Influencer marketing in France 2022: Getting down to business
Led by its global luxury and communications companies and accelerated by a vibrant digital native startup scene, France’s influencer marketing ecosystem today has developed into a professional, data-driven marketplace.
France ranks fifth in Europe— behind Britain and Spain, but ahead of Germany — among countries with the most creators, according to Kolsquare data. It is home to some 57,000 influencers with more than 5,000 followers on Instagram. It also has a growing TikTok scene as home to 14,304 creators with more than 50,000 followers on the platform, compared to 9,637 in Germany and just 1,104 in Britain.
French KOLs are focused on maintaining authenticity amongst their communities, while developing viable, durable businesses from their social media presence. They are increasingly professional in their approach and attuned to brands’ business objectives. Micro-influencers are more likely than before to be represented by influencer agencies — which have mushroomed in France, and are often founded by influencers themselves — while KOL with larger followings are also accompanied by artistic directors and legal advisors.
With the acceleration of online activity — social and e-commerce — due to the pandemic, brands across the board have turned to influencer marketing to boost awareness and sales. Where influencer marketing in France was once focused on product placement and often outsourced to PR agencies, attention has turned to the value it offers for developing deeper relationships with potential customers, and for driving incremental online sales.
France’s lightbulb moment has been driven by the success of its growing ecosystem of digital native companies, who have leaned on an ROI approach to influencer marketing to drive growth, say observers. The country’s 500-odd digital native brands raked in €2.7bn in revenue in 2021, an impressive 69% increase over the previous year.
Today, French companies are elevating influencer marketing within company structures to the most senior levels, as the power of data to analyze audience demographics and reach, engagement metrics, costs, and EMV enables companies to boost and measure the impact of campaigns on awareness and sales.
“Influencer marketing in France has become very efficient, and the question is no longer whether to do it but how to do it properly and on a larger scale,” comments Kolsquare CEO Quentin Bordage.
“Industry players have a better understanding of the work involved and as a result, the gravity point for influencer marketing within organizations is shifting. Today, you see that influencer marketing managers are in senior positions, and influencer activities are being integrated across all departments from e-commerce to paid growth and PR.”
The maturity of France’s influencer marketing environment is evidenced by the increasing professionalism of influencers of all types, and the vast improvement in the quality of content being produced.
Before agreeing to brand collaborations, professional KOLs conduct detailed research into brand values and manufacturing methods. They maintain close connections with their communities, which in turn has become key to their ability to refine content to the benefit of the brands and the audience. With reach and engagement KPIs more often embedded into influencer briefs, KOLs are also increasingly attentive to the business requirements of potential partners.
“Influencers and ambassadors are very receptive to the business objectives that we have. They listen if we say a certain concept will not promote the product correctly,” comments global cheese products company The Bel France head of communications and influencer marketing Malaika Coco. “That is where the balance is being achieved, because they are more professional, and from the brand side, the brands are giving them more freedom.
“[…] Before, influencer marketing was just product placement, today there is a real challenge around creation, staging and the quality of content. Honestly, sometimes I am blown away [by what they produce] how it aligns with the brief but also incorporates their creative ideas.”
That said, there remains some hesitancy on the part of some of the more traditional brands to give creators free reign in campaigns, especially on activations requiring large investments, comments Razorfish (Groupe Publicis) head of social Juliette Orain.
“Sometimes they expect more passivity on the part of the influencers. They get very nervous as soon as they see that there are several processes of co-creation and iterations that are put in place. Sometimes we have to educate clients a little to the fact that it’s a collaboration and not a purchase of space,” comments Orain.
The maturity of France’s influencer market is evidenced in the relative stability around the dominant platforms and KOLs. Although brands are beginning to see the value in TikTok campaigns for awareness, most continue to focus on Instagram (despite recent problems encountered with changes to feed) and YouTube, says Orain.
“We’ve had an explosion of micro and nano influencers over the last three years that today make up a volume which is pretty constant,” she comments. “The only thing that is not stable is the prices, which have increased a lot. There are many reasons for this, but in terms of the structure, the practices, platforms, and the big stars of the discipline, there have not been many changes in the last few years.”
Still cheaper for influencer marketing than Instagram, brands are aware of the need to begin experimenting with TikTok given the higher engagement rates being achieved with short-form video. Orain predicts influencer marketing on TikTok will grow quickly over the coming year.
Brands heavily focused on generating sales and quantifying ROI say TikTok campaigns are not yet evolved to the point of making the investment worthwhile. This makes sense given that Instagram remains far and away the most used social network in France amongst people aged 16 to 25, with 82% on the platform, compared to just 38% on TikTok in 2021.
For startup online grocery store La Fourche, which operates a subscription business model, Instagram Stories continue to offer a vibrant platform for explaining the brand concept to potential customers, says influencer marketing manager Anaëlle Antigny. However, given the changes being implemented to Instagram’s algorithm, the brand is looking to focus more on video and Reels content in the future.
“A lot of people say YouTube is dying, that the stats are going down, I don’t agree. If you choose a good community for whom your offer is relevant, it can be very powerful and you’ll reach people who are much more alert to your product. It can be more risky because it’s more expensive than Stories, but it lasts over time,” says Antigny.
“We’d like to crack the TikTok algorithm before we launch on YouTube Shorts – we’ve never significantly tried to invest in TikTok and I feel like it’s time even if a lot of questions remain open, like the one of performance. If you want to do an image campaign, TikTok works well, but when you have an ROIst approach and conversion objectives, it’s often not there yet.”
With more and more French brands turning to influencer marketing to achieve a variety of business objectives, competition to book relevant, high-performing KOLs is heating up. KOLs worried about staying authentic in the eyes of their audiences are more selective than ever when choosing who to work with, and brands need to prove their bona fides to influencers before they sign on the dotted line.
“An increasing number of brands have discovered the advantages of influencer marketing to recruit more customers, meaning the space is very crowded and it’s more difficult to stand out. It is now more important than ever to be relevant to influencers, to their community and to legitimately represent their values,” comments La Fourche’s Antigny.
“The second point is the need to be relevant in our content. There are so many brands; social media users are exposed to lots of people saying lots of things. To avoid getting lost in the mass, we must differentiate and make sure our message gets heard.”
Brands are more focused than ever on choosing influencers whose values align with their own, and who have developed strong relationships with their communities. Increasingly, influencer strategies are anchored in creating deeper, long-term relationships with KOL over one-shot activations.
“Often, when we first contact them, they ask a lot of questions about the products, how they are made, where they come from, etc. They ask questions about the dairy farmers and our relationships with them,” comments The Bel France’s Coco. “I think it’s very healthy. It’s positive because once they’ve said yes, they are fully immersed. Working with them over the medium or long term engenders loyalty, and often, in the end, they make more content than we ask for and we create a real relationship with them.”
The French market’s increasing maturity is also born out in the development of new regulations governing the industry. In May, the government approved the extension of laws requiring that children appearing in influencer marketing campaigns be paid, and conferring on them the right to ask for content to be deleted once they reach the age of 16.
Meanwhile, France’s advertising regulatory authority, the ARPP, has developed a ‘Certificate of Responsible Influence’ which aims to educate creators of their ethical and legal obligations, assist them to differentiate brand content, and incorporate ethical and responsible values into their content.
“The question of responsible influence is developing on several levels,” comments Coco, who has worked with the ARPP to develop and promote the certificate guidelines and best practices. “The rules are getting tougher, as is the legislation, both to avoid excesses — of which there have unfortunately been some in the past — and also to protect content creators. I also think the concept of responsible influence will extend to other industry practices such as gifting, its carbon footprint and the waste it produces.”
Trends to watch
Looking ahead, competition within French influencer marketing can be expected to heat up, and with it the cost of influencer marketing is only set to increase. This comes as external economic conditions are forcing companies to tighten marketing budgets. The net impact of these issues will be greater recourse to data across all stages of the influencer marketing chain, from the selection of KOLs to measuring ROI.
More refined use of data, and new tools on the social platforms that integrate shopping features that facilitate conversion for influencers and brands, will also see French players take the plunge into social commerce.
“I think live shopping in France is going to explode, as are the services which allow for item by item tracking,” comments Razorfish’s Orain. “There will be much stronger measurement of influencers’ contributions. The fashion and beauty brands are already far ahead of the game [in this area] and I think the other brands will follow.”
The Bel France’s Coco says the French influencer industry is solidifying around practices that are responsible, professional, and focused on business objectives. In this vein, she agrees that social commerce is set to be the next major trend in influencer marketing in France, as more brands move towards omnichannel offers.
“It is a sign that the conversion will also be facilitated. We talk a lot about awareness, about consideration, but the goal is to generate business, and for that, the functionalities of the platforms are evolving to precisely allow direct purchase of products that are highlighted in influencer content,” comments Coco. “We can clearly see that the market is in the process of adapting. This connection with business is becoming more and more palpable, and that’s why the technical evolution of the platforms are also important.”