This is the second part of our ‘The Black Hole of the Fashion Industry’ series, where we shed some light on the difficulties faced by a new brand trying to garner attention in the fashion industry.
Are Influencers really Influential? What do I care, you say? Well, we are a transparent brand so I am here to tell you that we, like pretty much everyone else, use influencers and you, the customer, pay for it - now do you care?
The first popular online blogs were an authentic voice - photos of people like you, with clothes and stuff they had bought themselves. It was real - a sea change from print publications, whose reviews always extolled the products of their advertisers.
Those halcyon days were brief. Brands soon wised up to the value of blogger reviews and began gifting, then remunerating - in return for opinions that were "the blogger's own". Yeah right! Candid and critical evaluations went the way of VHS - who would hire someone with a track record of negative comments? You do not bite the hand that feeds you and so the era of the eternal sunshine of the spotless review was born. It's still with us.
Bizarrely, market research suggests that bloggers - now rebranded influencers and dealing primarily in the medium of images - are still viewed as authentic (source), their reviews, trustworthy: "influencers can carry the same weight as peers or “people like me, ”which is among the highest forms of influence cited among consumers in study after study."
How odd. But the customer is king; you want influencers; so brands have to provide them - or die.
First, however, they have to find them.
1. They must match your brand image and direction.
This is easy enough, however it can be difficult to combine popularity with on-brand aesthetic.
2. They must be genuinely influential.
This is really tricky. Everyone who uses Instagram will have bot followers, but I was astonished to find three major influencers actively bot-ing us. Almost all the generic comments - Dope!, Clapping hand emoji, triple hearts... - even on stars' posts, are bot generated. Even when they don't actively bot themselves, many influencers slip in hashtags - often removing them after a day or even hours. Hashtags are bot "like" magnets so it is possible that not a few superstars' rise to fame has been partially fuelled by click farms in China. How depressing!
3. You have to be able to afford them.
The going rate for a third tier influencer with an agent seems to be £1,500 for a single Instagram post. Average their likes per post for the past 30 days - say it's 4,400, 61% male, 52% under the age of 20. Then your potential market from that influencer is about 1,300 - except some of them are bots. Clearly, you will be lucky if you generate £1,500 in total sales from the Instagram post, let alone any return on your investment.
4. They must be professional, or you won't get the kind of post you want, within the time frame that you need.
The internet/Instagram is not a level playing field; if you gift merchandise to a scammer or incompetent you have no recourse - you could post rude comments but you would only make yourself look foolish. We found ourselves the target of stings almost as soon as we started posting on Instagram, even from someone pretending to be a popular singer!
And if you find the guy who ticks all four boxes above - does it work?
Some professionals have their doubts (source). Of course, those invested in the industry maintain that it's the brand's fault if their influencer campaign doesn't work (source).
We are too new to tell, but I got a quick look at some data from a major women's retailer with a global online presence. The results are pretty revealing:
They had tracked sales from a campaign using affiliate links (the blogger is paid about 10% on every sale they generate). One of the influencers concerned was top ranked globally, with millions of views for each of their Youtube posts. I don't know how much they charge, but if this source is correct, Casey Neistat, who generates about 2,000,000+ views in 30 days, was getting $300,000 to $500,000 for a Youtube video. And we have been asked for £4000 for a Youtube post by an influencer generating 12,000 to 15,000 views on average.
So how did it work out for our global retailer? Their star influencer may or may not have had a million views for their post in 30 days, but if so, less than 1% went on to visit the retailer's site, only one on every 200 of those, actually bought anything and what they bought wasn't very high value - generating a paltry revenue per click of less than half a dollar. I hope they didn't pay that star $3,000, let alone $300,000!
Still, all was not lost, some of the lesser know influencers in the campaign did much better (these influencers don't generally get paid, just gifted merchandise). The campaign's best performer, I had never heard of; they only generated half the number of clicks as the superstar, but they were way better quality: their sales per click were 1%, and revenue per click, $1. Pretty sure it was worth hiring them!
A click, by the way, is short for someone clicking through to your sales site. Sadly, sometimes these are not real people, they will spend 00:00:00 time on your site and bounce right out again (100% bounce rate) - advertising sites may well make you pay for their visit anyway. We'll have more on that next time.
So where does this leave us? What did this data show? It showed: a) that the most famous influencer, with the largest number of followers, may not equal biggest earner for your brand. and b) that, best case scenario, it takes 100 to 200 clicks to generate a sale. How much you will earn depends on your price point - here, every 100 clicks generated an additional $100 - $35 in revenue.
Remember these numbers, you will need them in Advertising part III!
So are influencers really influential? Frankly we're really not sure; perhaps there are too many influencers out there now, as the costs appear to heavily outweigh the benefits. Still, we're giving it our best shot so stay with us and we will all find out.