Global influencer marketing with Albane Flamant of Talkwalker

“61% of brands will increase influencer marketing investment in 2019.”

Albane Flamant is marketing manager at Talkwalker, where she coordinates the brand presence’s in the United States, from influencer relationships to content marketing. She lives on Twitter and works with social media experts from all over the world on white papers and webinars about new technologies and digital trends.

She always has at least one book in her purse and has lived in 6 different countries over the last 12 years. Today we discuss the recently released State of Global Influencer Marketing report by Talkwalker which includes a number of interesting insights. You can reach out to Albane on Twitter (@AlbaneFlamant).

Show highlights

2:05 Albane introduces herself and Talkwalker.

2:52 Key findings from the global state of influencer marketing research.

4:35 Respondents rank influencer marketing as a top strategic priority for 2019.

6:37 Influencer marketing in the media.

9:07 The average number of influencers brands are working with.

15:38 The younger generation’s favourite social platforms.

18:01 Increase in budgets for influencer marketing in 2019.

19:35 Albane introduces Influencer One, Talkwalker’s new influencer marketing platform.

24:50 Brands are on a quest for authenticity both in how they present themselves and from the influencers they work with.

27:35 Influencer marketing as a competitor advantage.

30:49 The future of influencer marketing.

33:18 Influencer marketing and B2B brands.

36:22 The one book Albane recommends.

Resources/People/Articles mentioned in podcast

The report


Influencer One


Forrester New Wave report

Payless fake store stunt

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Ste Davies: Albane, welcome to the podcast.

Albane Flamant: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here.

SD: Glad to have you on. Can you give us some background about yourself, Talkwalker, the company you work for and what you do there?

AF: Of course, my name is Albane Flamant, I’m Belgian which you can probably tell by my accent. I have a diverse background in journalism and international relations but I’ve always been fascinating by the social media ecoystem from social networks to social messaging.

That’s how I ended up at Talkwalker. I’ve been for the company for three and a half years and for those who don’t know us, we’re a social listening analytics platform. We help brands and agencies all over the world protect their reputation, measure the reputation of their communications initiatives and promote their brand. Right now I’m based in New York and I’m the marketing manager for the United States.

SD: Now, I know that you’ve had a busy couple of weeks because you have recently conducted a research piece on the Global State of Influencer Marketing in 2019. Let’s talk about that. Who was surveyed and what were the key findings from the research?

AF: Yeah, this survey has been my pet project for a while now. Because every year we do a social media trends article where we ask social media experts to give us their predictions for the next year and influencer marketing is that buzzword that came back every year. Based on what we saw with our clients and the feeling in the industry we felt like we were still in the experimentation phase for brands.

At Talkwalker we have a very strong community. We have over 2,000 clients and lots of people using our free tools so it’s a nice community of PRs and marketing professionals so we decided to launch this survey to find out what was the state of influencer marketing in 2019.

Of course, there were tons of information in there but in terms of key findings, we can say that the main one is 69% of the people we surveyed ranked influencer marketing as an important or top strategic priority for their brand in 2019; 71% of influencer marketing professionals currently work with 50 influencers or less and finally, almost two thirds of the people we surveyed will increase the amount of money they will invest in influencer marketing which is pretty impressive.

SD: If we can dive into those stats a little bit. On the “69% of the people we surveyed ranked influencer marketing as an important or top strategic priority for their brand in 2019” statistic, I guess this means that influencer marketing is going to be on everyone’s radar for the foreseeable future. And you said that in your research in the past, influencer marketing was springing up when they were commenting filling out your surveys, so what’s your perspective on it? Do you think we’re in the early stages of influencer marketing and what do you think the future is for it?

AF: Well, I think it’s been a strategy that’s been on several people’s radar for a long time. If you do a social listening query to see what people are saying on social or even if you do a Google Trends, you can see that influencer marketing has been a trend that has become more and more popular over the last three years, I would say. And even when you look at the results of the survey, you see less than 10% ranked influencer marketing as either not important or not important at all, so based on these results I think it’s clear that most marketing and PR professionals are interested in and that they’ll be trying it out or investing more resources in it in 2019. They may just not how to go about it

SD: I think from my own personal perspective, brands and agencies have been engaging with influencers in some way, shape or form for years, but from a social influencer point of view, particularly the coverage it’s received in the press lately, it seems to be everyone’s lips and we’re going through a phase where, it’s on everybody’s radar and looking into how they can use influencer marketing in their programs.

AF: Right, and at the same time it’s fast moving. You have a few influencer marketing fails that have been in the news the last couple of years and people are wondering if it’s still an interesting channel to invest sometimes but I think that the results of the survey we’ve released show that there is an interest and we’ll see a lot more of these campaigns this year in 2019.

SD: The media does cover influencers quite a lot but it’s usually the negative side of influencers. In the UK there was a documentary this week, I haven’t seen it yet, but it was about how they’re used in the UK and the fraudulent practices they do and so on but what the media fails to cover is all the positive experiences that brands have influencers.

AF: Of course. It’s always the thing with news. Sometimes they focus on negative coverage because it’s something people click more on. Right now the big topic when it comes to influencer marketing fails is of course the Fyre Festival with two documentaries produced by Netflix and Hulu recently. Lots of discussion as to how that’s going to influence the field of influencer marketing and the level of trust consumers might have in influencers.

It’s really mainstream now and I think people were less aware of it before but I think it’s going to be something that’s always been practised in some way. Before it was with celebrities whereas today in social media there are a lot more influencers out there so I think it’s on a larger scale. I thin that maybe the profile of influencers may involve but, yeah, there’s going to be more influencer marketing.

SD: Yeah, absolutely. I think the Fyre Festival is evidence to show how influential some influencers can be as well. I don’t lay the blame directly with them. They were doing what they were asked to do. The people, influencers, the models they’ve been covered in the press about how they may be liable for spreading false information.

AF: I think that’s really interesting because people invest their trust and have expectations and, of course, there’s always going to be a debate as to how much liability they have but I think what it means is they have to take their community very seriously and they have to be very mindful of what they recommend.

SD: So on the next stat: 71% of influencer marketing professionals currently work with 50 influencers or less. Do we know why this is? My presumption is that brands are still dipping their toes in the water when it comes to influencer marketing so they’re currently working with a small set of influencers with plans to, if successful, roll it out to a wider set of influencers.

AF: I agree, I think there are several elements that can be taken behind that stat though. This one is really central of course and I think that right now there are a lot of one-shot campaigns where there’s not that many human resources invested in companies for influencer marketing. So they do short campaigns and don’t have a coherent strategy as to what they want to achieve and how they want to measure it. So there’s still not that much money or resources invested in it. They don’t think about long term relationships so they don’t work with many influencers right now but I think that will increase.

Outside of the survey, I can tell you that, here at Talkwalker some of our most advanced clients manage networks of 2,000+ influencers which is something that maybe we expected more of in the survey. That widespread database cannot be managed manually but surprisingly they do which is another one of the findings from the survey.

SD: Sounds like a spreadsheet nightmare.

AF: Yeah, actually when I asked that question to some of my experts they said the spreadsheet was the best case scenario. They said that some of the agencies they worked in it was almost post-its on a computer, basically.

SD: It was a global piece of research that you did, right? Which countries were surveyed?

AF: We had people from all over the world and the only continent we didn’t survey was Antartica. I have to say that, because of the nature of Talkwalker and because we’re a European company that is very active in the US also, most of our respondents were from Europe and the US but we did have people from South America, Asia and Africa. So of course a bit more presence in the US and Europe but it was still a global survey.

SD: Was there a difference between the countries or continents in terms of advancements? So my guess is that the US is the most advanced and then Europe?

AF: Surprisingly the numbers I had for both Europe and the US were very similar. I thought about opposing some of them but the differences were not really significant so that’s why we kept it on a global level. Definitely, we see that in other continents they invest a bit less in influencer marketing right now and invest less resources too in terms of dedicated people. They also have lower numbers of influencers they work with but I think they will be getting there very quickly

SD: Staying on the same statistic, did they say what type of influencers they work with? Was it nano, micro, macro or celebrity influencers? Was it broken down like that?

AF: No, we didn’t ask them about that. Maybe because it’s very hard to have these definitions even when you’re comparing different industries because one of the questions we asked when we were data mining the survey. We asked them which industry they were working so if you compare micro-influencers in the luxury industry versus micro-influencers in the tech industry for example, it’s all about size basically which doesn’t mean a lot these days.

Actually, that was another finding of the study that was super-interesting, we asked them about the criteria they use to choose which influencers were the most interesting ones for their brand and the size of their community is one of the last things they look at. They’re much more interested in the coherence of the messages the influencer publishes with the brand values and they’re much more interested in the creativity of the posts. It was really interesting because before that, the size element was really central and it felt like everybody had to work with people that had like, you know, 50,000 followers or more but I think it’s much less of a criterium today.

SD: Wow that’s really interesting. So brands were less concerned about the followership an influencer has and more concerned with how aligned that influencer is with the brand?

AF: Exactly and I think that goes with the whole idea that brands have to be more engaged, have to have more of a purpose so they want someone to reflect these messages and don’t just want to work with anyone.

SD: It shows that the industry is advancing and maturing because follower numbers and even engagement doesn’t mean a great deal as much today than what it did a few years ago so it’s good to see that brands are looking at more about the influencer themselves and how relevant they are to themselves rather than going for the big numbers

AF: Agree, but engagement is still important. The reason they’re looking at that is that some of these influencers who have 50,000+ followers have very little engagement rate on their post. There’s only a fraction of their community that’s actually active. It’s really that quality aspect that’s important now and I think they realise that in order for their campaigns to be impactful they have to have coherence so that the product or service is not out of context and actually drives brand visibility and leads which are actually the two top objectives that marketing and PR professionals have when working with influencers.

SD: Did you look at the social platforms that the influencers use? Was it spread across Instagram, YouTube, bloggers, podcasters, etc?

AF: We didn’t have that in the survey. We more focussed on the perception of influencers, how they were choosing them and how they were measuring their success. In terms of platforms, we do see in the requests we get from people who want to do influencer marketing and identify, measure and manage their marketing database on Talkwalker. Of course, they’re looking at Instagram and they’re looking at Twitter a lot. We do get requests for a social network we don’t cover that’s TikTok. Lots of requests for TikTok which seems to be the new kid on the block for social right now.

SD: Absolutely. I think in December alone TikTok acquired 50 million new users, just in December.

AF: Yeah, and it’s for the young people which is always interesting to get them to know your brand early.

SD: Have you been on? I found it really funny. There are so many creative funny videos that these youngsters are creating. I can see how it can become addictive.

AF: Yeah I’ve been on it but I need to do more on it. It’ll be very interesting to see where it’s going to go?

SD: Moving on to the next point. The other stat I want to dig in to is, 61% of those surveyed say they will increase the amount of money they will invest in influencer marketing in 2019. I guess this is not surprising and indicative of a growing industry. Did you dig into this data to find out where this increasing investment might go? Is it in tech platforms? Is it in working with more influencers? Is it for better creative campaigns? Or all of the above?

AF: I think it’s all of the above based on the open-ended survey questions we had. I think one of the big areas of investment will be the tools needed to manage growing numbers of influencers and measure their performance effectively.

One of the ways we’re seeing that is the rise of new tools we’re seeing in the sector. Forrester just published their ‘New Wave for Influencer Marketing Platforms’ just a few months ago. It was very interesting to see who is stacking up in this area.

I think that they’ll also invest in human resources, so more experts directly working with influencers as opposed to using whoever’s available. Kind of like when social media was just handed to the interns? In some ways, it can be like that for influencer marketing in an organisation today.

Finally, more pay for play as opposed to earlier practices which was more about influencer collaboration where you’d send them your product and get them to try it out. There’ll be a bit more of the professionalisation of that sector.

SD: Speaking of tech platforms, you guys have recently launched your own, Influencer One, do you want to talk about that a little bit?

AF: Basically it was an ask from our clients because we could already do some work with influencers on the core port of our platform which is called Talkwalker Analytics so we can do social listening, social analytics and everything else but our clients are working with more and more influencers and some of them are past the 2,000 bar and they were looking for a tool that would allow them to identify and manage influencers, like a Salesforce version for influencer marketing so they can add the contact, add the contract and add the notes on the lastest points of contact with the influencer.

And finally, they wanted a module that could measure the performance of their campaign so we created a tool that we called Influencer One that helps them identify, manage and measure their influencer marketing campaigns.

SD: And that integrates into your existing tech as well?

AF: Yeah, it’s a stand alone product so we have some clients that only use Influencer One and choose not use the rest of the analytics platform because it’s different teams. The influencer marketing teams only use Influencer One where another part of the company focuses more on analytics, for example. It’s a stand alone product but it’s based on the rest of our tech so all of the Talkwalker tech is proprietary which is nice. It’s basically a new area for us and it will be interesting to see how it will evolve.

SD: We’ve talked about the increase in the amount of money being invested in influencer marketing by the people you surveyed. where do you think the divestment is coming from? Obviously budget is being allocated to influencer so where do you think it’s being taken away from?

AF: That’s a really good question. It wasn’t something we asked in the case study but just looking at the overall research that happened in that sector we can say that the overall marketing team budget has only being growing in the last few years because marketing has been really good at taking over the data aspect of their job and proving they’re impacting the company’s bottom line, they’re seeing more and more money being invested in the tech they use.

Every marketing team today has a very big marketing tech stack and has to integrate very different tools. Just overall I think that companies are investing more in marketing but I also think that they’re spending less in some aspects like traditional ads. A lot companies decide not to invest in banner ads on websites anymore and decide to do something more effective. You also have the decreased performance of some types of social networks that might free up some budget.

SD: Also the media as well from a traditional media point of view. You don’t get as much bang for your buck in certain publications like what you used to so I guess some of that money is being allocated to it as well.

One of the insights you guys published in the report was, “brands and agencies are looking for a quest for authenticity” – what do you mean by this?

AF: That was one of the takeaways from my analysis from the different answers we got so in terms of stats and open-ended questions. I just kept seeing these questions coming back over and over again. Questions such as, “How do I make sure the public doesn’t perceive a campaign as buying influence?” and “How do I reconcile influencers promoting multiple products with a level of authenticity and credibility that’s sufficient?” and “How do I make sure influencers drive impact and are their numbers real?

There was a lot of doubt as to how to make sure that this looks authentic and actually is authentic in terms of impact. We were talking earlier about the external factors that had an impact on the question of authenticity like the Fyre Festival and the Payless incident where Payless created this fake luxury shoe store and managed to convince influencers they should recommend paying hundreds of dollars for a pair of $20 shoes.

All of this is making people question the authenticity of influencers. At the same time, brands want to be more and more authentic and show that they’re purpose driven so it’s going to be a big question in 2019 if you want to do influencer marketing.

SD: So it’s looking at authenticity from both sides. It’s looking at how a brand is authentic and how they work with influencers who are genuinely authentic as well?

AF: Exactly and I think that’s why brands will try to go for long lasting relationships. Maybe with a few specific influencers to make sure they know who they’re talking to and they know they have an impact. Also so they know that the communication of the influencer is in line with the brand message.

SD: Yes, absolutely, it’s all about long term collaboration and one-off projects just won’t cut it in the future and it’s about a brand and influencer coming together and working together in the long term.

AF: Yeah exactly and it’s interesting because agencies were a good fraction of respondents to this survey and a bunch of them mentioned how brands have gone up in terms of the criteria they use to select the perfect influencer so when they had to select an influencer for a brand it was almost like a business dating app and they had to find a perfect match.

SD: What were they looking for in that regard?

AF: It’s all about brand value and creativity. Of course they want business impact but they also want someone who is a brand fit.

SD: And you also mention in the report that influencer marketing can be a competitive advantage. In what way?

AF: What was interesting to me is, one of the very first questions in the report was whether the respondent had in place an official influencer marketing program and almost two thirds said no and it’s still very much done in an experimental manner. It’s kind of like podcasts, you know, it’s something that should be done right but a lot of people are still not doing it as opposed to webinars for example so people are always looking for these new communication channels so if you’re good at influencer marketing there’s a good chance you can use it to either catch up with the competition or stay ahead.

SD: And I guess as well you could find influencer who aren’t quite huge yet but have a lot of potential and identifying them in the early days and bringing them on and coming up with them, essentially.

And only one third surveyed have an influencer marketing strategy in place?

AF: Yeah which is crazy to me and it’s reflected in a different part of the survey. A lot of them don’t have a big program in place but want to invest more but they don’t know how to measure success either which is a paradox to me.

SD: When I spoke with Kamiu Lee of ACTIVATE a month ago she said often brands are figuring out where influencer marketing sits because essentially it sits everywhere. It sits with brand, marketing, PR, affiliate and so on so I guess we’ll start to see dedicated roles within an organisation who are essentially Head of Influencer and they’re the centralauthoritativee figure who works across different parts of the comms divisions.

AF: Yeah and I think you’re going to need that, especially if you want these long term relationships. It’s almost like a customer success or even a sales job where you have to really stay in touch with the influencers and you have to know them almost personally. It’s a business relationship but it’s a relationship so you have to work on it and you have to be aware of what they’re doing so you can’t have that on top of everything else you do. I think the Head of Influencer Marketing will be big for organisations.

SD: Exactly, and as you rightly pointed out these are relationships that have to be maintained, nurtured and have a coherent line of communication with them so if you have different people from different parts of the organisation contacting them saying one thing and another person says another thing it could lead to confusion.

AF: Right, even in general, everything is going to have to be professionalised in terms of “OK how do we work with influencers? Do we get them to sign a contract? How often do we contact them?” You’re going to have to basically professionalise all of that and I don’t think that can be done on top of everything else, basically. There’s already so much that’s being asked from marketing and PR. I think there’s going to have to be a dedicated person for this.

SD: Moving on. I like to do a little bit of navel gazing and look into the future. So I’d like to get two predictions from you on the future of influencer marketing. The first one being, where do you see the industry influencer marketing in the next 12 months and where do you see it in the next five years?

AF: OK, so a little bit of crystal ball gazing here. In the short term, I think first of all we’re going to see the end of this ‘invest and pray’ approach, you know? Where you just funnel money into influencer marketing and hope it’s going to work so we’re going to see more professional influencers in the sense that they’re going to think about what they want in partnerships with brands instead of just asking for stuff for free. But we’re also going to see a lot more professional brands and agencies develop frameworks that measure performance of their influencer initiatives and really find a way to integrate it into their overall brand strategy. Does that make sense?

SD: Yeah, absolutely. So influencers will professionalise further and will have a clear strategy in place in terms of the brands they want to work with and brands will also professionalise further and look more at hard data and metrics in terms of what’s working and what isn’t.

AF: We had a comment from one of the social media experts we worked with on these findings that said influencers are becoming businesses in their own right. More of them are going to try and find new ways to increase their reach and monetise it but at the same time they’re going to have to try and find a way to do that without affecting their influence in their niche.

SD: And their too I guess? They don’t want to look like they’ve sold out.

AF: Yeah, exactly, we’re back to authenticity. It was everywhere in the survey. It’s all about authenticity in the end.

SD: It’s a tightrope because if an influencer has built a platform they want to monetise it but at the same time they have to consider their audience and not come across like they’ve sold out.

AF: I think that’s why they have to figure out what do their community want to know and what fits with that. If you’re an AI influencer and a recognised expert in AI, it makes sense working with the biggest name in AI because that’s what they’re developing and that’s where you know there’s going to be the best research and things like that. So it’s all about choosing the right partner.

SD: That’s an interesting point you make. When we talk about influencers a lot of people just talk about the ones that are consumer based who are fashion, health, fitness and make up but if you look at the full spectrum of influence it can cover anything. As you rightly point out, you can be an influencer in AI, you can be an influencer in machine algorithms, you can be an influencer in woodwork – you can really be an influencer in any particular topic.

AF: Exactly, I think that’s maybe a misconception when people talk about influencer marketing. We saw it in the survey that influencer marketing is for B2C and B2B brands alike. Of course B2C one is the most evident one maybe but there’s a lot to be done for B2B brands in influencer marketing. Of course, in these niche sectors there might not be as many influencers and you have to find the real, you know, points of reference.

I had a discussion with one of my contacts recently and she told me she was asked to look for the top 100 influencers in modified gene editing in the life sciences sector so very specific. She came back with five and told the client that these five really are the reference but the brand wanted more and she told them she could give them more if they wanted them but these five should be the ones they focus on. They are the ones with real influence who everybody reads as they’re the real experts and they’re the ones that are going to have the impact. I thought that was an interesting approach too.

SD: Absolutely, because if those people are the five most influencer people on that particular topic you don’t need anymore. Particularly on a niche subject like that those five are all you need – you don’t need 100 nano, 20 micro and two macro influencers you can just work with those five and chances are you’re going to be influencing the vast majority of people interested in that particular area.

SD: Final question, what’s the one book you recommend everyone should read?

Written by Stephen Davies

I’m an experienced strategist working at the intersection of public relations, digital marketing and social media based in London. You can work with me here or drop me a line here.

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