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Influencer marketing can be a cost effective and powerful way for marketers to generate content, reach audiences, and build authentic relationships. However, because of the perceived risks, brands can be hesitant to entrust their brand to an influencer. Much of this risk centres around fraud. It’s estimated that at least 15% of advertisers’ spending on influencer marketing is lost to fraud, costing them $1.3 billion annually and, if left unchecked, the level of fraud in campaigns is expected to reach $1.5 billion in 2020.  And that number doesn’t include the incalculable costs of fake influencer marketing! With those numbers, it’s no wonder brands can be hesitant to dive into the uncertain world of influencer marketing.  

Interestingly, part of the fraud is attributed to marketers not “fact checking” martech, which is doing the influencer selection for them. Others attest that the burden doesn’t lie with marketers alone and the platforms themselves have a responsibility to monitor and eliminate fake accounts faster. Last year, Instagram began hiding likes in Canada (check out our blog about this here) and has begun hiding likes in the United States and testing the like-free feed worldwide. The backlash to this change in the US was swift, with the announcement drawing a slew of negative comments on Twitter. Influencers argue that hiding likes will negatively impact them since companies often look at likes on posts as a measure of how successful a campaign has been while industry experts argue that the like has long lost its power as an indicator of popularity and that the change is a positive one.

Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, one thing is for certain-- influencer marketing is big business. Companies spend an estimated $8.5 billion annually to persuade influencers to market their products. Influencer marketing is a key part of many brands’ marketing strategy for good reason. Forty-nine percent of customers depend on influencer recommendations, and 40% had purchased something after seeing it on Twitter, YouTube or Instagram. It’s not hard to see the irony here: influencer marketing can be fraught with fraud yet it’s the one form of digital advertising that most audiences find to be the most authentic and therefore trustworthy. So what’s a marketer to do? Can brands safeguard against risk while still reaping the benefits of employing an influencer?

The answer is yes! Brand safety concerns are not a new phenomenon, but digital and social media have brought this issue to the forefront. In addition to rampant fraud, brands must guard against finding their content unintentionally placed alongside objectionable content on a variety of sites and platforms. However, if properly vetted, influencer marketing can give both marketers and brands more control over the type and placement of content.

 "Brand safety is paramount when prospecting potential influencers. It's important to thoroughly check on the influencer’s profile, their history online, and how their own brand aligns with yours," says Aidan Roy, Manager, Client Strategy at Time + Space. "Other things like frequency is important, because you want the authenticity of a real influencer, rather than someone who only makes posts when they are #sponsored."

Read our blog post about brand safety when working with influencers for more information on the vetting process.

Reimagining influencer marketing strategy can present a huge opportunity for brands. When we think of influencer marketing, most times the platform that comes to mind is Instagram. According to a survey of marketers by BigCommerce, 89% indicated that Instagram was the most important social media channel for influencer marketing. However, times are changing. To maximize the ROI from influencer marketing, brands need to think bigger.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies found in 2012 that it cost an average $354,000 to produce a 30-second commercial spot. Add focus groups and the over $100,000 for every 30 seconds of prime time air costs, and it’s easy for brands to spend more than $500,000 to produce and air a national TV spot just one time. This is where influencer marketing can shine. Nearly 90% of all marketers find ROI from influencer marketing comparable to or better than other marketing channels. And leveraging these content creators to build promotional branded content can cost as little as little as 10% of the cost of producing and airing one TV ad. This would not only allow brands to have several influencers creating and sharing multiple of pieces of content around these themes with their audiences at one time, it would alleviate the impact of waning traditional TV audiences and ensure branded content is reaching the right audience at the right time. Additionally, marketers could test this content with a broader audience in the real world as opposed to traditional focus groups, enabling them to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t while continuing to promote the brand.

Below are two promotional videos for Volvo. The first was created by Chris Hau, an influencer/content creator and the second is an official TV spot produced for Volvo. 

 

The most startling difference between the two pieces is cost; the TV spot cost over $350,000 to produce (not counting airtime) while the second cost a fraction of the cost—a mere $9500. Sure, the influencer video lacks the shiny veneer of the TV ad but for what it lacks in polish, it makes up for with sheer authenticity. And this can be a game changer, especially when marketers are trying to reach younger cord-cutting audiences.

Fear of brand safety can cause marketers to overlook a unique opportunity to capitalize on the content creation talents of influencers. The stigma associated with influencer marketing is fair but can be alleviated with due diligence. The upside presented by these content creators far outweighs the potential risks. It’s time for brands to embrace and incorporate influencer marketing in their overall marketing strategy.

Contact us for more information on building and executing a more strategic approach.