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Influencer marketing has become an established method of presenting a marketing message to the right audience, but it seems that some marketers are still unconvinced. We know the benefits it can bring to a campaign, but according to Collective Bias there’s another metric we hadn’t considered: time spent with content.

A new study by Collective Bias shows that consumers view content from influencers for an average of 2 minutes, 8 seconds — 7 times longer than the digital display ad average of just 19.2 seconds (based on standards as measured by Moat Analytics.

During the holidays, time spent with influencer content jumped to 2 minutes, 21 seconds.

Since launching new analysis in April 2015, Collective Bias analyzed over 300,000 hours of content from more than 5,000 digital influencers, finding that brands see a 1.5x return on investment on campaigns.

Marketers need to be reactive to the market, and especially reactive when it comes to user behavior. Marketers are constantly weighing the pros and cons of influencer marketing, and now they have a new hard metric to consider, that could just tip the balance.

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Influencer marketing has exploded over the last two years and as marketers continue looking for the best ways to engage social media audiences, we can probably expect influencers to become an increasingly important part of digital marketing strategies.

Why? Social media audiences are willing to engage with brands, but when it comes to decisions about what to buy, they trust the word of their friends, family and other social media connections.

Indeed, both brands and consumers are excited about influencer marketing. However, most brands fall into the trap of thinking reach is the only indication of influence. According to Inga Johnson, SVP of marketing Experticity, an agency that connects brands with influencers, the “fame model” can actually undermine the real power behind influencer marketing.

Reach is definitely an important metric, but Johnson noted that other things such as how passionate someone is about a topic, how trusted they are, how much first hand experience they have with the product often become much more valuable measurements of influence:

If you have someone who doesn’t have these elements and they attempt to promote on behalf of the brand, it doesn’t come off as an authentic recommendation.

Johnson said that the brands who do influencer marketing best are those who develop longterm relationships and work to turn influencers into brand advocates. She added that influencers want a closer relationship with the brand. They want real, insider information on what’s coming up, chances to influence the product development and more understanding about how technology impacts their industry, Johnson noted:

That authentic relationship is a little more work for the brand, but it’s a huge opportunity to build that bridge with [influencers] and it’s what they crave. It keeps them being an influencer at the same time.

When it comes to moving beyond the fame model to turning influencers into advocates, Johnson recommended building relationships with what she referred to as “micro-influencers.” These are people who, because of some experience or expertise in their background, are sought out for credible recommendations about what to buy.

Johnson acknowledged that these micro-influencers may have a lot of followers online, but a lot of them don’t. Instead of focusing on the social channels, she said brands should be looking at social consumers when looking to engage with micro-influencers. Again, it takes a little more effort on the part of brands, starting with the customer journey and conducting field research to find out where the passionate people are making their purchases.

She offered these tips for brands looking to engage with everyday influencers in a substantive way:

  1. Don’t go for the shortcut. Johnson said brands need to think more deeply about influence and really understand the customer journey and who are the passionate individuals consumers reach out to as they figure out what to buy.
  2. Don’t undervalue trust and transparency. Influencers want insider relationship with brand and failing to disclose those relationships hurts the credibility of both the influencer and the brand in the long run.
  3. Know the outcome you’re trying to measure. Just as there are key indications for measuring awareness, if you want to move deeper into the funnel consider how many buying conversations your program influenced and what were the implications for the point of sale.

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