their audience. As more resources – and budgets – are allocated towards this strategy, accountability and authenticity will become even more important.

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