There is a new reality in the world of marketing, and that reality is the deterioration of organic reach. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to reach consumers through organic efforts, especially given the algorithm changes that have been and likely will continue to be implemented by the major social platforms.
Combine this with the eventual cookie apocalypse predicted by marketers, and you have a recipe for major change. Let’s take a look at the two areas of marketing that must be transformed.
1. Content: Content can be expensive, especially since many marketers use agencies and production companies to produce it. More importantly, as consumers are often ambivalent toward advertising, this time-consuming and expensive content may ultimately be ignored.
2. Paid Media: Given the flaws in content creation, the money invested in media is often inefficient and limits marketers’ ability to personalize and optimize. Marketers are being pushed to deliver personalized content, and while the copy in the post can be changed for audiences or chopped for different channels, this approach is not always effective.
To take a pulse check, we have determined that the way we create content and invest in paid media is flawed, and that organic reach and consumer targeting are likely going to get more difficult.
Working for an influencer marketing company, we’ve found that there are several types of third-party creators that brands can leverage to both create content at the pace needed to keep up with culture and provide the insights and data needed to optimize paid media investments.
User-Generated Content (UGC)
Most people have cameras and are constantly capturing content. Brands can use this content for their own agenda. These “users” are incredible sources of content and an even better mechanism for driving social conversation. The quality of the content captured is generally low, however — not premium enough for brands to repurpose on their own channels or paid media.
A best practice to encourage the creation and posting of UGC by your audience is to have a strategy around driving social conversations that incentivize consumers to engage in meaningful ways.
Affiliates post content with the intent of driving purchases, and they are compensated for each successful conversion. I’ve found that affiliates are a great resource for brands to drive sales with an attractive return on investment (ROI) because they are only paid when the purchase is made. The issue with affiliates is that they can be incredibly difficult to identify and scale and are heavily focused on conversion, which often comes at the expense of long-term brand equity.
A best practice is to have an internal resource who is utilizing tools to identify prime affiliate candidates and then testing with those affiliates to optimize the roster and targeting strategy moving forward.
Ambassadors are fans who will post content because of their brand love. Brands fuel this love with free products and exclusive access to events. Ambassadors are an efficient earned media tactic, as they have significant organic reach, and the cost of activating is minimal. Similar to affiliates, however, ambassadors are difficult to scale and offer no guarantees. When a brand sends free product to an ambassador, there are no assurances that they will post, and brands can’t plan campaigns without that certainty.
Ambassadors for your brand are out there, so the keys for brands are to find the diamonds in the rough and establish relationships to foster their brand love. You can then leverage their content and amplify their social conversations to highlight your brand.
Macro-influencers are individuals with very large audiences, typically celebrities or big names in their verticals. Macro-influencers offer immediate reach given the size of their audiences. But while these influencers are effective for achieving immediate reach, I find they typically have lower engagement and influence on purchase behavior. This is intuitive, as their audiences are comprised heavily of people who follow them because of their status, not because they are trusted sources.
I recommend using macro-influencers for immediate scale, as a best practice. Similar to programmatic versus direct buys, you are giving up the opportunity to maximize ROI in the long term, but gaining immediacy in scaled reach.
Micro-influencers have smaller, more engaged audiences. They are typically followed for a specific passion and have influence because of the credibility they’ve built. Micro-influencers are what many marketers hoped those who post UGC would be: everyday people who can create great content.
Since working with them is less costly than macro-influencers, it can allow brands to create large volumes of content for different audiences. However, micro-influencers may not be inherent lovers of your brand, and since their job is to work with brands for a living, they often work with many different brands.
Micro-influencers are best used by brands that want to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of their messaging over the long term. I find that they offer a greater level of measurement for upper-funnel marketers, while providing lower-funnel marketers a better means to still drive brand equity.
So, as a marketer, which creator type should you focus on? The answer is all. I believe every brand should have a strategy for each that capitalizes on its unique advantages. With that said, to solve the two critical issues in content and paid media, one creator group stands out to me: micro-influencers.
My advice to brands is to operationalize micro-influencers to address the inherent issues across content creation and paid media, while also focusing on building networks of ambassadors and affiliates and fostering UGC. The world of marketing is rapidly changing, and brands that are investing strategically will come out on top. Happy marketing!