Stop Calling The Use Of Celebrities “Influencer Marketing”

07/18/2017 10:59 am ET

Nothing gets me more fired up than the phrase “celebrity influencers.” Point blank: if you use celebrities as part of your marketing efforts, that is called celebrity endorsement.

Recently HopperHQ published this report on how much the top celebrities on Instagram are paid, and it’s wild how much money is thrown at them.

1. Selena Gomez – 122 million followers – $550,000 per post

2. Kim Kardashian – 100 million followers – $500,000 per post

3. Cristiano Ronaldo – 104 million followers – $400,000 per post

4. Kylie Jenner – 95 million followers – $400,000 per post

5. Kendall Jenner – 81.7 million followers – $370,000 per post

6. Khloe Kardashian – 68 million followers – $250,000 per post

7. Kourtney Kardashian – 57.8 million followers – $250,000 per post

8. Cara Delevingne – 40.4 million followers – $150,000 per post

9. Gigi Hadid 34.7 million followers – $120,000 per post

10. Lebron James – 30.7 million followers – $120,000 per post

Marketers who spend a half million dollars to work with a celebrity typically only see a single post from said celebrity, and many of these celebrities have terrible engagement despite their reach. MarketingProfs reported that, despite top-paid celeb Selena Gomez being an ambassador for Pantene North America, only 3 percent of Pantene’s target demographic - women residing in the U.S.- engage with her photos. A while back we conducted an exercise that looked at the impact of working with one celebrity like LeBron James, who at the time, had about 24 million followers on Twitter. We assigned a $140,000 value to a tweet from him, which equated to a $15 CPM. That metric equated to a total of 240 influencers to mirror the reach of LeBron. We also calculated an average median amplification rate of 1.2x and looked at viral probability. Lebron’s viral probability landed at 20 percent versus 90 percent for a mainstream influencer. And don’t forget to consider the value of mainstream influencers in terms of volume of content produced for the brand.

Let’s define the difference between a celebrity and an influencer. A celebrity is someone who first became famous as an actor, model, athlete or other avenue, whose fans then followed them online. Millions of fans equal millions of followers...but little engagement. When choosing to work with celebrities, you are working with celebrities regardless of platform. Not influencers - their incredible reach can be great for creating buzz for your product or service, but what about building actual trust and purchase intent? A study we did a year ago found that a mere 2.8 percent of consumers were more likely to a product in-store if it were endorsed by a celebrity, compared to 30 percent of consumers when endorsed by a non-celebrity influencer. With celebrities:

• there are more complicated contracts to execute • you don’t own the content • they rarely react to the fans that follow them • the dynamics of two competing brands: the celebs versus the brands • there is typically channel specific use only

Tom Merton

Compare that to Influencers, who are everyday people who create content that resonates with a specific audience. They built their following and their level of influence on a certain platform (blog, Instagram, Youtube, etc) by choosing a niche they’re passionate about (food, decor, lifestyle, electronics, etc) and sharing their thoughts. Influencers with smaller audiences tend to have closer relationships with their followers because they can more easily reply to their comments and questions. In a study of our 9,000+ influencer community, we found that once an influencer surpasses 100,000 followers, their engagement drops significantly. Influencers with under 100,000 followers, aka micro-influencers, command dedicated audiences and killer content opportunities for a fraction of the price of a celebrity.

With power middle influencers: • their personal brand is as important as the brands they represent • they choose to work with brands they are passionate about • brands can re-syndicate the influencer’s content on owned channels • they will post across multiple social channels and over time versus one or two posts from a celebrity

Influencer marketing has always served as an avenue to reach consumers through influencers whose content and opinions they already trust. The best influencers share stories on their blogs that aren’t “product reviews” or a generic Instagram caption with a brand tagged. These stories are real-life experiences, inspiration, ideas and tips involving brands that the influencers are passionate about and they help their audiences see how a product or service fits into their own lives. It’s about bringing relatability and authenticity on a bigger scale.

Think about it. Would you rather buy a product because someone like you used it and enjoyed it, or because someone famous posted an image and two sentence captions on their Instagram about it? The buck stops here: Influencer marketing and celebrity endorsements are two very different marketing avenues and should be treated as such.

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