To begin with, here’s one truth I can share about influencer marketing that is impossible to hide: once you get the hang of it you just can’t stop doing it.
Anyone who knows me, has worked with me or still works with me, would know how passionate I am about this human to human channel.
An interesting fact I learned from the PING Helsinki event is that twenty-five minutes is not enough to talk about influencer marketing. Even the extra three minutes I took (stole) from Casey Neistat was not sufficient to finish my slides. How many minutes do we need? A lot. I have had coffee chats over this topic that dragged on to dinner and followed by a couple of drinks down the pub. So many pros and cons, friendly debates, but in the end it's about making it better for all.
There is plenty to say about Influencer Marketing, the good, the bad and even the ugly truth. Hence this blog post, where I can finish explaining the rest of my slides in peace, with a cup of tea and a slice of chocolate fudge cake. Hopefully you can learn a thing or two, or add your thoughts to mine.
Nine Facts about Influencer Marketing
- Influencer Marketing evolves faster than the speed of sound, can you catch up?
- Influencer Marketing metrics have shifted from pure vanity numbers to tangible conversions
- Influencer Marketing is not here to replace other marketing channels but to complete the mix
- Influencer Marketing is a never-ending learning process
- Influencer Marketing leaves no room for poor attitude
- Influencer Marketing is not a five-minute instant noodle pack
- Influencer Marketing is a venue where brands and content creators grow together
- Influencer Marketing is a People First channel
- Influencer Marketing (Growth Hacking) Ninjas need to be digitally well armed
My Keynote Speech Explained
1. Influencer Marketing evolves faster than the speed of sound, can you catch up?
The past five years, google trends shows how the search volume on this talk of the town topic keeps on growing surpassing topics just as important in the new era of marketing, i.e. social marketing and content marketing. After all, Influencer marketing wouldn’t be what it is without social media and the need of great content and powerful distribution.
This means, as marketers (brands and content creators), we need to keep ourselves up to date and continue to understand the channel better and how it will benefit our customers, readers, users as well as our bottom line results as the technology and mind set evolves at such a fast pace.
Integrating influencer marketing with the rest of your marketing mix is not a task that can be done overnight. At Skyscanner we validate the efficiency of every channel we decide to implement to grow the brand in the markets and we do it The Growth Hacking Way. Is influencer marketing the right channel for you, right now? Test it, experience it first hand, measure the success and learn what potential it can bring to your business.
2. Influencer Marketing metrics have shifted from pure vanity numbers to tangible conversions
Oh, dear Lord, if someone tells me how great an influencer marketing campaign can be based on big fat number of estimated impressions alone, or if a content creator comes along and wants to demand a fat pay check based on his/her number of followers or monthly web visits, I can tell you now, I would politely stop them there and then and ask them how will those numbers translate into bottom line results for the business?
I’m not saying that we don’t need social metrics to give more context to the overall campaign results and ROI in an influencer marketing collaboration. But it's really important to look at how the content creator's influence (as an influencer) has impacted the overall campaign results. The tangible conversions to the call to actions. This is where clear communication and mutual understanding between the brand and the content creator is vital.
Brands need to define what metrics they use to measure success and share what are their marketing objectives. This will allow the content creator to craft ideas and develop relevant content as well as strategise the distribution to meet the needs of the brand while focusing on the needs of his/her audience. Speaking the same language is the key to a great collaboration and satisfying campaign results.
At Skyscanner, we do look at social metrics for marketing campaigns we run/distribute on social platforms (including influencer channels). However, we primarily base our growth success metrics around the adaptation of Dave McClure’s AARRR metrics (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral and Revenue), also known as the Pirate Metrics or the Startup Metrics. Each campaign is measured through a set of metrics depending on the campaign objectives.
Influencer Marketing campaigns at our company are normally focused on acquisition and activation, how do we get the content creator to influence his/her audience to complete an action related to Skyscanner, e.g. download the Skyscanner app, explore the Everywhere function, find the best flight deal to a certain destination, etc.
To be able to measure results and conversions accurately you need to implement tracking. Tracking is vital! Whether you have your own in-house built tracking system like we do at Skyscanner or you can use tracking systems that are available out there. The very basic analytical tool to have is Google Analytics. You could use Google's URL builder or for simpler trackings, even bitlink could be sufficient. It all comes down to what you need to measure and how deep you need to dig into the data.
Pirate Metrics Experiment with the PING Audience
To make it more relatable, during my presentation in Helsinki I conducted a small exercise and explained how each metric is defined through real-time actions. Check-out the results I got from an audience of 670 people.
3. Influencer Marketing is not here to replace other marketing channels but to complete the mix
Just because it’s the current marketing hype it doesn’t mean that Influencer Marketing is the only way to go today. We don't have to follow like sheep. Compared to the other marketing channels, Influencer Marketing is a human to human channel, a soft sell channel, a channel where the brand doesn’t talk about itself to the consumer. It's a channel where users with an authority in the subject matter (e.g. travel for Skyscanner) explains the benefits of the products/services (travel search features on Skyscanner web/app) to his/her audience in their own tone of voice and language that the readers and followers can relate to in a variety of creatively put together content formats, with the inclusion of paid marketing transparency of course: #paid #ad #sponsored.
These users are advocates, paid to create great content that works but not to use the brands product or give out statements that are not based on personal experience. They have to be a user first and understand the benefits of the brand first hand. Content consumers are smarter nowadays, they can tell the diffrence between fake and genuine advocacy.
Influencer Marketing is a channel that is heavily based on trust, authority and relevance. Trust is built through relationships, between the content creator and his/her audience, the brand’s marketing representative (employee) and the content creators, the brand and the content creators’ audience, the new customers.
4. Influencer Marketing is a never-ending learning process
Start small, grow big and scale fast. That’s how we try and adapt the lean approach towards our Influencer Marketing strategy at Skyscanner. I used to go for big straight away but then I learned in time that trying things out first in a smaller scale can be the wiser way to go. Never stop experimenting, trying new social media channels, different story angles, different content types, different call to actions and different payment methods like using performance based payment over project based payment.
Performance based payment is a fair approach especially when the campaign or project involves more than one partner. This also underlines our view that payment should be given based on the hard work and results each partner (content creator) brings to the table.
Sometimes campaigns don’t turn out to be as successful as we expect them to be. And that’s OK! We have learned to embrace the concept of #FailForward at Skyscanner. Instead of being shameful about it we talk about it and learn from it. We can always find ways to pivot and give it another go with a wiser, smarter approach.
5. Influencer Marketing leaves no room for poor attitude
Whichever side of the table you’re at, be it the brand (company) or the content creator, or even possibly the middle-man (agency), there are always work ethics to follow especially since this is a human to human channel. It’s very important to maintain good relationships by respecting each other. When you are dealing with a Brand, you are dealing with a person that works for the Brand. A person, a human being. When you are dealing with a content creator, same thing applies, you are dealing with a person, not a traffic generator machine, so treat them like humans, not robots. Just be mindful of what is said because words can hurt and it will also impact the relationships and kill the possibilities of future collaborations.
6. Influencer Marketing is not a five-minute instant noodle pack
Influencer Marketing takes time. From the time you build relationships, maintain relationships, find the right influencer in the network for a campaign to the point where you have to plan and strategise together, execute the campaign, measure and analyse results. If you want quick wins, then Influencer Marketing is not the way to go. Quick wins in influencer marketing would only be a peak spike for a day and drop and nothing in the long run. It's not sustainable. Great content requires: a smart strategy, high level of creativity and relevancy to the audience.
Remember that content created through influencer marketing lives longer than content produced for other channels, like your (brand’s) web content that has a longer shelf life and SEO benefits, except content creators’ works, be it blog posts or youtube videos, live externally therefore, the better their SEO the more longer impact it will have for the brand.
7. Influencer Marketing is a venue where brands and content creators grow together
The truth is, brands are as much of an influencer as great content creators are. Working with good brands that continue to grow will allow content creators to grow with the brand, in terms of knowledge, credibility and exposure.
On the other hand, never underestimate the so called micro-influencers, because those newly born content creators could be the next rising star in the digital world of content and influence. As part of our core value at Skyscanner, Master, Teach, Learn, we embrace micro influencers in the hope that we can help them grow. And when they grow, we grow with them.
8. Influencer Marketing is a People First channel
Like Rand Fishkin once said: "build relationships not links". Relationships have just as much value if not more than getting backlinks for SEO. Links are important but even more important is how useful the content on the landing page is. Relationships, from our experience, goes a long way. Good relationships open doors to unexpected opportunities that can be beneficial to both parties as well as potential third parties.
In the context of relationships, one amazing truth about influencer marketing is that everybody knows everybody, or will eventually get to know everybody. The social circles grow bigger and bigger, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Between content creators and other content creators, content creators and brands, brands and other brands.
One good example of the benefits of owning a great network is when we decided to (really last minute) test Periscope when it first launched and become an early adopter. We had bloggers like Kashyap Bhattacharya from Budget Traveller and Alicia Drewnicki from Alicia Explores who really helped us gather bloggers in other parts of the globe to join our #24hPeriscope campaign in such a short preparation time, i.e. three days!!!
9. Influencer Marketing (Growth Hacking) Ninjas: Are you well armed?
There is so much digital marketing knowledge to be mastered to tackle the world of Influencer Marketing: everything from content creation and distribution, paid media channels, social media, search engine optimisation to data literacy and even programming.
Advice for content creators: Never stop learning! To stand out from the crowd you need to be as good of a digital marketer as you are as a content maker and story teller.
You can learn more about becoming a T shaped digital marketer form our Skyscanner Growth Blog. Here our team members from around the globe share their knowledge, experiences, best practices and even the learnings they got from #FailForward experiments.