In-house or outsourced? Self-service platform or 3rd party campaign? PR department or social team? Optimisation of influencer propositions is high on the radar for plenty of agencies in 2022.
For the majority of our agency conversations there are few consistent answers when it comes to structuring influencer marketing delivery.
2022 might be the year that that starts to change.
Whilst, at the start of the influencer marketing boom, the aim was probably to ensure influencer marketing was a service option for their clients, in an increasingly competitive marketplace, thoughts are now turning to optimisation.
Practical delivery of influencer marketing, particularly when it comes to managing influencers, remains one of three areas where agencies tell us they face major operational challenges (the other two are reporting and influencer discovery).
How are agencies structuring their influencer marketing in 2022? What approaches seem set to achieve mass adoption and which are having the biggest impact? Some common themes are emerging and I’ll explore these here.
At the point agencies started to work with influencers it seems to naturally be the case that either the social team or the PR department introduced and subsequently owned the influencer proposition.
Quite often agencies admit to a case of ‘influencer by accident’. The PR department approaches a blogger with a large social following or the social media team coming across a brand fan with as much influence as the brand itself.
But, arguably, neither social nor PR are best suited to manage the modern influencer. The social team probably feature with regards to the creative element, at least, whilst influencers by comparison produce their own creative. PR are likely adept at ‘selling in’ content, whilst influencers require negotiation over a monetary sum for placement.
Agencies are, therefore, putting considerable thought into where influencers sit internally, particularly if the agency is not large enough to have an ‘influencer department’.
An increasingly common job title is the Influencer Lead. Often, in small to medium agencies, this is a horizontally ‘flat’ position, sitting across departments. The agency may not be large enough to have a dedicated department, but there is recognition that it may one day and that influencers can be integrated across multiple channels (see the final section of this article for more on this approach).
Consider if you were setting up a new agency today. You would obviously have some level of social media role. It would be unthinkable not to have an account manager. You almost certainly have a designer. Can we now add to that list the Influencer Lead? Influencer marketing is so embedded in what agencies do that it seems inevitable that the role will come to form part of the agency status quo.
Very quickly in the influencer marketing cycle agencies gravitated towards platforms, such as Influence Network, to help manage and streamline their influencer operations.
The nature of each individual agency’s relationship with their platform of choice is now changing. Platforms themselves are revisiting the service that they offer, in the face of better articulated or understood agency requirements and increasing sophistication in how agencies implement influencer marketing campaigns.
Two clear service streams are emerging; managed campaigns and self-service (for background: we offer both).
Managed campaigns see the agency hand over full campaign control to the campaign management team at the platform, who become responsible for discovery, management and reporting. Outcomes are fed back to the agency via the platform interface and the only areas where an agency or client will get involved is in the final say on influencer/content approval.
Self-service involves the agency using the platform themselves to discover and manage influencers and then report on campaign outcomes. The platform may provide limited assistance, depending on the functionality available, but ultimately the agency retains campaign responsibility and adopts the platform as SaaS only.
Clearly each structure can work successfully, the question for agencies is which structure suits them best.
Managed campaigns reduce internal overheads but come with greater 3rd party costs and also hand over a level of control to professionals on the platform side. Self-service gives agencies more hands on control of the campaign, the influencer fees and begins to build direct relationships for the agency and influencers - it also requires less 3rd party investment but requires greater overheads in having an internal team to manage campaigns.
Many of our clients begin their journey working with us on a managed service basis but as they upskill their team and begin to grow and stabilise their influencer campaign revenue, they will migrate to a self-service proposition.
Where agencies are reviewing their current proposition the driver often seems to be a requirement for ‘influencers everywhere’. The status quo in these cases can be that the influencer department is siloed and not successfully working across a breadth of traditionally ‘non-influencer’ campaigns.
The performance and KPIs of influencer marketing in general is such that agencies (and agency clients) are keen to involve the channel to get cumulative returns across multiple channels.
Where PPC is used, for example, deploying influencers to create organic content that is then boosted to a wider audience has a significant uplift on the commonly measured influencer and PPC KPIs, benefitting both channels with uplifted results and better campaigns.
PPC is just one example. As you mentally work through the list of channels available to agencies it becomes more and more difficult to find one that would not receive a boost from a parallel or integrated influencer deployment.
So how are agencies achieving this ‘influencers everywhere’ approach?
Deploying aforementioned Influencer Leads is a good route to getting an expert influencer stakeholder into discussions at the campaign inception stage.
Adopting an ‘influencer first’ approach can also reap benefits, with influencers trusted to generate campaign ideas that then spin out to larger creative campaigns. As one agency put it:
If we need ‘off the beaten track’ content in Cornwall, we could Google it or hire someone to go and find it, but a local influencer is going to find and produce much better content than we ever could, which in turn is going to make that campaign - and hopefully the ROI - better.”
Joe Metcalfe, IMA HOME
The options for ‘influencers everywhere’ are many and given that ‘everywhere’ is exactly where influencers seem to be, the number of agencies adopting the approach for their proposition is understandably on the increase.
Formalising an influencer marketing proposition and structure might be something your agency has already done. The changing face of what is still a very young sector though, suggests that many agencies are undergoing the exercise for the first time in 2022, or are adapting to the changing market by changing what they offer and how they manage it.
Overall this trend fits with the notion that influencer marketing is ‘growing up’. As a sector it’s not just an option for agencies; it’s often the option. And with that level of requirement comes the requirement for a sophisticated and successful proposition to put in front of clients and the wider market.
If you would like to discuss your agency proposition, my natural style is to try to look at things from a different angle, challenge the status quo and join the dots that you might not have noticed yet.
With that in mind, if you’d like to grab an informal virtual (or real world!) coffee, you can book a slot below.
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Influence Network is an influencer platform which identifies the most aligned influencers from the entire social web, then rapidly deploys and manages campaigns at an unprecedented scale, before reporting on trackable engagement and ROI. Campaigns are offered fully managed or using the platform as a self-serve SAAS service. We’re the Double-Click of influencer marketing and we’re here to solve your influencer problems. Sound interesting? Get in touch on INFO@INFLUENCE.NETWORK or 0203 918 8582
Influencer Marketing, Martech and Marketplace expert
Robust debate, constructive challenge, and a relentless pursuit of growth, improvement and efficiency enable Alec to cut to the core of the issue. Alec currently holds executive directorships at Influence Network an AI-driven influencer tech platform and equitable, The Private Equity Portfolio Talent Network, alongside non-executive and advisory roles at a number of marketing, ad tech and technology startups.
Executive experience in:
- Advertising, marketing, media, PR agencies - both independent and Big 5 agency networks in the UK, UAE (Dubai) and globally.
- Sales & Marketing strategy, planning and delivery
- Start Up and Scale Up with 400% YonY Growth
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© 2022 Influence Network.
Registered in England and Wales: 10815710
20-22 Wenlock Road, London, N1 7GU