Expert in digital and influencer marketing, Gordon Glenister has been working hard to enhance the perception of influencer marketing since 2019. At that time, he realized there needed to be more literature on influencer marketing to help businesses understand this upcoming strategy. So, he penned a book, Influencer Marketing Strategy, in 2021. Nowadays, Glenister has been assisting brands by offering consulting services.
Speaking with Archana Mishra of affable.ai, Glenister notes that among the main errors brands frequently make when executing influencer campaigns include having unrealistic expectations for fast outcomes from a single post and failing to establish appropriate KPIs. He suggests including influencers in operations or planning meetings and to avoid using them as product amplifiers. He has a point. As creators are brands now in their own right and have huge potential, many need to realize how valuable this is.
He also discusses why sponsored media is becoming more complicated when it comes to getting your target audience to view more of your content; how only selecting the right influencers — 5–10 with diverse audiences — can bring about the needed conversions. Glenister also shares how you can use these chosen influencers as brand ambassadors since they function similar to mini-stores.
Q. Author, consultant, speaker, and sales and marketing podcast host. You are wholly committed to the marketing sector. Could you tell us about your journey so far? And what inspired you to write a book about influencer marketing?
A. I used to run the British Promotional Merchandise Association, and after 11 years felt it was time to start something new. So I wanted to help other associations and membership bodies with their strategy. The first one I reached out to was the CEO of the Branded Content Marketing Association. We talked about setting up an association to support the influencer industry to try and improve the image of influencer marketing and not being a wild west industry.
It happened in 2019, and we launched it in a London nightclub with lots of excitement. We needed to get the BCMA brand out there and my presence, so I decided to launch a podcast – now we are close to 100 episodes (it's released every two weeks), and it's in the top 10% of global podcasts. It's been a great vehicle for me and the BCMA to spotlight influencers, agencies, and brands in the sector.
In late 2019 I was searching for a good book on influencer marketing and struggled to find one, so I approached a business book publisher, Kogan Page, and they couldn't get me signed quickly enough to write a book on this rapidly growing industry. The book has since been translated into the huge Portuguese market in Brazil, and a 1.5 hr documentary film was launched in June 2022 in Sao Paulo. I spent 2 hours signing books. I also lecture at two universities and have a column in the London Evening Standard newspaper. It is great PR for our industry, presenting a positive image rather than some TV media with an agenda to reflect the opposite.
Q. Given that you appear inclined towards influencer marketing, what do you think is current and popular in influencer marketing? Particularly now that we are witnessing a shift in marketing budgets from traditional media to influencer marketing.
A. Fact is, we trust the opinions of others we like to trust and know, including family, influencers, and colleagues, way more than ads that are intrusive and irrelevant in many instances. Look how many people opt for paid Spotify. For example, the ads are a nuisance. However, relevant branded or influencer content congruent with the audience works well.
In addition, brands that add paid media spend behind influencer content can deliver spectacular results, particularly if they are working with influencers over a longer period. Many brands use influencers to review their products by gifting them, and because there is no mandate to post, the level of engagement can be huge when the influencer posts a positive review or story. I interviewed the founder of Reebok recently, and a turning point for their brand was the use of celebrity endorsement and sporting superstars to promote their products.
Q. Since you brought up paid media, I'd like to draw your attention to how strongly debated the benefits of influencer marketing and social media advertising are. In your opinion, which of the two marketing tactics is more popular with consumers?
A. The challenge for marketers is to prove ROI within their organization. The difference between mere social sponsored ads is that while they can be effective at creating reach, the very targeted use of influencers allows brands to tap into different niches with often greater returns.
Studies have suggested 11 x greater ROI on influencer marketing than any other media. While I agree with the sentiment here, much depends on several variables – the right influencers, with the right campaign message delivered at the right optimum time.
Because of the way the algorithms work, getting your intended audience to see more of your content without some form of paid media is becoming more and more challenging. Influencer content works, and one of the other benefits is being able to use this content on other forms of media. We are now seeing influencer content appear on out-of-home media, TV ads, vehicle media, and more.
Q. Although sponsored media has lost momentum to influencer marketing, many brands still struggle with it. For their influencer marketing campaigns, do they frequently choose the incorrect KPIs? What typical errors do you think firms make when developing an influencer marketing plan?
A. There are loads of mistakes. Firstly, not having proper targets at the outset means you can't measure the campaign effectively. Not involving influencers in your KPIs means you are missing out or involving them in a key part of your strategy. They should be involved in ops or planning meetings rather than just being used as product amplifiers.
I see influencers as the new creative agencies. They know their audiences better than anyone, and so they will not deliver a brand message or campaign, even if, on the face of it, it's paid well if it doesn't reflect the values they personify. Not picking the right influencers is a common mistake, so influencer casting is a critical part of the process.
There are great platforms like affable.ai that allow you to analyze influencer profile, for example, their follower age demographic, their geo-location, their gender split, their interests, their diversity, and more. In addition, you can find out about an influencer's engagement rate and how true their followers are (fake or bot followers).
Another one is to have too high expectations for immediate results from a single post. We see an advert on TV, and we don't just go and rush out and buy it, do we? It takes time for an influencer to build up that trust with their audience with a new brand. I often suggest using more than a few influencers, ideally at least 5-10, on an initial campaign with different-sized audiences. That way, you are not putting all your eggs in one basket.
Another one is paying too much for an influencer. There are no published rates on this, so a brand can naively invest in an influencer hoping for great results, and that doesn't always happen. You can always negotiate with an influencer. Sometimes influencers will not expect to be paid if you gift something of high value or provide them with exclusive access to an event or experience, as this is seen as high-value content for their audience.
Q. You mentioned starting campaigns with at least 5-10 influencers with different audience sizes. What do you suggest about securing them as a talent pool and using them as brand ambassadors? Can it help businesses when we have fantastic content creators coming up daily?
A. We have seen a huge growth in micro and nano-influencers over the last few years, particularly concerning brand ambassador programs. The benefit for the brand is that they can share more content via their ambassadors regularly, so the influencers' audiences become more accustomed to seeing their association.
Even celebrities have become brand ambassadors. So I say yes, it can help businesses, but it's also important to pick the right ones – they are, after all, selling and promoting your entire brand. But any ambassador program needs managing – it's not enough to recruit and leave them to it. Ambassadors are like mini shops, and the brand has to constantly stimulate, support, and engage with them.
Q. Even if we hire influencers as ambassadors, we currently see a gap between content and commerce. Social media channels like TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram have launched their creator marketplaces to bridge this gap. How effective will they be compared to third-party influencer marketing platforms?
A. Well, that's an interesting one. The platforms want to keep their audiences engaged on their channels for as long as they can, and supporting the creators in helping them monetize more of their content is a smart move. Creators are brands now in their own right and have huge potential. Still, many of them don't realize how valuable this is. Brands need to recognize that it's not always about conversion. Still, brand building and trust – top-of-the-funnel metrics shouldn't be underestimated, which is why awesome content will always deliver.
Q. How do you envision Social Commerce evolving over the coming years?
A. We only have to look at what's happened in Asia, which is light years ahead of the West when it comes to live streaming and social commerce. Millennials and Gen Z are likelier to buy from a social platform than a website. I am still amazed how many retailers still don't replicate their presence on social media as they should. I see roles developing internally for Social Commerce Managers that might fit within the marketing sales or PR departments.
Content creators are now developing their ranges and lines rather than just relying on promoting other brands. A recent campaign with Hewlett Packard allowed food creators to have their personalized cookbook for their audiences to buy directly via a dedicated branded website but promoted on Instagram and Tiktok.
Q. According to you, what top trends and innovations do you see impacting the consumer marketing space?
A. Lots of things here, so while we talk more and more about the Metaverse, it's still a few years off being a mainstay in our lives. However, the technology is breathtaking. There are so many applications for brands and us as consumers – but the pressing need around the Metaverse is one of education.
I think NFT – digital art opens up a huge opportunity for creators to monetize more content. I love that we can sign up for a membership of the Royal Academy of Art and display works of art on our TV screens. I love what AmazonFresh is doing with zero-staff supermarkets. More and more consumers are using self-scanners to pay for products and services.
Professional buyers are better informed than ever, and the traditional sales role is changing to one of the product experts. The Pandemic moved our world forward ten years plus in the tech environment. Face-to-face meetings with potential clients haven't returned to the same numbers. It's simply more efficient to meet people over zoom.
We are becoming more climate-conscious than ever before, and now these are becoming a constant for brands pitching to clients. What's the sustainable vision for the business? How we pay for goods and services is changing, and more and more organizations are offering a bitcoin option. Certainly, consumers carry less cash now, and some companies don't offer a cash option, particularly at events.
TikTok is now a significant part of our lives and recently surpassed Netflix as the most downloaded app after Youtube. 80% of the 80 million TikTok monthly users are between 18-34. Retail footfall was expected to rise by 12.8% on Black Friday. And 72% of 18-29-year-olds said they follow content creators and social media influencers.
Q. Any brand(s) that come to mind when you think, "what a great way to market to consumers"?
A. Breakfast cereal, Surreal made headlines recently by letting people buy their way into a billboard campaign for a fiver. Disney and Snapchat are partnering with AR lenses ahead of the latest Avatar release. I love brands using influencers for product research – Nike has done this very well with their new ranges. It feels like the brands are listening to their client base.
Q. What are your key takeaways regarding influencer marketing in 2022? And what does the future look like, especially in light of recent discussions about influencer marketing in the Metaverse?
A. I think the sector has recovered well from the Pandemic and is stronger than ever, and a lot of that is due to the impact of social commerce. Brands are realizing that social media is not nice anymore but a key part of a marketing strategy. Giant store chain Macy's hosted a Thanksgiving parade in the Metaverse with an NFT design contest. The Metaverse is projected to generate $2.6 trillion for eCommerce and $ 5 trillion overall by 2030. Over 75% of brands now have a dedicated budget for influencer marketing.
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