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Details matter – especially when it comes to influencer marketing. The ever-evolving space is hyper-nuanced and can’t be oversimplified into a few vanity metrics like the number of subscribers or views.

However, as an industry, we constantly wrestle with how to quantify the perplexingly intangible notion of influence into something tangible. In a world where everyone can be an influencer, how do we know who really has the power to change our minds, shift our hearts, and drive us to action?

To uncover the answers, we partnered with leading social intelligence and analytics platform Shareablee in fall 2017, to figure out just which influencers are really driving impact for brands.

We analyzed 31,802 influencers with a range of followings across the major social platforms, and also surveyed 1,200 individuals aged 18-34 who had interacted in some way with these influencers’ branded content. [Here’s who we looked at:] These influencers fell into a few different tiers:

Here’s what you need to know when planning your influencer marketing strategy this year:

In Digital Creators We Trust (and Listen – Especially When It Comes to Brands)

From our study, we discovered that although trust in Digital Creators is higher than trust in brands, Digital Creators actually give brands a positive halo effect when they partner together. Roughly 37% of individuals aged 18-34 say they’re more likely to trust brands after being exposed to sponsored posts from influencers, with Digital Trailblazers boasting the highest levels of trust out of all influencer tiers at 45%.

The 18-24 demographic is more likely to trust influencer posts (54.8%) than adults aged 25-34 (36.5%). However, this older demographic is more likely to trust what an influencer says about a brand (44.3%) than what a brand says about itself (20.8%). So influencers = trust, hands-down.

Influencers are also quickly driving their fans down the purchase funnel. According to our survey with Shareablee, roughly 42% of people exposed to branded content from influencers reported trying a product or service those influencers recommended, while 26% said they actually made a purchase.

Adults aged 18-24 in particular were more likely to make a purchase at 47.6% compared to older adults at 26.3%. Importantly, nearly one-third (31%) of those who followed a Digital Trailblazer reported making a purchase after being exposed to sponsored content – 50% higher than Celebrities and 13% higher than Micro-Influencers.

Bottom Line:  In order to reach fans in the context of their lives (i.e. their social feeds) and drive real impact, brands need to navigate through the nuances of the influencer landscape to make sure they partner with the right influencers on the right platforms.

Digital Creators Are Crushing It When It Comes To Engagement Rates

We wanted to get a holistic view of which Influencers really drove the highest engagement across ALL social platforms – and there was one clear winner: Digital Creators. They beat out Celebs and Micro-Influencers when looking at the average engagement across of YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Digital Creators (trailblazers and emergers) have the highest cross-social engagement rate among influencer segments – from +50% to +88% higher than Celebrities and Micro-Influencers.

Micro-Influencers generated the lowest engagement rate among the four measured Influencer segments at 0.35%. What’s driving this low level of engagement? Unlike Digital Creators who are constantly programming for their fans, Micro-Influencers haven’t built the trust with their fans through consistent, non-branded posts which are essential in order to have rabid fan engagement. We saw across all social platforms Micro-Influencers were the segment with the highest levels of branded posts.

Digital Trailblazers saw the highest percentage of engagement on average at 0.66% (88% higher than Micro-Influencers). Not too far behind, Digital Emergers saw 0.60% average rate of engagement, which outperformed Micro-Influencers by 71%.

Bottom Line: Digital Creators provide the sweet spot on engagement.  They have a higher-engagement rate than Celebrities and Micro-Influencers across all social platforms.  

Video Will Always Kill the Traditional Star

Everyone is posting social video, right? You might think so, and according to Shareablee’s 2017 year-end report we learned publishing of social video grew by and impressive 36%, while engagements with that content grew by 77%. While there is growth, the commitment of influencers who are posting video content is quite nuanced; not everyone is doing it or embracing all platforms. The truth is, video posts require real commitment from an influencer and thus pose a higher barrier to entry.

From our research, we saw Digital Creators used video as a vehicle for expression more than celebs or micros. Digital Creators were posting video content at much higher levels to YouTube relative to Micro-Influencers and Celebrities. However, Celebrities posted more videos on Instagram than Digital Creators and Micros. A key distinction to make when comparing video engagement across platforms is that YouTube delivers a more qualified consumer who has clicked “play” to watch that specific piece of content.

Bottom line: The more effort an influencer puts into their content (video > image), the more they (and their partners) will get out of it (hyper-engagement > engagement).

#Goals:

As we know, the influencer landscape is beyond complex and uber-dynamic but by integrating the following simple guidelines into an influencer strategy, brands can harness the full power of online influence.

  • Embrace a cross-social branded content strategy to maximize overall engagement and long-term results.
  • Look to true Digital Creators for social engagement (from +50% to +88% higher than celebrities and Micro-Influencers).
  • To build trust, partner with Digital Creators who hold the secret superpower of turning their fans into brand advocates by compressing the purchase funnel.

For more information, please contact Sara Grimaldi, Senior Director of Measurement and Insights ([email protected]) and Mukta Chowdhary, Director of Strategy and Insights ([email protected]).

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