Influencer marketing and influencer advertising are often used interchangeably as terms when discussing influencer outreach, but we shouldn’t lump them together as they are inherently different tactics.
Just as media relations does not describe the whole of the public relations discipline, and paid for media is not the same as earned media, there are also differences between influencer marketing and influencer advertising.
Influencer advertising is short-lived, transactional and involves no relationship building.
Influencer marketing meanwhile, requires a long-term commitment from both the brand and the influencer. It is relationship focused, working towards a longer-term ROI. In PR terms, it falls into the earned media category, because it doesn’t facilitate a financial transaction between a brand and an influencer.
If you’re finding influencers, developing relationships with them and collaborating on projects with no tangible transaction, you’re engaging in influencer marketing.
Influencer advertising is a subset of influencer marketing; work is orientated around one-off campaigns or posts. It’s usually easy to spot influencer marketing – if a post isn’t blatantly advertised as #ad or #spon/#sponsored (which they should be as the ASA clearly states), then it’s the ones that appear overly brand-managed with ‘cut and paste’ brand messaging. Similarly, anything received as a free gift or other perk is still subject to consumer protection law and must therefore declared as #gifted.
It’s easy to see why brands become seduced by influencers with large followings and the theoretical reach that their branded messages are promised to benefit from. But being popular isn’t the same as being influential. Large numbers of followers, impressions or visitors doesn’t necessarily translate into greater influence.
Often the only ‘result’ from a one-off transactional post is increased brand awareness or, at its best, a one-time sale.
At its core, influencer marketing works to build and establish long-term relationships with customers and is a lengthier process, which requires more time, more energy and more resource. Instead of focusing on one interaction, efforts should focus on building bonds and loyalty between the business and its audience.
To get influencer marketing right, you need insight. You need to be able to look under the bonnet and choose influencers based on their demographics, looking at what they’ve produced before, and be able to interpret data, such as their ratio between engagement of sponsored and organic content. You also need people skills to be able to build long-term business-growth relationships that are mutually beneficial to both brand and influencer.