The impact of paid spend on influencer content (case study)

08.07.2020

Many studies show influencer content outperforming brand-owned content on social platforms.

Recently, an increasing number of brands have started to consider boosting influencer content across social channels. This is largely due to a series of challenges faced by influencer marketing professionals.

Many influencer marketers (including yourself) may relate to at least one of the following challenges when it comes to quantifying and reporting on the results of influencer marketing.

  • The perfect match doesn’t exist

Finding the right influencer with a high concentration of the target audience is often tricky. On top of that, once the perfect audience is found, the influencer's content might not resonate with the brand.

  • Longevity 

Influencer content has a limited shelf life, they only appear on their followers' feed for a few days, if not hours, before being pushed away in favour of recent posts. Considering the day and time of the post going live is crucial to maximising reach but varies by influencer and is on most occasions, out of control for the brand.

  • Paid social ads are content-hungry

‘Ad fatigue’ is a paid social manager's biggest nightmare. It means the creative on your paid social ads isn’t fresh enough and has already been seen by most people of your target audience. To show the exact same ad to its users again, Facebook will charge you a premium, meaning the cost of running the ad increases over time unless you swap out your creative.

The above is solved by using influencers to create content for your paid social ads. Boosting influencer content as ads offers additional benefits you may not have known were up for grabs. If you work with influencers on Instagram you’re potentially leaving money on the table if you don’t leverage the opportunity to run ads via their accounts.


Solving influencer marketing challenges with paid social

In this case study, we show how using influencer content not only solves the search for the perfect audience match, longevity of influencer content and paid social content in general, but also some additional benefits for brands.

Currently, there are two ways to utilise influencer content within paid social activity.

  • The first is adding paid spend to an influencer's original post so it appears as ads (post boosting).
  • The second is to buy the rights to the content and post it as an ad from your brand’s own account. 

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The difference is how the ad is delivered to the end user.  As per the example above, it’s either via the influencer's social account (boosting) or the brand's social account (traditional paid social activity).

Adding spend behind influencer’s content allows you to amplify the content beyond an influencers organic following, reaching a bigger audience. You’re no longer limited by the influencer’s followers - which can be a mixed bag. Despite being still an ad, having it come from the influencer’s account rather than a brands account gives it a more native, authentic feel.

This also means followers and audience demographics are less important so more emphasis can be put on the quality of the content.

The use of micro-influencers has increased over the years, as they tend to be more accessible, and have highly concentrated, engaged audiences. With post boosting, marketers can reach targeted audiences without having to work with the biggest (and often most sought after) influencers.

Buying rights to influencer content to use within your brand’s own ads is another way to leverage the power of influencer's content beyond the traditional sponsored post. It allows you to utilise creative assets while targeting key segments relevant to your business. Requesting additional assets alongside a live-post is increasingly common and provides a cost-effective and diverse source of content to fuel paid social ads.

In both cases, this shift in mindset positions influencers as content creators rather than paid sponsors. It means brands can put less emphasis on follower numbers and more on creative output and brand affinity.  

Interestingly, 58% of brands state they plan to increase their marketing budget in 2020, but many still struggle to properly attribute ROI to their influencer marketing efforts. Supporting influencer marketing with paid social maximises influencer campaign budgets and allows brands to look at performance-orientated metrics. This enables brands to gather results and data comparable with other marketing channels. 

Home Reach Case Study

To gain a complete and quantifiable picture of the benefits of influencer post boosting, we tested two possible paid social strategies using influencer content:

  • Putting paid media spend behind an influencer’s content so it becomes sponsored, but still comes from the influencer’s account
  • Utilising an influencer’s creative content within a brand’s own advertising campaign


In order to run a fair experiment, we kept the following variables the same:

  • Number of influencers/creatives
  • Content
  • Campaign Budget
  • Audience (including exclusion lists)
  • Campaign time frame


We worked with four influencers and Home Reach, a well-established brand in the property industry offering shared ownership. The goal was to create a selection of content to promote an alternative route to homeownership. We carefully selected influencers with an interest in homeownership, who had recently bought their own home or were thinking about doing so in the future. 

As the target audience were aspiring homeowners, there was no obvious influencer archetype with a concentrated audience and this particular interest. Instead, the campaign focused on influencers who had an understanding of the home buying process (either by currently looking or previously buying a home).

They needed to be able to explain this particular scheme in their own words, were relatable to the target audience demographic and could highlight some of the unique benefits of the scheme by example of their own personal interest - such as interior design or pets, two key benefits of owning your home vs renting. 

Initially, influencers shared content organically to their feeds. The content was then boosted from the influencer account to a predefined target audience. At the same time, the same content and messaging were used in a brand owned ad to the same target audience. 

 

Results 

Across the board, content delivered from the influencer’s account outperformed brands both quantitatively and qualitatively. 

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Quantitatively, costs per result were much lower when adding spend to influencer’s content compared to brands. The influencer’s content benefited from increased reach and impressions. 

Qualitatively, the authenticity of an influencer-delivered post meant additional insights and data the brand could use to drive their business forwards. 

 

Lower cost

Overall, content delivered directly from the influencer’s account was cheaper than from the brand’s account. 

Facebook rewards media buyers whose campaigns perform well (in terms of engagement) with lower costs further down the line. This meant the content from the influencer’s account, which had an organic head start in terms of engagement, had a higher reach, more impressions and cheaper click-through rates. 

Facebook was unable to learn as much from the brand’s account thus when it came to bidding for clicks, there was an increased cost per result (Influencer ads were on average 27% lower than the brand owned ads).

The impact of adding paid spend on influencer content (case study) images-01-02-02


Qualitative: Authenticity and positive engagement

From a brand awareness perspective - influencers are key for improving negative connotations people may have about a brand or service. When analysing comments on influencer's  posts - there's a clear advantage of an engaged audience who care about their content and show interest in the subject or brand discussed.

For growing brands, this provides an opportunity to start conversations and educate consumers on a positive note, rather than zero likes - which let’s be honest, never looks very appealing.

It also creates a positive word-of-mouth cycle. When hearing about a brand from an influencer - it’s no longer “too good to be true” but rather a legitimate thing to consider. Long term, this could trigger a positive word-of-mouth cycle with influencers (and their followers) talking about a brand as a great alternative to the status quo. 

Putting aside the quantitative improvements of influencer vs brand delivered content, the qualitative data can provide brands with insights to use to improve their brand, campaigns and messaging. 

Takeaways 

Even when the creative and messaging are the same, simply having the content come from an influencer's account felt more native and authentic than a brand-owned post. The organic engagement the influencers were able to achieve on the post before it was boosted as an ad, allowed the ad to start from a position of strength, resulting in higher overall reach and impressions for the same cost.

Our experiment highlights the potential for influencer content to be used long term as a brand awareness strategy for growing and established brands - especially when it comes to quelling concerns or overcoming objections. 

In order to maximise your efforts on Facebook, ensure you allow enough time for Facebook to understand the best people to share your ads with. As Facebook learns who your ideal audience is, it becomes better at targeting these people on the platform. As such, the performance of your ads are likely to improve over time - both from a cost and results perspective. 

If you'd like to discuss how your brand could amplify your influencer efforts with paid media spend, speak to one of our specialists today.

 

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