Human League

In a head-to-head contest between a slogan and a human, the human will almost always win.

Consumers respond to human influencers—celebrities, tastemakers, pundits—not simply because they are perceived as trustworthy conveyers of solid information. It’s the human touch that matters. The influencer keeps a consumer engaged on a personal level in ways other advertising can’t. And a successful influencer is the holy grail of interactive marketing: a trusted or beloved personality that reacts to consumer communication, often in real time, with organic responses.

Increasingly, content publishers are incorporating influencer marketing programs into their own offerings—to expand revenue, to promote events, and to attract and build the right audience. And marketing professionals are exploring how to get the most advantage from them.

The Bible

Luckily, the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Social Media/Native/Content Committee has put together a guide for marketers and publishers alike, titled “Inside Influence: Why Publishers are Increasingly Turning to Influencer Marketing – and What That Means for Marketers.”

The guide encourages marketers to embrace these new influencer packages to leverage the audience reach, research, and careful talent selection of publishers. But it also cautions that marketers ask the right questions before plunging into a new relationship program.

The list of questions is as useful as it is comprehensive. It covers crucial disclosure issues—How is the publisher ensuring FTC-approved disclosure of the influencer relationship? How will it monitor the influencer to ensure the relationship remains properly disclosed? Why care about disclosure in the first place? It addresses basic identification questions: How does the publisher pick its influencer roster? How do you ensure the influencer is the right fit for your brand? And incisive questions about cost and execution—How much control will you have over the content the influencer produces? Is there an agreed-to timeline or production schedule?

Additional sections cover how to measure impact, assess return on investment, and other topics.

The Takeaway

The IAB’s “Inside Influence” guide is a basic but thorough introduction to the field of publisher-produced influence marketing. If you’re thinking about beginning your own program, or leveraging the power of someone else’s, it’s worth a read—not least of all for the dozen or so case studies that round out the book and provide concrete examples of the publisher-influencer-marketer relationship. However, sponsors and influencers need to take heed that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) deems it deceptive for influencers to fail to clearly and conspicuously disclose any material connection to a sponsor. For more detailed guidance on how to comply with advertising law regarding use of influencers, see the FTC's guidance here and articles by our attorneys here and here.