Search
  • Collective Bias

What SXSW Missed on Influencer Marketing



With over 1,600 sessions in the SXSW Interactive track alone, it’s impossible for one to see and do everything at this whirlwind, ten-day event. But, among the madness we noticed that many marketers and brands are still anxiously trying to grasp the complexities of influencer marketing -- how to measure campaign success, how to combat fraud and how to navigate the nuances of #sponcon.


While the sessions at SXSW provided a good starting point for these conversations, we think they could have gone deeper to explore the intricacies of these topics and provide actionable insights for attendees.


So, let’s dive deeper:


How should you be measuring Influencer Marketing?

Influencer activations have become a key strategy in a marketer’s digital media toolkit. As spends continue to grow, so does the responsibility to measure and attribute against marketers’ KPIs. With every layer of a media plan under scrutiny, marketers are challenged with proving ROI with each element, including influencer. Overwhelmingly, feedback indicates the traditional indicators of influencer campaigns’ success (often termed as vanity metrics) are not enough.


Currently, the majority of marketers use metrics like engagement data, increased social traffic, or reach/follower count to measure the success of their influencer campaigns. While there is merit in these metrics as diagnostic indicators of campaign health, the industry has historically done a poor job of equating them to tangible sales impact. Marketers crave to know more about the impact content can have on purchase decisions and brand recall, and have become generally indifferent regarding how many users double-tapped an Instagram photo.


While success is in the eye of the beholder and each activation’s goals are different, we should all agree that investments in Influencers can and should provide more measurable, quantifiable outcomes. Whether or not sales lift is your ultimate ambition, campaigns should be planned, executed and tracked with a laser-like focus on a specific desired outcome -- not just with an endpoint of reporting the typical, exhaustive social metrics (like impressions and engagements) marketers have regretfully come to expect.


Check out our Adweek webinar to see how we are measuring Influencer Marketing success.


How do you combat fraud in influencer marketing?

Fraud, bots, fake followers -- these issues are still plaguing the influencer industry, but luckily brands, agencies, and even platforms are cracking down on disingenuous behavior.

The speakers at SXSW talked at length about the effect fraud allegations have had on influencer marketing efforts, but there was little discussion about what do actually do about it. It’s imprudent, in our opinion, to speak about a problem without offering a solution.


Marketers should be looking at data at the influencer level like spikes in follower counts, audience demographics and geographies for high following counts despite low population densities, consistency in post engagements, and engagement rate to protect against fraudulent behavior. There should be an expectation that any influencer or agency partners have a Brand Safety policy. This should include agreements in place with influencers that protect against things like loop giveaways and dark groups, as well as protective measures in place to remove any content that goes virally awry.


What do I need to include in sponsored posts to be legally compliant?

As the FTC has continued cracking down on influencer’s sponsored posts, many brands and influencers are still trying to navigate the legality of what is and isn’t #sponcon. In many of the sessions we attended, audience members continually asked questions about when an influencer needs to tag a post as sponsored, what constituted a sponsored post, and where should that #sponsored tag should live within a post, depending on the platform.


While the FTC guidelines may have been misrepresented by some as difficult to understand, the basics are fairly cut and dry: if an influencer is gifted a product for free or is paid for the post by the brand (or there is any financial tie between the brand and the influencer) there needs to be a clear disclosure in the post. The #ad or #sponsored disclosure should be clear and conspicuous within the post, and not nestled deeply within several dozen hashtags or shown in microscopic font in the corner of an Instagram Story.

For more information on FTC guidelines, check out their FAQs here.



Most can agree that influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere, and it’s a medium that marketers and brands are eager to demystify. Though the industry is no longer in its infancy, there remains a variety of valid questions to answer and myths to debunk.


What are your questions about influencer marketing?


Contact Us today, and let us answer them!