Why influencers are not programmatic
On the heels of a deal that makes influencer content available for programmatic buys, columnist Maggie Malek explains why treating influencers programmatically is a bad idea.
Influence relationship management and marketing is one of my favorite topics to discuss with clients, and it’s a topic I’ve addressed before.
Long before influencer marketing became an industry buzzword, consumers were reacting positively to branded messages from experts and key opinion leaders. But the rise of social media has enabled brands and agencies to ramp up what was already happening and tap celebrities, persons of note and creators to help them reach broader (or new) audiences.
With this has come the emergence of helpful tools that identify relevant influencers across the numerous social channels. However, there is no unifying or automated platform to manage all the sponsored and organic influencer content across the various social platforms and formats. And as influencer marketing becomes a larger and more important piece of a marketer’s budget, the need for standardization is growing.
Recently, ROI Influencer Media (a leading influencer aggregator) announced partnerships with several programmatic buying platforms, including DoubleClick Ad Exchange, PubMatic, Rubicon Project and OpenX. This is the first real attempt at standardizing and modernizing influencer marketing to include large-scale ad buying, offering up bundles of signed influencers.
What does this mean?
Now advertisers can more easily include influencers in their media mix.
- Digital ad buyers who work within these programmatic platforms will be able to plan and buy influencers’ native social content in much the same way they buy other forms of digital media.
- Buyers will have direct programmatic access to ROI Influencer Media’s network of 10,000 influencers.
- The ad inventory will be on a CPM basis, like other digital media formats, with influencers still in control of the ads, just as publishers control their digital ad inventory.
- Influencers can negotiate the pricing and terms of the deal or turn it down completely if they don’t see it as a fit.
What’s the downside?
In the quest for order, some challenges and nuances must be addressed.
Strategy needs to come first. Without a strategy, influencer marketing can waste valuable ad dollars. This most commonly occurs when brands leap straight into pitching influencers at scale — which I fear may happen when it comes to the idea of treating influencers programmatically.
Smart influencer marketing requires an effective plan with three-way alignment between the brand, the influencer and the end user, which you can read about here.
Influencer marketing is built on authenticity and quality. However, with programmatic ad buying, those words don’t come up often.
Programmatic is all about bidding and algorithms; influencer marketing, done right, is about delivering real value with authentic stories and content that attracts, converts and retains consumers. It’s true brand-to-consumer communication via well-vetted partners.
CPMs for influencer marketing will always be higher than for traditional media. While it’s good news for marketers that they will be able to make purchase decisions on a CPM basis, the cost per piece of content is still going to be higher. So if you are chasing a low CPM because it’s what you are used to with traditional media, influencer marketing will always be cut first.
Measurement for success of influencer marketing is based on engagement. Comparing metrics such as CPM isn’t necessarily the best way to judge influencer marketing success. Instead, it should be judged on consumers’ actual interaction with the content — evaluated on a cost-per-view (actual view) or cost-per-engagement basis.
Are they reading it? Are they clicking through? How is the content affecting the brand’s rank in search? These are more impactful metrics than just CPM, as this content is higher quality than a traditional ad unit.
Programmatic erodes consumer trust. If advertisers have learned one thing from ad-blocking technology, it should be that when you treat consumers like a commodity, you erode their trust.
Treating influencer marketing in the same way will lead to the same conclusion. Consumers will stop trusting online influencers and will learn to ignore messages from them. This means advertisers will lose another avenue to reach an already hard-to-capture audience.
Pushing back against programmatic
New technology that enables brands to scale their influencer marketing programs more effectively is great. However, treating this practice as a programmatic media buy alone will turn consumers away from the influencers they have historically turned to for advice and guidance.
What also sets influencer marketing apart from programmatic buying is that the former is not a “set it and forget it” strategy. That’s not to say data doesn’t play a big part in it. For a campaign to succeed, constant optimizations and adjustments should be made based on influencer segments, brand message performance and audience engagement.
By constantly learning from influencer program performance, brands will be able to use their influencer budgets effectively and create more targeted programs that achieve brand goals.
The explosion of influencer marketing definitely makes necessary some kind of automated platform to manage all the content across social platforms and formats. However, given that influencer-specific content is a vital part of a brand’s authentic storytelling, I don’t believe it should be given over to programmatic buys.