Influencer marketing gained substantial momentum among marketers in 2016. But for all its potential, there are also significant challenges. With pure pay-to-play and one-off campaign practices distracting marketers from finding the true value of influencer relationships, misconceptions remain.
My content marketing agency, TopRank Marketing, along with influencer relationship management software company Traackr, teamed to investigate how the practice of influencer marketing is evolving within leading enterprises around the world. We surveyed 102 brand strategists and marketers from companies that include American Express, 3M, and Microsoft. We also commissioned Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group, to analyze the data and outline what’s working with current influencer marketing practices, what’s failing, and, most importantly, to predict their evolution. The result is the report “Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing.”
This article highlights the findings and what they mean to marketers. (Click on each chart for larger version.)
The Influencer Marketing Conundrum Our research found that 43% of companies surveyed are still experimenting with influencer marketing, and 28% involve influencers only at the campaign level. Incredibly, 57% are managing their entire influencer marketing programs manually. Many companies report small influencer budgets relative to the rest of the marketing mix, with only a 10% share of budget. Furthermore, 50% currently allocate less than $100,000 annually.
This data demonstrates an untapped potential for enterprise organizations, with influencer marketing still in the early stages of adoption and with low-level resource investment.
One-off, short-term, and transactional influencer programs are failing to deliver the opportunity inherent in “always-on” strategic programs that live beyond a single promotion. The report identifies this shortsighted view as a fundamental failure that hinders performance and prevents influencer marketing from becoming a strategic investment at the board level. By tapping strategic consulting resources and moving to an always-on program focus, enterprise organizations can develop and manage mutually beneficial relationships with influencers that can impact purchase decisions and activate multiple moments of truth across the entire customer journey.
Looking forward, the data indicates a readiness among senior executives for more strategic influencer relations programs. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of brand marketers rate influencer marketing as a strategic or highly strategic marketing category, while 83% of respondents cited “identifying and building one-on-one relationships with industry key influencers” as a top marketing priority.
A Promising Future CMOs have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about influencer marketing. Fifty-five percent of marketers surveyed said they plan to spend more on influencer marketing in the coming year; for those already investing more than $250,000 annually, this percentage jumps up to 67%. The number further increases to 77% for those using influencer marketing technology.