Research Reveals the Most Effective Influencer Marketing Tactics


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A YouTube personality takes a break from discussing video games to talk about a web hosting service. An Instagram account dedicated to beauty highlights a new hair product. A TikToker shouts out a fast food sandwich to his fans. Anyone who uses social media has almost certainly seen influential figures – commonly referred to as influencers – and the brands that sponsor their posts.

The practice of influencer marketing has been part of many companies’ advertising mixes for years, but quantifying the best path to ROI has always been difficult, with much of the data being owned by social platforms and agencies. With “Influencer Marketing Effectiveness,” Jonathan Zhang from the marketing department and his co-authors leverage a partnership with a major Chinese influencer marketing agency to collect data on how influencer followers interact with sponsored posts. . It was one of the first efforts to provide a comprehensive, quantitative survey of a relatively new form of marketing.

“Influencer marketing is a global phenomenon and brands are spending tons of money on it,” Zhang said. “We have success stories here and there, but there has never been a systematic assessment of return on investment, which investments worked and which failed.”

After sorting through countless interactions on social platforms, benchmarking brand spend on individual campaigns, and analyzing influencer posts, reach, and posts, Zhang looked at the characteristics of influencers, the types of posts they send and the composition of the audience. By using social shares and reposts as a measure of a campaign’s success — the final sales data was held by advertisers and not available to researchers — Zhang and his colleagues hope to steer the discussion away from decisions based on charisma and hunches that often motivate marketers. choices.

“We try to cut through the fluff because influencers, by definition, are very good at talking and very good at getting carried away,” Zhang said. “So as a brand or any type of sponsor, you look at this space, you’re like, ‘Everyone is beautiful, glamorous and compelling!'”

How to choose the right influencer for a campaign

Zhang and his coauthors find more objective metrics than glitz and glamor to help marketers identify influencers most likely to deliver results. First, they looked at the influencers themselves, assessing the frequency of posts and the number of followers. While the results confirm the conventional wisdom that partnerships with influencers with more followers generate more ROI than those with fewer, Zhang found that post frequency can impact the results of the campaign. campaign. Influencers who post infrequently don’t have enough of a presence on users’ feeds, and conversely, those who post too often don’t connect with audiences as effectively.

Advertisers looking to maximize the ROI of an influencer campaign should not be limited to the behavior and reach of their influencer. Digging deeper into the data, Zhang found that subtle differences in an influencer’s content and audience composition also impact a campaign’s effectiveness. Not surprisingly, when the goods and services being promoted match an influencer’s theme and audience profile, campaigns work better than when there is little affinity between audience and content.

Beyond this day-to-day wisdom, Zhang and his co-authors found that too much affinity between an influencer’s content or audience also reduces ROI. He theorizes that the decline in engagement can be attributed to the difficulty of delivering new information to an expert audience.

“If you pick an influencer whose followers are beefy guys who do outdoor activities, then obviously your cosmetics brand will be a terrible choice — there’s no resonance with the audience,” Zhang explained. “But if all of their followers are hip young women who know all about cosmetics, then they’ll be like, ‘You know, this influencer isn’t telling us anything I don’t already know.'”

The Best Messaging for Social Influencer Campaigns

A successful influencer campaign requires more than just a careful selection of a social media personality that aligns with marketing goals. As with traditional advertising, the framing of messages produced by influencers affects the audience’s reaction to them. Zhang found that social media users have different expectations for authenticity when viewing sponsored posts.

The most successful campaigns featured original content such as text and graphics created by influencers themselves, rather than reusing material created by marketers. While Zhang suggests providing key message points to influencers, giving them license to authentically represent their own voice with the piece. It also means giving influencers the chance to be honest about the product: gushing, overly positive posts don’t offer the same return on investment as more balanced and measured approaches that include product reviews.

“If you’re an agency trying to coach influencers, our work can serve as a playbook on how to design messaging,” he explained.

Research also found that introducing new products in an influencer campaign was less likely to achieve ROI than when promoting established products.

Open the black box

Much of the digital marketing world is driven by proprietary algorithms and internal processes that are inherently beyond scrutiny. Because of this, marketers have had to rely on patchy third-party data or anecdotal evidence when planning influencer campaigns. Often this has led to spending decisions being made on instinct, a practice Zhang hopes to eliminate by helping advertisers develop best practices.

“This research tries to cut right to the chase and let the numbers do the talking,” Zhang said. “The influencer marketing space is an emerging field and there is a lot of inefficiency and wasted resources on guesswork. We aim to solve this problem and use numbers to paint a compelling story.”

The search appears in the Marketing Review.

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More information:
Fine F. Leung et al, EXPRESS: Influencer Marketing Effectiveness, Marketing Review (2022). DOI: 10.1177/00222429221102889

Provided by Colorado State University

Quote: Research Reveals the Most Effective Influencer Marketing Tactics (2022, May 19) Retrieved May 19, 2022, from

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