Influencer Marketing Is Not Flying Under The Radar Any Longer

influencermarketingInfluencer marketing startups think it’s time to become a more strategic part of content marketing initiatives.

Part of the problem is that influencer marketing doesn’t get its own budget line, said Pierre-Loïc Assayag, founder and CEO at the influencer management platform Traackr. It’s as likely to come under the jurisdiction of a PR firm as an advertising agency.

Though agencies are becoming more experienced and comfortable with influencer campaigns, Traackr still has to convince agencies that influencers need to be considered their own channel, not fighting for scraps of budgets split between search and discovery, social media and sponsorships.

Further complicating the issue is that different influencer platforms focus on different areas. For instance, Traackr focuses on Instagram and LinkedIn, where it sees a huge opportunity for B2B brands, while Linqia, a competitive platform, does much more work within the web’s long tail of niche blogs.

Consequently, success metrics differ from platform to platform, making it difficult for brands to think of influencer marketing as a consolidated strategy. “The billable metric at Linqia is traffic,” said the company’s co-founder and president, Maria Sipka.

Finally, the way brands view influencer campaigns is changing. It used to be the influencers themselves created value for brands. For many brands, however, the value comes from the user-generated content (UGC) that’s often created following influencer campaigns.

This shift is one of the reasons why recent research shows influencer campaigns are less about building momentum around product launches (which is why PR agencies used to control influencer campaigns) and more about inspiring UGC.

But as influencer campaigns become greater strategic assets, they’ll have to work their way out of the regulatory gray zone in which they currently exist. Companies like Linqia and TapInfluence that connect brands with influential bloggers have loose best-practice protocols that they impose on their talent (such as announcing when a post or visual has been sponsored), but there aren’t formalized guidelines like there are for native campaigns.

TapInfluence CEO Promise Phelon said she’d welcome more guidance from groups like the IAB, but doesn’t equate influencers with native advertising.

“Dealing with niche bloggers who live off their reputation with a small, expert group isn’t the same as a sponsored post at The Atlantic,” said Phelon. Bloggers on TapInfluence’s platform “will only work with brands that are exact fits for their audience, and will only promote products they sincerely believe in. Otherwise they lose their audience. It’s as simple as that.”

Moreover, it’s unclear whether the social media channels – where many influencers hold court – will eventually want their cut. For example, Instagram, which declined to comment for this article, is now the medium of choice for many agencies looking to spend on influencers. Except Instagram sees none of that new revenue stream.

While a potential change in Instagram’s position isn’t top of mind for Evan Asano, founder and CEO of the influencer platform Mediakix, a far more tangible threat comes in the form of “MCNs, management groups … Hollywood agencies like CAA, WME, UTA and others [that] have gotten much more serious about representing talent in the space.”

Startups like Mediakix have worked hard to put influencer marketing on the radar for media companies. The problem now is… they’re on the radar.

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