Influencer Marketing is Not One Size Fits All

Jonathan Gardner

There are enough conflicting opinions out there about influencers to make marketers feel like they’re under the influence or have a bad case of “influenceza.” Frauds and scams abound. Everyone has a POV about which size and type of influencer your brand must work with. Should you retain advocates, micro, medium, large, mega or celebrity influencers to help generate consumer engagement with your content and messaging? A recent study by L2 confirms a truism in marketing: it depends.

The researcher found that influencers with 100,000 to 7 million followers can negatively impact brand engagement. Numerous influencer issues -- such as a lack of authenticity, one-off posts, and “regramming” -- can have a negative impact on a brand. On the other hand, they found that in the specialty retail vertical, advocate and medium influencers tagged in brand posts perform 12% above average, and micro- and large influencers also register positive lift.

L2 said that overall, across all verticals, three categories of influencers outperformed all others for brand engagement: advocates, celebrities and micro-influencers.

People have always engaged with messages that come from advocates they are connected with and whom are trustworthy. One of the challenges in influencer marketing is it’s often hard for consumers (and marketers) to know who’s sharing content because they genuinely are into the brand or only because they’re a paid shill. Inauthentic messages are shown to be discounted and less effective.

Celebrity influencers certainly have a major role to play in the earned media machine. The Kardashians and Hadids are content creators, pushing the next viral Instagram post out into the world. The well-timed, art-directed, instantly meme-worthy nature and aesthetic of the next nude tree climbing photo is something brands should be looking to for inspiration.

Brands that win with their visual content are those that combine the tactics of the celebrity and the micro-influencer. Major retailers, for example, invest millions producing images with the expectation of a return on that investment through sharing that content. They have to follow the same rules as a celebrity and create approachable, genuine content that people want to engage with and that micro-influencers want to share.

For some, it may be worth it to work with a celebrity influencer to get in front of a large audience. Marketers that have reach as their number-one goal or that are selling low-consideration products may find developing micro-influencer programs to be inefficient. Some brands will always want to get their messages in front of as many people as possible. Think of a huge CPG company like a Unilever that needs mass awareness to meet its goals.

Other brands want bang for small bucks by working with a handful of influencers whose followers are really engaged with their authenticity and the messages they are sharing. Brands with longer discover-to-purchase pathways -- such as those in fashion, retail, travel or entertainment -- will find that a micro-approach will work well. What’s required is a commitment to a hands-on approach, and investment in specific tools or headcount.

What’s the right influencer strategy for your brand? It depends. Any brand benefits when influencers are held to hard numbers. And, the brands we work with have found that the right influencer marketing strategy comes down to matching the strategies to the goal, and connecting influencers to ROI.

Check out some influencer marketing best practices from top consumer brands.

Should you retain advocates, micro, medium, large, mega or celebrity influencers to help generate consumer engagement with your content and messaging? It depends
Jonathan Gardner

Jonathan is vice president of marketing for ShareIQ, based in New York City.