This case study was carried out by Jenna Pethybridge in December 2019.
An influencer is a social media user who has established credibility in a specific industry, with an engaged and sometimes large audience. Whether they post about theatre, travel or recipes, the content they share is received enthusiastically, making their feeds a prime opportunity to market to a captive audience. According to a report by Rakuten Marketing in 2019, eight out of every ten consumers have purchased something after having seen it as a recommendation by an influencer.
It’s no surprise, then, that influencers are an increasingly popular strategy adopted by digital marketers. While the move has been adopted by food, fashion and travel brands for some time, the influencer industry remains emerging within the arts. HdK recently carried out a case study of forty-five influencers across the UK blog sphere, Instagram and Twitter, also looking at how other agencies within the arts utilise influencers in their marketing.
Predominantly, ‘influencers’ within the arts share review content – posting reviews, round-ups and features on performances they have seen. Their social media profiles are, generally speaking, used to promote this content, as well as providing an insight into their other interests and communicate their personality.
Transparency is increasingly important to consumers and, because of this, there has been a growing trend for influencers disclosing that, whether tickets are gifted, they’ve received payment or not, they take pride in sharing only honest reviews. This is also enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority, who enforce certain rules and regulations including using the hashtag #ad if the content of a post has been gifted or sponsored.
As with the press, review posts leave you open to the chance of criticism – but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Influencers are powerful because consumers favour ‘real’ interactions over business transactions, so receiving a review that is largely positive with some constructive feedback is exactly the kind of content that consumers will be seeking before choosing whether or not to book a performance.
This said, we found that, of the influencers we researched, the majority of reviews were rated 4 or 5 stars, with very few lower than 3 stars. Through this research, we’re able to ensure that the influencers on our database are more likely to share honest and not overly critical content, but provide a more ‘human’ insight into a show than consumers might get from other channels, such as the press or the show’s own marketing.
Of the bloggers and social media influencers that we looked at – such as West End Wilma, My Theatre Mates and There Ought To Be Clowns – most covered a wide range of arts experiences, including West End shows, dance productions, theatre and comedy.
Through analysing their content, suitability, web traffic and social following, we found that there is a clear and segmented audience receptive to a variety of arts content. At the time of researching, monthly blog traffic ranged between 2,000 and 18,000 across the spectrum, with social media following differing similarly, from 800 up to over 25,000.
At the higher end of the spectrum, in terms of reach, bloggers tend to cover a wide range of shows, not limited to a specific genre of performance. At the lower end, who are only categorised as such because of their blog traffic, and still have substantial audiences across social media, content is more niche.
This distinction is useful for enabling brands to take a combined approach to influencer marketing. In recognising the quality and quantity of a blogger’s followers, you are more able to be targeted in your outreach, and communicate with larger and more broadly engaged audiences through top tier influencers, and speak to superfans through smaller, more niche influencers.
As part of our case study, we also researched 31 arts public relations and marketing agencies, to gain insights into how others are interacting with influencers and bloggers. Of this group, we discovered only 5 with a demonstrable influencer strand to their digital marketing offering.
From the five, most interacted with influencers from the top tier – with large social media audiences and high monthly blog traffic. Because of this, we predict that there is a precedent in place for these bloggers to receive payment (and/or complimentary tickets) for reviewing a show or experience.
Influencer partnerships in other industries – food, travel and fashion – can command exceptionally high fees, but as arts influencer marketing is still emerging, fees will be much less competitive. In a 2018 study, Influencer Marketing Hub found that businesses that use influencer marketing for publicity earn $18 for every dollar invested. If your aims include increasing awareness, growing your audience, generating community engagement and generating sales, it’s worth building even a small sum into your marketing budget for influencer outreach.
Despite influencer outreach being an emerging marketing channel within the arts, we found that there was a demonstrable relationship between the reviewers and the shows about which they shared content – in other words, their review was not generated by them simply buying a ticket and attending the show off their own back, but through a relationship with the show’s marketing or PR agency and, on occasion, a complimentary ticket and/or fee.
Which form of compensation each influencer preferred to take, if any, was not always disclosed. Because of this, we recommend taking an individual approach and reaching out to influencers on a one-to-one basis – which has a host of benefits, not limited to closely managing your budget.
Not only does doing so enable you to minimise spend, it also allows you the freedom to get to know the reviewer, the kind of content they post, the shows, experiences or products they do and don’t like, and what works best with their audience. This means that the content you commission them to post is more likely to resonate with their followers and, ultimately, help you to achieve your marketing aims.
Are you interested in discussing influencer marketing? Get in touch! You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 020 7012 1720.