Investing in Influencers for Long-Term Brand Authenticity

By Greg Rusert

When discussing influencer campaigns, brands are sometimes hesitant to commit to a long-term partnership. Whether a micro-influencer, someone with under 2,000 followers, or a mega-YouTube star, brands have the tendency to view an influencer’s audience as something to engage with once, but not again, often due to budgetary constraints or wanting to reach new audiences in future activations.

Let’s examine this rationale. In traditional marketing efforts would a major brand advertise on a television station once? Most celebrity endorsements are multi-year, right? So, why not take the same approach with influencers?

Working with influencers as spokespeople or ambassadors allows brands to leverage the trust younger generations have in influencers and build faith in the brand among that audience demographic. According to studies, when people are exposed to content from both influencers and brands on Twitter, they are 5.2 times more likely to show purchase intent. Additionally, YouTube influencers perform better than TV and YouTube pre-roll ads in brand attitude, recommendation and brand loyalty. This makes sense with 6 in 10 YouTube subscribers saying they would follow advice on what to buy from their favorite creators. Gen Z wants brands to be authentic and a long-term partnership with an influencer is a much more authentic engagement of their favorite personalities than one-off partnerships.

That’s important because both Gen Z, those born between the mid-1990s to early 2000s, and Millennials engage with influencer content more than any other demographic. According to a study conducted by influencer network Fullscreen, almost 50 percent of 18–24 year-olds have made a purchase off the recommendation of an influencer. They also found that over a third of people surveyed between the ages of 18–34 are more likely to trust an influencer when they speak about a brand than the brand itself. What’s interesting here is that both these demographics otherwise have been notoriously tough for brands to engage. They are skeptical, often not necessarily brand loyal and see through most advertising and marketing efforts.

The fact that they choose to trust influencers more than other forms of marketing may seem strange, but it makes sense when you look at their values. According to CNBC, 67 percent of Gen Z agree that “being true to their values and beliefs makes a person cool.” That is why they turn to influencers. They see people who share their outlook on the world. As such, it’s most important to these groups is seeing brands investment in their community and space continuously, not just when it suits them.

But if a brand is hesitant about making a longer-term investment, start with a smaller scale long-term influencer partnership (such as one that involves three to four posts across multiple social channels) and see if it delivers the desired engagement and down-funnel metrics, such as sales. Set expectations at a reachable level. If the content performs well, pull the trigger on a larger longer-term partnership.

Not only will the influencer appreciate the commitment to their content, more importantly, their audience will most likely have increased confidence in your story and messages, likely rewarding you with their engagement and actions.

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