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Listen In: Finding and Activating Influencers

As influencer marketing grows, our guests tell us that authenticity and collaboration are key success factors

September 21, 2016

Despite headlines about influencer marketing focused on celebrities and social media stars being paid large sums of money to promote products to their millions of followers, the practice is more nuanced than many perceive. This episode of “Behind The Numbers” explores some of those distinctions in a Skype discussion with Kate LaVail, a social scientist and senior account supervisor at the research and consulting firm Research+Data Insights (RDI), and Tim Burke, the CEO of audience insights software provider Affinio.

Hosts Marcus Johnson and Bryan Yeager start by highlighting eMarketer’s latest US digital ad spending forecast, released last week. The big news there is the projection that total TV ad spending will be surpassed by digital ad spending by the end of this year—a full year earlier than previously estimated. Johnson and Yeager go into some of the reasons why that’s happening.

The conversation with LaVail [starts at 3:05] begins with how influencer marketing has changed over the years. LaVail traces the practice back to the 1980s with &ldqou;cool hunting,” where brands tried to find one special person that could sway the perceptions of a large group.

There’s been dramatic change in the intervening few decades, from giving free products to bloggers in hopes that they write a glowing review to today’s methods of tapping into conversations on social media to find and activate people who may not have the largest following but can nonetheless move the needle depending on marketers’ goals. LaVail and Burke share some examples, including brands expanding to new regions seeking out local experts who can help create a buzz for their launch.

Two of the key success factors for influencer marketing the guests highlight are authenticity and collaboration. LaVail and Burke say that consumers can easily sniff out inauthentic posts from the people they follow, which is only going to become more of a challenge as a growing number of marketers try tapping into influencers.

An April 2016 survey by influencer marketing automation platform TapInfluence and Altimeter Group found that more than seven in 10 US influencers identified being honest, funny, open and willing to call it like they see it as a factor in keeping their followers engaged—one that outranked other options and is essential to ensuring those influencers can continue monetizing the audience they’ve cultivated.

Factors that Keep Their Followers Engaged According to US* Influencers, April 2016 (% of respondents)

eMarketer PRO subscribers have access to two reports where they can learn more on the topic of influencer marketing: “Influencers in US Retail: The YouTube Stars, Reviewers and Superfans Consumers Trust” from December 2015 and “Influencer Marketing for US Brands: The Platforms to Watch, and the Best Ways to Work with Creators” from February 2016.

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