The tactic of using influencers to deliver messages that will drive consumer action has matured to the point that it’s become an accepted practice in most of the marketplace. Yet finding and working with influencers is far more complex than it appears at first glance.
Those were some of the conclusions reached in a recent Nasdaq Corporate Solutions/PR News Pro survey of PR pros and brand communicators. (See infographic below.)
The widespread use of influencers is apparent in that 75% of survey respondents say influencer marketing is part of their brand’s communications strategy today.
Another sign of the tactic’s maturation is that nearly 80% believe the ability to get people to take an action was the most important characteristic of an influencer. The survey asked respondents to name the top three characteristics of an influencer. After the ability to motivate people to take an action (79%), popularity of content (66%) and the reach of an influencer’s network members (63%) are the most important characteristics, respondents say.
The survey was completed last month; more than 400 respondents participated.
Regarding whom brands seek as influencers, responses were mixed, with 61% saying industry professionals were the top choice, 57% picking industry personalities and 55% saying bloggers, while 55% choose customers to be their influencers. Just 15% say celebrities were their top choice for an influencer. Respondents were allowed to make multiple picks.
No difficulty dominates for what brands see as their biggest hurdle when working with influencers. Again, respondents were allowed to make multiple picks. 21% say getting the attention of influencers is the top issue; for 19% measurement was the main challenge; 18% say identifying influencers relevant to their business is the toughest problem. A total of 17% pick creating appropriate content for influencers as the most difficult issue and 15% say maintaining a relationship with influencers that lasts more than a single campaign is the biggest burden.
One of the survey’s pleasant surprises for Nasdaq Corporate Solutions’ Sanjay Kulkarni, global head of PR solutions, is that “nearly 80% [of respondents] understand that at the end of the day, influencer marketing is not primarily about content or reach or the size of an influencer’s network. It starts with the ability to drive action and…actual results.”
Those less experienced with influencers tend to see them as a way to “perhaps just more rapidly amplify their message across social channels, which tends not to work as well as you might think,” he says. A succesful collaboration with influencers “requires up-front work and planning.” Finding influencers who are correct for your business and who can drive results is just a preliminary step, he says. You can’t just find an influencer “and then hit go.”
This idea segues to the survey’s final question, which asks about the most difficult influencer marketing challenges. “Ironically, that [no one problem] stands out is what stands out,” he says. “What this says to me is that challenges…are equally spread across the influencer-marketing workflow, which starts with defining your goals and figuring out how you will define success, but then flows pretty seamlessly to identifying influencers and beginning to engage” with them. It then moves to the other challenges listed in the question, such as creating content that complements influencers’ content. “Influencer marketing is about their content coming through you so that it’s more trusted and comes across as earned media.”
For Kulkarni, the survey indicates brands are “still looking for some help and a better understanding of how to fit all these pieces [listed in the last question] together,” he says. “It’s not enough to just look at influencer marketing as identifying influencers and then you just go…you need a set of interconnected tools and processes that help you manage across challenges, and you need to have that plan from the start.”