- While studio-produced content remains a critical part of the content mix, brands are increasingly seeking new ways to scale and source authentic content.
- Celebrity influence may deliver high visibility but may not be the most cost-effective option. Micro, local and vertical influencers tend to be more accessible to brands in terms of cost and working with them.
- The user-generated content creator offers new avenues for creating content.
Marketers are advising brands that influencer content should be an integral part of all digital marketing campaigns going forward.
Geoff Crain, senior director of sales & marketing at Kingstar Media, is one of the advocates. Writing in Forbes, he describes Influencer content as “any marketing material created or published by an influencer of any size, niche or platform.”
Typically, that content appears “organic” or authentic and “feels more candid than a high- quality ad.” Its primary purpose is to create a sense of trust and social credibility through digital word-of-mouth.
The concept is not new. Ana Codallo, who leads the technical teams at search engine Key Opinion Leaders traces its genesis back to the US presidential campaign of 1940.
“The idea is simple,” she explains, “instead of trying to persuade a large number of people within the population, it might be more efficient to influence a smaller number of people if those individuals can convince others, having a multiplicative effect.”
Following this logic, the choice of which influencers operating within a subset of the population to enroll in your campaign is an important choice, not only because it dictates the total reach possible (their combined reach minus their overlapping audiences) but also because these individuals will act as your “brand ambassadors.”
By selling your products or services to an “influencer,” you earn the chance that the influencer will directly or indirectly bring other customers to your company.
However, not all influencers are the same. Marketers would do well to do some homework on the potential options before parting with a budget.
Codallo lists the main types as follows:
- Micro-Influencers — individuals with a relatively small but engaged following (typically 1,000 to 10,000 people) in a specific niche, such as fashion, fitness or travel. They can help you promote a product that would benefit from passionate audiences.
- Local Influencers — prominent figures within their city or region who can be very effective when your marketing message can benefit from localization.
- Vertical Influencers — those with expertise in a particular industry or subject matter. These influencers may have smaller audiences than celebrities but have often earned a favorable reputation within their online or local communities.
- Celebrities — self-explanatory, tending to have vast reach, therefore the cost of recruiting one to your campaign is usually high. Since celebrity-company relationships are usually formed as private deals, celebrity influence often happens behind the scenes. For example, a celebrity may engage with a company as a brand ambassador and get compensated with company equity.
Cain thinks the best way to obtain influencer content is to reach out to micro-influencers. He says that, while it may be tempting to invest in a macro-influencer, it is important to remember your audiences and your KPIs. While macro-influencers have a large following, the audience may not respond if they promote a product outside of their niche.”
Kyle Wong, co-founder and CEO of Pixlee, identifies another category. The UGC creator is “an emerging content professional that straddles the line between customer and influencer.”
A UGC creator, he says, specializes in creating engaging content for brands to leverage across the customer journey to build authentic consumer interactions.
“UGC creators are experienced creatives crafting conversion-optimized content that brands can distribute at will.”
Their value, Wong says, lies less in their personal brand and more in the inherent power of their content. “UGC creators don’t always share the content they’re paid to make; instead, brands often buy the content and promote it on their own channels.”
Wong recognizes that the name “UGC content creator” raises an interesting point: is content truly “authentic” if a brand paid for it?
“Some might argue that authenticity is an inherent quality that cannot be achieved through paid collaborations. On the flip side, consumers expect brand content to relate to them on a personal level in a way that some professionally produced content simply can’t.”
Yet authenticity is the holy grail in brand-consumer relationships.
“Today’s consumers are looking for organic content in a social setting,” Crain insists in his Forbes op-ed. “They do not react to or engage well with over-produced and commercial content. The purpose of social media is to be entertained, so typically ads in that style fit that requirement.
“Engaging creative is essential for an effective digital marketing campaign, and if ads are not built properly, they will not drive the traction brands want.”
Influencer content ranges from unboxing videos and “TikTok Made Me Buy It” videos to quick reviews, but the idea is that it always appears to be unscripted and not heavily produced. Typically, the content is made using a phone camera and is filmed vertically in portrait mode.
“In terms of affordability, influencer content is much more cost-efficient than a standard piece of brand content from a creative agency,” Crain says. “The amount of time and resources needed to produce the content is a fraction of the cost, and multiple pieces can be made at once.”
It is hard to create “bad” influencer content, Crain finds. “However, it is best to remember these two key points: do not over-produce a video and do not try to make it ‘go viral.’ ”
Viral content happens naturally and only comes after testing. The best recommendation is to make several variations of a video and see what resonates with the audience and then iterate from there.