We reached out and interviewed three influencers experts working for three European companies: Collabary (https://www.collabary.com/), Influencer Check (www.influencer-check.ch), and Reachbird (www.reachbird.io), asking specific questions on how the influencer market works and what are the techniques used to detect fashion influencers.
Fashion Influencer Ecosystem
The fashion influencer ecosystem is made essentially of three parties: The fashion brands, the influencers and a platform connecting the two. Every party benefit from one another.
Brands and retailers have adopted fashion influencers to promote new trends and reach a wider audience. In fact, fashion influencers help brands to present their new products to consumers in an authentic way. Therefore, their impact on spreading awareness of these new products is more relevant than paid advertisement. In fact, 65% of fashion and retail brands launched campaigns with influencers over the past year and 74% of those experts found that influencer marketing was effective at driving sales in 2016 (Launchmetrics, 2017).
Fashion influencers need to continuously create content in their social media accounts (Instagram, Youtube, etc.) and have an engaged relation with their audience. By definition, influence is the “act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command”. In fact, the fashion influencers followers look for an authentic content therefore influencers need to “stay true to their style” and have the right collaborations.
This is where it comes the role of the platforms that connect brands with influencers. For example Collabary offers “a marketplace that give access to all relevant players and hence enables the brand to reach their audience in an authentic way […] Collabary covers the campaign creation, the discovery of influencers and the management of their participation in the campaign.” These platforms also play a role in creating new campaigns and then provide “extensive reporting on the campaign performance”.
Profile of Fashion Influencers
Understanding whether a person is a fashion influencer can be rather difficult in the fashion marketing world: celebrities that have other professions, like models, actors, and athletes, can sometimes be considered influencers, because celebrities also start to boost their own social media channels and some Influencers that started off with blogging as a hobby, now are considered celebrities, e.g. Chiara Ferragni (Roussina, 2018). They both get either paid by a brand or genuinely like it and tell the world with either themselves or their social personality (Faltl and Hauser, 2018).
However, we can identify three key differences between influencers and other fashion actors:
- Celebrities core profession is related to an industry – singers, actors, professional sportsmen, politicians – they can of course be brand ambassadors, but their main professional activity is not being a full-time influencer. On the other hand, fashion influencers have this as profession (full time) – they focus heavily on creating and curating content for their Social Media accounts, that is in line with their persona/brand and cater to their community (Roussina, 2018).
- Influencers are closer – one could say they have a personal relationship – to their followers, while celebrities might have a greater and worldwide following, but not as close relationship to them (Roussina, 2018).
- There is a stronger proclivity among influencer to actively engage in the creative process, as in contrast to many celebrities they draw their credibility directly from the content. Content creation is at the heart of their business model and not just one way of monetization as for e.g. an athlete (Faltl and Hauser, 2018).
Influencers are usually tied to specific brands, and their “specialisation skills” (such as lifestyle, fashion, beauty, food, etc.), their geographic location and the ones of their followers are important factors taken into consideration when looking for a fit between an influencer and a brand for a collaboration (Faltl and Hauser, 2018; Roussina, 2018).
The companies we contacted consider five main characteristics an influencers should have:
- Authenticity: the ability to stay true to their style/brand and community when communicating and deciding on collaborations.
- Communication: the ability to engage with one’s audience and the relevant influencer community (get to know other Influencers IRL and support colleagues, even planning co-creation sessions), as well as being professional (responsive) in the communication with brands during collaborations.
- Dedication: the ability to manage their account as a full-time job, meaning, continuously creating and curating content (postings/video/stories) for their accounts as well as being active on social media.
- Branding: the ability to treat and work on their social media account as a brand, meaning, the ability to find and keep a consistent and unique style, imagery (feed) and tone of voice.
- Mission: the ability to generate value either for society in general or their community.
Influencer Detection – State-of-the-art
But what are the techniques used to detect fashion influencers? Usually, a weighted average of the following indicators is used:
- Average engagement rate: the ratio of number of comments/likes to number of followers.
- Comments/like ratio: the ratio of number of comments to number of likes.
- Followers/followed ratio: the ratio of number of followers to the number of the following accounts.
- Mentions: the number of mentions of the influencer.
- Ad/No-Ad ratio: the ratio of ads to the number of posts without ads.
- Follower growth rate: change on the number of followers within one month.
- Sentiment of the comments: analysis of the mood in the comments.
- Klout score (Rao et al. 2015).
However, often these metrics are not enough to properly detect new influencers, because of the plague of bought followers, and for the difficulty or properly predict authenticity and engagement rates. Because of that, multiple solutions are taken into considerations:
Manual screening: the use of experts that will manually screen the influencers posts, taking attention to imagery quality, feed consistency etc. Experts can decide to onboard accounts based on exceptional results even when the metrics are below the established thresholds, for example because of exceptional engagement rate/imagery or a recent fast-growing follower community (Roussina, 2018).
The shift towards micro influencers, where screening is easier and potential manipulations are easier to spot (Faltl and Hauser, 2018).
Faltl, M.; Hauser, C. Influencer Check (influencer-check.ch), personal communication, 2018.
Launchmetrics, The state of IM 2017, Jan 2017.
Roussina, V. Collabary (https://www.collabary.com/), personal communication, 2018.