If anyone had any lasting doubts about influencer marketing, Facebook’s sudden attention to the market may erase them.
This June, Facebook launched their own influencer marketing tool entitled Brand Collabs Manager (subscription required). Shortly after, it was reported that Facebook played a major role in influencer marketing company Deep Social’s decision to shut down after the platform revoked its authorization to use Facebook-owned data.
Although perhaps more aggressive, Facebook is not the only major social network to enter the influencer space. Take, for example, Pinterest’s Pin Collective or Google’s acquisition of FameBit in 2016.
As in the case of Deep Social, this trend could hurt a thriving industry: third-party influencer marketing companies. Platform-owned influencer tools could be seen as an alternate, superior solution to marketing agencies that lack access to the same proprietary data. (Full disclosure: Upfluence offers influencer marketing software and services.)
All hope is not lost, though. Influencer marketing is a booming, lucrative market with thousands of players.
Here’s what smaller influencer marketing companies can do to stay competitive:
• Specialize in your offer. Many companies in the influencer space can differentiate themselves from competitors by offering a niche service, such as outdoors, business-to-business or microinfluencer marketing. The idea is that by focusing on a specific group, you can provide a more targeted strategy than bigger platforms.
• Develop different business models. Directories, marketplaces, search engine tools, creative agencies, software-as-a-service (SaaS) — the list goes on! The reality is that Fortune 500 brands, public relations firms, small businesses and individual marketers may all want to work with influencers, but not on the same scale. Expand the number of solutions you offer to ensure every actor gets exactly what matches their needs.
• Become a multiplatform agency. Marketing and advertising agencies can do something that platforms can’t: advertise their influencer services for multiple social networks. This gives you a significant edge in an environment in which most influencers are “multiplatform” and some niches, such as esports, are native to specific networks.
• Cover the campaign from start to finish. It’s doubtful that social networks will want to take on the responsibility of micromanaging campaigns that often require extensive monitoring and hands-on support. As an agency, however, you are able to deliver end-to-end accompaniment for the entire influencer process — from influencer identification and publication review all the way to the payout.
• Focus on relationships. In a recent article by PRWeek (subscription required), influencer marketing was described to be “held back by short-termism and a lack of collaboration.” Surmount this mentality (and the poor content that comes with it) by matching brands with a tailored selection of influencers. The amount of time and effort that goes into hand-picking these collaborators is a distinctive service that sets agencies apart from static tools.
• Provide additional services. Influencer marketing companies are innovating many areas of digital marketing, from social listening to artificial intelligence. By providing additional services, such as results tracking, content marketing or influencer recommendations, you can help your company stand out from the crowd.
• Focus on data, data, data. Independently aggregating analytics and publicly available data is the safest way to go. It might require a little more heavy lifting on your company’s end, but it’s a lot more reliable than counting on someone else to build your database.
Are influencers really worth fighting for?
As discussed in a previous article, social networks seem to show an increased dependency on influencers, who produce valuable content that drives user engagement and retention. If this is the case, it’s no wonder why social networks are becoming more invested in supporting their influencers.
Contrary to what one might think, Facebook’s influencer marketing initiative could have a positive outcome for companies that specialize in the strategy. The more networks that get involved, the more mainstream the strategy becomes.
As more brands want to work with influencers, there will be a greater need for professionals to help manage campaigns. Small companies can adapt (and thrive) when supplementing the gaps between social platform, influencer and brand.