Did you know that 57 percent of consumers have made a purchase based solely on the recommendation of an online influencer? This statistic, part of a report from PR and content agency Good Relations, was an eye-opener for me as I prepared my presentation for InfluenceTHIS, Toronto’s premier conference for Canada’s most innovative content creators. As several speakers echoed during the conference, influencers are the ones who are driving content marketing growth and innovation — and as I noted, increasingly in video formats.

In April alone, Tubular tracked 8 Million influencers who collectively drove 759 Billion video views on social platforms across the web. This compares to 180 Billion total monthly views for media and entertainment organizations, and 24 Billion views for brands. In the influencer economy, it’s not just about mass reach (although top influencers can achieve this), it’s really about engagement. Influencers have an ER30 of 2.1x (Tubular’s metric that benchmarks engagement rate across all online video). Media and Entertainment publishers have an average of 1.3x, and brands 1.2x.

Influencer Strategy for Brands 2017

All data via Tubular Labs (State of the Influencer Economy Report 2017)

What Makes Influencers So Influential?

What is it about influencers that make them so … well, influential? And how can developing a solid influencer strategy be a valuable resource for brands and publishers alike? Ultimately, it’s authenticity that cuts through the noise in the digital video space, and influencers — more so than any brand or publisher — are able to use this attribute to spur digital engagement and loyalty. People are always more willing to trust a verifiable human than a faceless organization, which is what gives them the kind of power over purchase recommendations that Good Relations identified in its study.

When I worked at YouTube in 2011, it was considered cutting edge for brands to merely upload their TV commercials to YouTube. Today, brands mostly realize that social video is it’s own platform that requires a different type of content creation and having an influencer strategy is little more than table stakes for a successful video content strategy. It’s no longer enough to just produce an ad with an influencer or send out free product to influencers in the hopes of a shout-out.  Instead, how do you build from that foundation to create a truly meaningful and unique content experience for not just your audience, but your influencer’s audience as well?

Organizations are responding to this challenge by working in direct partnerships with influencers to create custom video content. Just look at the rise of sponsored video over the past year: on Facebook, the number of sponsored video views rose from approximately 200 Million in the first quarter of 2016 to 5.7 Billion in the first quarter of 2017, for a 3,322% increase.

Take the recently released Power Rangers movie for example. Lionsgate Films could just have released a trailer for the movie on social platforms, and promoted it through its own channels. However, by partnering with influencers, it was able to amplify its reach and engagement. In particular, Lionsgate’s collaboration with Dude Perfect, a sports entertainment group, was a useful partnership to help promote the film.

Instead of just serving as a commercial for the movie (which it did plug at the end), the video brought the Power Rangers cast to compete with Dude Perfect in one of the “battles” that Dude Perfect’s fans love to watch and share. Still don’t believe that this would have an impact? This collaboration generated twice as many views as Lionsgate’s trailer did in the week before the Power Ranger film’s release!

Engagement and Views for Dude Perfect vs Power Rangers (All data via Tubular)

Influencer Strategy for Brands

Some sectors and industries are going to be more appropriate for influencer partnerships than others. In the gaming industry, for example, 97% of views come from influencers rather than brands or publishers, and those influencers are averaging an engagement rate that has an ER30 of 4.1x (4x more engaging than the average video). Influential content creators like VanossGaming or Rooster Teeth are proving to be significantly more influential among gaming audiences than studios like Electronic Arts or Rockstar.

Of course, not every influencer or trend is going to be the right fit for your organization. Success lies at the intersection of your brand and each of the emerging video and platform trends that you may be considering. For a successful influencer strategy, that means matching your brand with the right platform and the right content to meet your audience’s expectations and your business goals. There are three key questions you have to ask yourself for your own vertical, in order to figure out the right approach for your organization:

  • Who are my fans and what are they watching? Link with established influencers to leverage their brand equity and reach while delivering a quality experience.
  • What are the content trends in my industry or surrounding my product? Maximize your message resonance by working with trending creators and content formats that both of your audiences will love.
  • Who are the rising stars in my vertical? You may get a better return on your investment by working with the next big personality in your space — rather than a vertical leader — so keep a look out!

There’s so much potential for brands and publishers in this space, and all you need to do is start experimenting. For those of you who attended InfluenceTHIS with me this month, as well those of you who may have tuned in from afar, I can’t wait to see what kinds of influencer strategies you’re able to craft in the year ahead.

Download the 2017 State of the Influencer Economy Presentation Now

Download my presentation here, which also provides the 5 secrets to influencer marketing success. Also see how Mattel learned about the trends surrounding around American Girl content create a content strategy that got them 3x engagement.