September 16, 2022
By Mike Fletcher

In 2017, a study by a WPP-owned digital marketing agency called Geometry revealed that 90% of us were influenced to buy things by social media content. Moreover, a third of us saw social influencers as trusted sources when making online shopping decisions.

Five years on and Geometry has been swallowed up by another WPP company called VMLY&R, while consumer tastes towards social influencers appear to have soured.

Just this month, one influencer marketing agency called Room Unlocked, published data suggesting that 60% of us now find the cash-rich lifestyles of certain influencers infuriating, with almost a quarter of people reporting that lavish posts showing un-relatable lifestyles have a negative effect on their mental health.

Mistrust of influencers has been steadily growing over the last few years, driven by certain dark arts such as ‘podding’ (where influencers in similar industries club together to 'comment on' and 'like' each others posts, with a goal of mutual growth). While in 2019, 63% of recognised Instagram influencers were involved in some form of fakery or social media fraud.

So does all this spell the end for influencer marketing? Well, not quite.

You see, while trust continues to erode in every shamelessly paid-for ad an influencer shares, a growing number of brands have refocused their marketing efforts on more authentic collaborations.

Genuine voices and brand ambassadors, who aren’t being paid to plug products and services, are replacing insincere monetised content.

This is good news for event marketers as the influencers of yesteryear were often unobtainable, unaffordable and hard to quantify. Partnering with real fans of a particular exhibition, show or live event will provide more authentic, trustworthy advocacy.

The Room Unlocked research reveals that 40% of respondents say, the brands they trust the most now are those that make partnerships with real fans. A further 37% say they identify more with influencers who post with a social cause at the heart of their content.

“Influence is talking about the things you’re paid to talk about. Advocacy is talking about the things you love. Brand love is far more accessible and relatable than brand endorsement,” says Room Unlocked CEO, Alex Payne.

So with influencers on the way out and advocates on the way in, how can you benefit as an event marketer?

Here’s four considerations for genuine influencer marketing.

1) Build advocacy into your event sponsorship deals

Companies interested in sponsoring your events will most likely share the same values, customer profiles, and sector-specific interests. They may also have wanted to get involved because they’re a fan of your past events. Sponsors understand that the more engaged they are with their sponsorship, the more they’re likely to get out of it. So talk to them about what they genuinely like about your event and agree a series of blog posts, videos, social posts or interviews as part of the value exchange.

2) Get to know your audience

An organiser once told me that his event marketing team spied on the Facebook groups set-up by fans to make sure they weren’t spreading negative sentiment or false information but they’d never engaged or rewarded them for being word-of-mouth advocates and brand flag wavers. Active social media users who authentically talk about your brand are exactly the ones you should get face-to-face with to reward their loyalty, interest and advocacy.

3) Deep dive into your audience

Drive organic word-of-mouth by rewarding different audience types in different ways. For example, use registration data to highlight first-time attendees and reward them for choosing your event. The more special they’re made to feel, the greater the likelihood they’ll become a regular attendee in the future and spread the word. Why do some attendees return year after year? Listening to their stories could provide authentic testimonials and other content marketing assets while helping you to shape future programming.

4) Involve advocates in marketing creation

Invest in producing content during your event by commissioning videographers, podcasters, photographers and other creators to record, Vox-pop and interview visitors for genuine viewpoints and real-time emotional responses to your activity. Stop using stock imagery and build your own library of future marketing collateral, featuring real people having an authentic event experience.

Cvent CONNECT Europe - taking place online and at the Intercontinental London - The O2 from 4-6 October 2022 - will explore further how to integrate influencer marketing into an omni-channel approach. Register for your in-person or online pass here.

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.
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