“Creators are completely essential to brand marketing strategies” but, there’s a measurement gap

Influencer marketing is taking up an increasing portion of the marketing spend, but much of its influence still remains immeasurable.

Influencer marketing’s slice of the marketing budget pie is getting greedier by the year, with an estimated value of $16.4bn in 2022.

Brands cannot ignore the lucrative and rewarding channel for much longer, as the CAP welcomes the Influencer Marketing Trade Body as its newest member in over a decade.

However, despite the proven successes of the channel, much of the industry’s performance remains invisible and immeasurable.

43% of Gen Z consumers go in-store to see a product used by an influencer they follow online, found LTK’s Creator Guided Shopping Trends report.

“That's really hard to measure, but brands want to measure it,” said Robin Ward, Head of Sales at influencer platform LTK, to PMW. “There's definitely a productivity and positivity of brands to embrace this measurement because they want to prove the value, show the power of the performance marketing arm, the individuals within it and the message of that part of the marketing organisation.” 

Measurement issues for holistic marketing

“I had a conversation last week with one of the biggest fashion brands in the world – they've got a huge amount of content, creators and activity on LTK. Their Heads of Performance say to me: ‘you present us with a challenge because you sit across all our buckets: your brand, your performance, your social’. 

“In some businesses, [performance and branding] are siloed teams that don't necessarily talk to each other and may be competing for budget. But brands need to have a holistic view across teams, across budget pools, so it's really important for us to speak to people brand-side that have that perspective because we don't sit in the affiliate bucket.

“We don't sit in the performance bucket, we don't sit in branding or social. We sit in all of those and creators can touch all of those different areas.” 

“But then that also leads into the question of measuring the value of what creators are doing. We recognize that last click is not a fair measurement, but we strive to improve that and to provide data and insights into the value outside of that quite rudimentary measure.”

PMW sat down with Robin Ward to address the issues that face the industry in the year ahead and the trends that brands need to include to be front of mind across shopping, search and social channels.

Influencers, influencers everywhere: a “real full-funnel approach”

Creators and influencer marketing has long since moved on from someone holding a product to a camera. Brands are using creators’ highly engaged communities to help drive both awareness as well as hit lower funnel typically performance goals.

“Creators are completely essential to brand marketing strategies.” 

“Three or four years ago, only forward thinking brands were active in the space; it wasn't a permanent staple or a cornerstone of marketing strategies,” Ward stated. “It has now reached a point where the space is really helping brands drive current awareness, sales, loyalty, and a real full funnel approach.

“LTK grew 50% in the second half of last year in terms of brand campaigns. We have a lot more brands investing with our creators year on year. This trend has been pervasive post-COVID and continues to be strong.” 

As consumers are getting used to and seeing influencers, the effectiveness of branded creator content moves beyond their own social media channels. Ward added: “Brands are developing strategies to repurpose creator content across multiple formats and bake it into their own content in order to maximise the investment they have with creators.

“The brands that are doing best in terms of their performance makeshift are always on. They're always running campaigns with multifaceted goals. And these ambassadorships breed further authenticity.”

It’s no longer follower count that drives sales

After Instagram reported bot accounts exaggerating real follower numbers, and social media giving everyone the potential to be a successful creator, the power of mega-influencers is diminishing somewhat, instead passing on to micro-influencers with niche, but highly engaged audiences. 

“Long gone is the day that follower count is a persuasive metric when it comes to collaborations between brands and creators,” said Ward. “A smaller influencer’s sales performance can far outstrip larger influencers.

“LTK is seeing success in brands using niche micro-influencers with the right follower base that aligns with the brand,” said Ward. “When choosing the right influencers to partner with, brands need to focus on creators’ niche and engagement, instead of follower count.”

With a shift to smaller influencers, and the capabilities of phones and social media apps, the quantity of influencers on social media has skyrocketed. For Millennials and Gen Z, Google is no longer the first port of call for search. Social media leads the way for shopping inspiration.

“TikTok and Instagram lead the way in shopping inspiration for Gen Z and millennials, and that's not going anywhere this year,” Ward stated. “At LTK, creators doubled the number of video posts in 2022 compared to 2021. We saw three times the sales of a video post versus a still image. There was a 220% increase in TikTok creators joining LTK’s UK business.

"Shopping video is up 670% year on year."

“With TikTok and Instagram still taking the reins as the top social media platforms for shopping inspiration, short video content is not going anywhere. 2021 and 2022 were the years of short-form video and experimentation, and the format will continue to rise in 2023.”

“66% of consumers prefer video content over still images on social media and 73% of Gen Z watch creator videos. We know from our own conversion data and from the direction the social platforms are heading, that short form video is increasingly powerful and will continue to be so into this year, particularly for Gen Z and millennials who are persuaded by that form of content,” predicted Ward.

China has been leading the way for live shopping for the last few years, a trend that the west is being slow to pick up. Ward said: “I don't think we are at the stage where China is yet. A few companies pushed more heavily into live commerce, but consumers aren't as ready as they thought they were, and they've therefore pulled back on previous strides forward.” 

Twitter, TikTok, WeChat, Facebook, Instagram, BeReal and Snapchat: social media has changed the game for marketers, brands, users and consumers. With the undeniable force it has on influencing consumer shopping behaviour and brand recall, and when the measurement gap is filled, it will not be long before it’s no longer an extra skill for marketers, but a requirement.