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Influencer Marketing Show Europe: Influencer marketing at turning point as trust and authenticity take center stage

Content authenticity, transparency and developing long-term influencer partnerships are essential to success in Europe's rapidly maturing influencer marketing industry, attendees at the region’s premier influencer marketing trade event in London heard last week.

Kolsquare Team at IMS Europe
Kolsquare Team at IMS Europe

Influencer Marketing Show (IMS) Europe welcomed 1,300 visitors, 29 tech and agency exhibitors, and delivered some 30 conferences covering key topics from UGC and nano-influencer campaigns, sustainable and responsible marketing, Gen Z, and the impact of new data regulations.

At an event like IMS, you can feel that the industry is thriving and the potential is unlimited, but I also have the feeling that our industry is at a turning point,” Kolsquare Founder and CEO Quentin Bordage said of the event.

Influencer marketing is becoming more legitimate and mature, perimeters in the value chain are clearer and players are starting to ask themselves the right questions about ethics.”

Delivering a presentation titled ‘How to use Responsible Influence to drive Positive Change and ROI’, Bordage outlined how evolving audience and KOL expectations, and new regulations are working to put the industry on a path to a more ethical and sustainable future. Crucially, incorporating responsible influence practices is proven to deliver stronger, more sustainable ROI.  

You don’t need to be an ethical brand to do ethical marketing, and you don’t need to be a big brand to do responsible influence,” Bordage said. “Responsible Influence is the practice of Influencer Marketing that respects both the law and the ethical principles of the industry.

IMS Europe: Top Takeaways


Authenticity was the buzz-word of IMS Europe. As the market tightens, creators and audiences increasingly crave authentic content. Audiences do not hesitate to unfollow accounts they perceive as delivering inauthentic content, while creators in search of a sustainable business model are prioritizing brand partnerships in terms of the long-term value over short-term profits.

Fostering sustainable creator partnerships leads to greater receptivity from audiences and delivers higher ROI over the long term. Brands should adopt a test and learn approach, working with creators organically to test the brand fit, before moving onto deeper collaborative approaches. While gifting is a good way to launch relationships with creators, it should be phased out over time in favor of collaborative, and paid, content strategies.  

The rising power of nano-influencers

The everyday, mom-next-door product recommendation is the holy grail of social media conversion, delivering highly targeted authentic content. But scaling a nano-influencer strategy to achieve critical reach is time-consuming and unwieldy, diluting ROI. Key to success is targeting people who are already fans of the brand, and amplifying organic content like unboxings or tutorials with paid ads to extend the lifestyle of the content.

“To scale a nano strategy, start small and adopt a test and learn strategy. Stagger the scale-up over time so you can optimize the brief in line with how the market is receiving it,” UniTaskr Co-founder and CEO Joseph Black said.

UGC + paid content

With more and more social media users adopting ad blockers, options like TikTok Spark Ads enable advertisers to circumvent ad blockers by delivering ads from the creator account. And because they are delivered to the user’s feed by the creator account, they are better received by the audience. Boosting top-performing content from a campaign through paid ads is key to delivering results at the bottom of the funnel.

Performance measurement

Calls are increasing for the industry to develop universal performance measurement to enable influencer marketing to be effectively benchmarked against traditional marketing activities. The calls come amid confusion and mistrust of EMV (earned media value) as a KPI, and widespread anecdotal evidence (which Meta denies) that changes to Instagram’s algorithm and associated focus on video content have diluted campaign and influencer performance. However, with TikTok on the rise, some industry players argue diminished performance is down to brands and creators homogenizing short video content and failing to play to the individual strengths of each platform.

IM stakes its place in the marketing mix

The proven effectiveness of influencer marketing is no longer in doubt, leading to more brands creating dedicated in-house teams and integrating the activity across the marketing mix as a whole. Educating PR, social media and executive teams about how influencer marketing works is crucial, as is incorporating effective, rostered influencers into business activities over and above content creation.

Optimizing budgets

In the high inflationary context, many brands are seeing budget levels stagnate, or reduce, with marketers being called on to do more with less — even as influencer fees rise. Optimizing influencer budgets by recognizing the individual strengths of each influencer in terms of audience size, niche and campaign objectives is crucial. As is using influencer content to support other activities like paid social.

Market expansion

The boom in influencer marketing is driving an influx of new players — be they creators or agencies — into the space. While diversification of agencies and talents offers brands greater opportunities to specialize and target niche audiences, there is also a rise in nefarious, or “shady” characters trying to leverage the trust upon which the industry is built. More than ever, marketers and creators need to conduct thorough due diligence research before entering into partnerships.

What they said

On diversity in content creation

“It’s very difficult and very competitive. In 2020, when the BLM movement was trending on social media, we saw an influx of brands wanting to use diverse and specifically black talent in their marketing and content creation. Over the last three years, we have seen a significant decline of the use of people within that space. There’s more of a negotiation and having to prove why diverse talent sells. We’ve noticed that using minority influencers has become more of a gamble for brands. They’re more hesitant because they’re not sure they’re going to see the ROI, which isn’t true because we have the case studies to prove that diverse influencers deliver solid ROI.”  DEfy Social Co-founder Destiny York

On transparency

“We’re evolving as an industry. Regulation needs to happen because Influencer Marketing is a form of advertising. The younger generation are coming up and their feeds are consumed with more ads than ever before. In terms of creators and the impact labeling has, platforms are also driving more ads. That’s how they make their revenue. So you need to find the balance: this is where the right partnerships make sense because if I see content that’s an ad, but it’s something I’m interested in, I will still consider purchasing. There needs to be that [label] #ad, otherwise we’re misleading audiences.” Social Chain Head of Influencer Amelia Wollaston

On working with creators

“Creators need the strategy, the purpose of why they show up helps them make informed decisions [about who to partner with]. As a creator, as soon as you tweak your mindset into ‘this is my business, I am a brand myself’, it means you make decisions for the long term. When a creator works for a brand that doesn’t fit, you can tell it’s a short-term thing and that’s when it comes off as in-authentic. If they’re thinking long-term, they’ll also prioritize their brand.” Influencer Tomorrow founder and social media strategist Laura Ridgers (100k Instagram followers)

On what to watch in 2024

“The industry is at an inflection point where social first and influencer strategies are coming together. Data regulation is going to be critically important. It’s going to drive the platforms into a different way of thinking from a marketing perspective. You’re going to end up in a world where pay-gated communities, micropayments, subscriptions, and live shopping are coming at us. With social commerce, creators will become even more intrinsic and central to the growth of those platform-led monetization strategies.

“[Next year will be] an iPhone moment for VR [and] thinking about the role that immersive content plays. Combine that with the growth of AI, which will embolden creativity — not stifle it — and accelerate more immersive content. It’s an evolution […that will see] creators as more central to an advertising strategy. As those things come together, they’re going to drive quite a central amount of growth. That means there are probably going to be fewer of us operating specifically in the influencer marketing niche; we’re seeing a consolidation of agencies and a lot of acquisitions still in the waters.” IMTB (Influencer Marketing Trade Body) Chair, and The Fifth CEO Oliver Lewis.

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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