The shift toward guarding customer data will boost influencer marketing

The Cambridge Analytica scandal still makes people paranoid about Facebook, but marketers weren’t really surprised about it. We know how data exchanges work…and that nothing is really free. What was a surprise was Facebook’s lapse in noticing and/or stopping Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of customer data. They paid the price ($60 billion lost) and they’re still paying for it. 

It also changed marketing. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was enacted in Europe, and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) followed, along with other regulations that are now standards of behavior for brands and marketers worldwide (and there are more on the way). 

As marketers, we want to reach our target audiences and touch their pain points, and we want trust. But we also have to deal with the reality that there are customer data gates imposed by privacy regulations (and not sure there shouldn’t be). 

With all that combined, there’s one solution that’s been around for some time: influencer marketing. 

Breaking through the trust barrier 

A lot of people, particularly non-marketers, conflate what happened with Cambridge Analytica with what personalized marketing does: targeting people with messaging and advertisements relevant to their needs and preferences. 

The misuse of data in the scandal and the strategic use of data for personalized marketing are two different animals, but the mistrust is already there. People turn off their data and ad permissions. They have ad blockers. Sometimes they even uninstall a social media platform when they think their data has been compromised. Can’t say I blame them.

With marketers under the gun to use customer data ethically (GDPR and CCPA), they have to pull back from tactics that may scare their customers, and be more creative with the compliant data they do have to reach their target audiences. 

Going the route of influencer marketing 

Influencer marketing remains a powerful way for brands to reach their targeted audiences. Through an influencer, it can be a lot easier to break through the trust barrier. 

Your target audiences are already with the right influencers. They follow these people, either actively with likes and comments — achieving Top Fan status this way — or silently watching the videos without interacting, but watching all the same. 

Influencers take great pride in excellence. If your product or service is excellent, the influencers in your niche will be happy enough to collaborate — or might even do it themselves without prompting. Be excellent and the influencers will find you and talk about you. 

As marketers, you don’t have to wait for that to happen organically. It may take time, especially for smaller brands just starting out. Influencers can help you build the momentum of brand awareness. 

You can save time and money you would have spent on expensive ads that your target audiences might choose not to even view. 

Influencer marketing is projected to become an $8 billion dollar industry in 2020. Because it works. 

Micro/Nano and B2B Influencers 

Influencers aren’t all “lifestyle vloggers.” Just as data collection for personalized messaging has a connotation of privacy invasion and data peddling that marketers are collectively working hard to dispel, “influencer” has this negative definition of entitled young guns who offer to blog about you in exchange for free stuff. 

Some companies may need to redefine that for their C-suite and/or teams to be on board an effective influencer campaign. Influencers aren’t always millennials or Gen Z people talking about beauty products or game consoles. 

Don’t pigeonhole influencers — there are many types, and more than one type can match your brand. 

Micro and nano influencers continue to rise. The age of micro influencers started in 2017. They were found to generate 60% more revenue than hugely popular accounts, like celebrities with millions of followers. 

Authenticity is a big denominator

Micro and macro influencers include the B2B influencers you won’t find on Instagram or Snapchat. They’re the “subject matter experts” entrepreneurs list as their gurus (with smaller, but more loyal and ardent audiences).

Neil Patel has already shot up into the stratosphere, but he used to be what you’d consider a micro influencer in the marketing space, along with Brian Dean of Backlinko fame, and Rand Fishkin of Whiteboard Fridays. 

Similar micro-influencers exist in every niche, whether you’re marketing spices or hair care products. They have ultra-high engagement with customers. They test things out. They create guides. Their videos range from desk videos to professional, polished setups. Their followers may be on the smaller side, but can grow to be in the four to seven digits. 

And the common denominator between these influencers? Authenticity. 

People trust them. Influencers are advisors and real customer partners who collaborate on content like case studies and white papers, or speak on behalf of a company at conferences, without appearing that they were asked to do so.  

Oh, they do need to explicitly say if a post is #sponsored. In fact consumers absolutely do not tolerate the blurred lines that we’ve all been used to in advertisements with celebrities. In influencer marketing, brands and influencers (and influencer marketing agencies) need to be really careful that paid partnerships are declared according to ASA/CMA guidelines

Customers can easily abandon a sellout. 

So influencers declare their paid sponsorships, but still include their genuine thoughts about a product or service. That’s why they retain trust. 

Creator Content

Marketers will want to cash in on that trust, so 2020 will be the year brands fully embrace and utilize creator content to reach their target audiences effectively and with impactful authenticity. These videos get watched, paused, and shared, giving marketers and influencers plenty of data to refine their campaigns and content creation. 

What can you try and expect when it comes to creator content? 

Influencer-run campaigns with genuine and longer brand partnership

Brands and marketers can be understandably reluctant to hand over the reins to influencers. This results in content that may NOT match the influencer’s philosophy and audiences at all. 

On the flipside of that is the influencer with 100% creative freedom who creates content that’s popular with his/her audience, but falls short of the brand’s goals in messaging and impact. 

  • Marketers need to create a brief they can send to their influencers, a brief that clearly and concisely checks off the brand personality and specific messaging. 
  • Influencers return with a pitch for approval. 

This way, you create content that really resonates for the audience and achieves the messaging the brand needs to deliver. 

Nurturing longer relationships with influencers also means they get to know your brand and display authenticity that they really believe in your brand, if they consistently talk about it over months and years. 

A shift from vanity metrics: real marketing data and AI for tracking impact

Martech tools, including CRM, continue evolving to become even more sophisticated with AI technology to keep up with the demands for only relevant content in all channels.  

The benefits are two-fold, which leads to more and more effective campaigns. 

  • Marketers and influencers can use data to, well, influence their campaigns and content strategy
  • Marketers can easily get analyses and reports to quantify the impact of influencer marketing campaigns. 

It’s no longer the vanity metrics of likes and follower increase.  

From Adage: Marketers will require… “verifiable campaign metrics, including audience demographics, unique reach, actual impressions and video views delivered. 

In 2020, look for more brands and their partners to measure effectiveness via influencer campaign brand uplift studies, conversion and sales lift reports and creative analysis in order to compare influencer work more directly alongside other parts of the marketing mix.” 

Video 

Video is big and will stay big. 72% of consumers prefer video to learn about a product, so B2C and B2B marketers also produce the majority of their marketing content in video formats. 

Influencers also create videos for their content. On Facebook and Youtube, ads are inserted into videos, so video is a revenue generator for content creators. 

TikTok exploded in late 2019 with 500 million active users. Marketers are already looking at how they can utilize TikTok, and going through influencers already established on the platform can be an efficient method of penetrating TikTok. 

Brand values 

The top content on YouTube are videos with relevant values from brands and companies, big and small.

Consumers are blind to product features. Millennials and Gen Z are particularly more interested in purpose, both theirs and that of brands they support. 

Influencer marketing is definitely one of the impressive rather than invasive ways you can reach your audience. 

And just like any strategy, digital platforms and tools can help you with data from start to finish, from mapping your goals before your outreach to tracking the KPIs after your influencers have started rolling out their content. 

Dan Baird

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