Influencers are a unique animal. While some are strategic partnerships and others appear by accident (Chewbacca Mom, for example) one thing is certain–they all transcend the ever-changing ad guidelines by the FTC, Google and social media sites like Facebook.
In a world where selfies sell products, it’s no wonder that the percentage of marketing budgets devoted to social media has grown. According to a recent CMO survey by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, social media accounts for 11.7 percent of marketing budgets, up from 3.5 percent in 2009. In fact, US digital ad spending will hit $72.09 billion, about 37 percent of total ad spend according to eMarketer.
Does a “like” or “retweet” equal sales? A mere 13 percent of CMOs claim that they can successfully and efficiently measure social data accurately, according to a Duke University survey. Likewise, in a separate study by Simply Measured, over half of the marketers surveyed named “measuring ROI” as the number one challenge they face. While many companies assign an earned media value to these endorsements and actions, others are building campaigns with trackable sales lift into them. ROI can be easier to track when influencers are lined up with a specific product. When KontrolFreek relaunched its Ali-A signature thumb sticks in August, the video game peripheral company noticed significant increases across the board—23 percent more website sessions, 24 percent more unique users, 35 percent more revenue and an impressive 10 percent conversion rate.
Social marketing, including use of influencers, are set to rise. Forward-thinking brands realize that the word of an influencer is far more powerful than a pop-up ad. Massive video game events, once the epicenter for press conferences and secret demos are now moving in a completely different direction. During Gamescom, Peter Moore, Electronic Arts’ chief competition officer said, “I’m not too sure that press conferences have a future. The medium is changing. Influencers, celebrities who aren’t the classic journalists are finding their own way. Our job is to put the games in their hands.” Brands like EA and Microsoft opted for public user experiences rather than press conferences to accomplish just that.
When it comes to marketing, an increasing number of brands are folding their social budget in with all content efforts to take a holistic view of how they reach customers and develop a relationship with them. A study by Think With Google revealed that 70 percent of YouTube subscribers relate to YouTube creators more than traditional celebrities, making a strong case for the power of branded content and strategic influencer partnerships.