As marketers sink more of their budgets into online advertising, consumers grow increasingly frustrated with it.
Ad-heavy pages cause slow load times and, in some cases, make getting to the content difficult for readers and social media users. Who wants to watch a two-minute pre-roll before watching a two-minute movie trailer? It's being served an ad before watching the ad you wanted to watch.
The more aggressive and intrusive the ads get, the more online users become desensitized, and ignore, skip, or even block ads.
Moreover, the use of ad-blocking software spiked 40% during Q2 2015, compared to the same time period in 2014, and 48% in the US, according to a report from Adobe and Pagefair. The estimated cost: more than $20 billion in lost revenue.
For advertisers, it's a huge waste of time and money to expand their budgets only to have their ads skipped or blocked, and never seen. And with the announcement of AdBlocker for both iOS and Android devices, ad-blocking is going mobile. The increased use of ad-blocking software has sparked a debate about the future of digital content and marketing.
Here's the thing... Online consumers aren't opposed to seeing and receiving brand messages; they just want to interact with those messages on their own terms. And as Internet users are looking for ways to muffle the noise, brands are discovering influencer marketing as an effective way to reach their target audiences.
What influencer marketing offers
Influencer marketing works as a sort of antidote against ad-blocking software. Digital audiences can block and skip ads, but they can't block content from people they follow on social media.
What's more is that social media users don't want to skip content from the digital creatives they have grown to like and trust. Instead, online audiences—Millennials and digital natives in particular—have increasingly indicated that they value recommendations from within their social networks and that these recommendations influence their purchasing decisions.
Much like any other form of marketing, influencer marketing requires a smart strategy. Sponsored influencer content, when infused with heavy brand messaging, can also be susceptible to consumer distrust and even backlash.
Here are some things to consider regarding influencer marketing.
Who is your target?
Teaming up with a digital creative who has tons of followers to showcase your product may be tempting... However, influencer marketing is also about finding the right influencers to help you reach your target market.
What's the demographic of their followers? What types of content do they like? What social platforms do they use? Asking these questions will help you focus your advertising dollars only on relevant and interested audience.
How can you add value?
Internet audiences are constantly searching for how-to guides and genius life hacks. Whether searching for recipes on Pinterest, makeup tutorials on YouTube, or live event coverage on Snapchat, consumers already look up to digital creatives for inspirations, tips, and advice.
Even though brands have found some success in producing useful, educational content on their own, collaborating with social influencers and organically integrating your products is a far more effective strategy because of this "third-party validation" factor to it.
How authentic can you be?
The real power in influencer marketing is in the authenticity of the connection between social media creators and their audience. Marketers with a traditional advertising mindset tend to make the mistake of reducing social influencers to "digital billboards" that simply repurpose branded content.
Though maintaining a cohesive brand messaging is important, equally important is giving digital creatives space to develop their own content that is organic and resonates with their audience. That is, after all, what you hire them to do.
Even though ad-blocking in this day and age is primarily about banner ads, interstitials, and pop-ups, there has been discussions around ad-blocking software for native ads as well. And with social media platforms opening up their advertising functions to public, social ads are also increasingly disrupting users' social networking experience. (Instagram, for instance, has been criticized for its deteriorating ad quality control after allowing all users to advertise virtually anything.)
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Creating different variations of ads is not the solution to the big old advertising problem. Getting influencers to talk about your products instead of singing your own praises is bound to give marketers more bang for their buck.