Are Influencers Worth the Hype?

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 15 May 2019

Mark Baartse, Chief Marketing Officer at Showpo, discusses the influencer phenomenon, and if it’s really worth the hype.

Scroll through Instagram and you’ll find a myriad of brand-affiliated posts and captions peppered with #ad and #sponsored. As Instagram becomes the most popular social media platform, so does the likelihood of it turning into a brand’s most powerful advertising tool. Companies have already jumped on the influencer bandwagon, and it’s only a matter of time before the trend dominates the industry. But is it worth the hype, and how long will the phenomenon last?

With influencer marketing, there are three major categories which content creators generally fall into:

  • Micro Influencers
  • Macro Influencers
  • Celebrities

A macro influencer will have anywhere above 100,000 followers, and the title of ‘celebrity’ is labelled for influencers who have hit the 1M mark. Micro influencers, however, have 10,000 followers or below; they’re typically found in niche communities with a tight-knit collection of fans. Even Instagram accounts with as little as 100 followers can fall into this sub-genre of influencers.

Showpo is one of Australia’s most popular fashion retail sites. Founded by Jane Lu in her parent’s garage, it has quickly become of the leading places for young women to go when in search of an outfit. Its Instagram account offers a myriad of shoppable content, with influencers and models sharing the space on the social media platform.

Mark Baartse, CMO of Showpo offered his insights to the growing popularity of influencers and influencer marketing, and how they can benefit, and sometimes be detrimental to a brand.

“Large companies are often a bit behind the times, with more complex budget planning and approval processes. Also, the value of influencers is hard to prove. Risk-averse companies tend to avoid things like this. The challenge we are seeing is a lot of the large companies lack maturity and are over paying. This could long term result in damaging the space as they are unlikely to see good results,” Baartse said.

Often, there’s an assumption that influencers can improve conversions, but it’s not always the case, as Baartse explained: “The theory is that users come to the site pre-qualified, looking for a particular item they saw on an influencer. We do have data on people visiting our site after interaction with our own organic social channels and they tend to convert at a lower than normal rate. But then, chances are they wouldn’t have visited at all without that interaction.”

Certain influencers fit certain brands. How do you go about finding the perfect fit for your brand? Do you also make sure that your brand is the right fit for the influencer?

“While we quantify ‘brand fit’ into one of our influencer assessment models, giving each influencer a brand fit score. But ultimately determining the brand fit score is intuitive – we have people who have a really good feel for the brand doing this. We make the generally safe assumption that when someone is a good fit for us, we are a good fit for them,” explained Baartse.

Who is your target audience for your marketing? How does that affect the type of influencer that you look for?

“This is one of the most important things to look at. I’ve seen some research that shows having an influencer who is a good fit for your demographic is the greatest predictor of improvement in positive sentiment, and this is consistent with my experience. This does sound obvious, but it’s common to explore people in other spaces. For example, we’d be reluctant to work with an athlete influencer – the target audience just isn’t sufficiently aligned with ours.”

Do you think influencer marketing will continue to flourish, or do you think it will fizzle out?

“I think it will reinvent itself. It’s somewhat of an anomaly at the moment in being a highly unmeasurable digital activity. As the budgets increase, so will the scrutiny. With increasing influencer budgets and Facebook seeing no revenue from it, an algorithm change which forces this behaviour into more of a media relationship is, I believe, inevitable. We will need to pay Facebook to get the reach from influencers we currently get. In exchange, we’ll get better data. At that point, we’ll see a massive shakeup on which influencers are adding value and which aren’t. It will be an interesting time.”

How does Showpo use influencers? Do you have a different strategy than other fashion labels?

“We see different labels taking quite different approaches. Everyone has their own angle, but I don’t think we are doing anything especially unique. For us, it’s just a way to reach girls that we may not be able to reach through other channels and show them the quality of our product styled in a way of someone whose style they admire,” said Baartse.

Where do you see the future of influencer marketing in five months? How different do you think it will be in five years?

“We need to remember today we are all playing a game where Facebook set the rules. As soon as they change the rules, the game changes, and I’m sure they will. I think we are seeing and will continue to see people experimenting with other platforms. YouTube is already popular, but also Pinterest, Tik Tok, and who knows what else.”

Some advice form Baartse: “For companies operating in limited market influencers can be problematic. I was recently approached by someone who operates exclusively in western Sydney about how to use influencers. My advice to them? Don’t. Influencers are tricky enough at a single country level, much less part of a city. There are some food influencers and reality TV stars who are highly geographic, but even then, check the data. You may be surprised.”

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