Influencer marketing wants to be taken seriously

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Caspar Lee on influencers

Web Summit speakers Caspar Lee and Ben Jeffries detail the evolution of influencer marketing.

The maturation of the influencer space has seen influencers move from Kardashian wannabes to key performance indicators (KPIs) and returns on investment (ROIs). The “Wild West of marketing,” as Unilever chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed scathingly referred to it, has been tamed.

“There was no disclosure going on. People were buying followers. It was intractable back then … People didn’t want to take it seriously,” said Ben Jeffries, CEO and co-founder of

Killing off fake followers

“And of course when there are problems, multiple startups come into play and have solutions. We came into the frame to stamp out the whole fake follower situation. We worked with the [Advertising Standards Authority] in the UK and the [Federal Trade Commission] in the US on regulation,” he elaborated.

Ben rightly pointed out that influencer marketing has become a lot more polished over the years. These days, it’s firmly on the radar of media agencies and part of the media plan. “You can speak to CMOs of huge blue-chip companies and they will know what influencer marketing is. You no longer have to educate people,” he added.

Caspar Lee – Ben’s co-founder, and the company’s chief visionary officer – pointed out how fluid the boundaries now are between social media influencers and traditional mainstream media personalities.

“We have seen a shift [if you look at] all the spectrums of celebrity – like journalists or artists – who have become creators, especially during the lockdown. You see those talk show hosts who have almost had to go back into their bedrooms and become YouTubers themselves,” said Caspar.

Is ‘influencer’ a dirty word?

Despite this maturation of the market, there is still the sense that ‘influencer’ is a dirty word – one that is slowly being replaced by the more… well, creative sounding term ‘creator’.

“At Conde Nast, we work very hard to remove the word ‘influencer’ from the conversation,” remarked Anna Anderson, director of social talent for the global media company.

“There’s no mention of the word ‘influencer’ on our website,” added Ben. “It’s all about creators, because we really do believe in the power of content creators who have built up an audience. Ultimately, that’s where the power comes in, because they’ve got these niche audiences built around their interest, whether that be [as a] food creator or a travel creator or whatever.”

The data behind the hype

But how does influencer or creator marketing measure up to traditional or more well-established forms of marketing?

“ROI is the big phrase in influencer marketing right now,” explained Ben. As the market has matured, he said, it has had to “grow up” as an industry, and it is paramount that one can “compare influencer marketing directly to an email or TV marketing campaign”.

This is so that when CMOs – or heads of social or digital – are looking at their various budgets they can compare like with like.

“Where influencer marketing holds its strength is you can use it as an awareness campaign, a consideration campaign, or even a conversion-style campaign. It’s just different strategies for each, and you have to set those KPIs up front,” said Ben.

Analytics are also playing a major part. recently launched a platform called Waves that tracks ROI, allowing the user to see when content goes live and the data associated with it.

It’s important to go with a partner that uses the official APIs, said Ben, “because those are the true data being reported, coming straight back from the creator’s account: the views, clicks, impressions, and even conversions if you put an integrator into [analytics platforms such as] AppsFlyer or Branch”.

Ultimately, companies looking to work with influencers or content creators now have the tools to track and measure success.

Main image: Cody Glenn/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

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