Nearly two thirds of marketers are upping their budgets for influencers, but is that a good thing? According to a new study by the World Federation of Advertisers, 65% of surveyed multi-national brands plan to increase the influencer marketing span over the next 12 months.

The reason for this new investment in influencers, well, 86% say that it's because they want to increase brand awareness, 74% it's because they want to reach new and more targeted audiences, and 69% say they're trying to build brand advocacy.

When asked how they are choosing their influencers, marketers are saying credibility, reputation, and quality of followers as the top criteria for how they choose their brand ambassadors. Multiple payment forms exist when it comes to paying off these influencers, and the most popular ones include flat fee for content, free product for content, fee for performance, and my favorite, leaving the money directly on the nightstand.

With the brand safety issues that platforms like Google and Facebook are having, it's no wonder why advertisers are desperate to get their fat stacks of cash into a place that's actually safe, and that brings us to tonight's topic. Advertising is not always branding.

Branding is the process of becoming synonymous with the category that a product's in. Kleenex means facial tissue. Bandaid has repped the adhesive bandage category since I was a kid and had a turtle, held it up to my ear and it bit my ear, and then I needed a Bandaid. So advertising has long since been the main vessel of branding because there weren't many opportunities to reach audiences that scale. But the internet has changed all of that, and we've got to realize the much bigger branding opportunity that's in front of us all.

Consider this, there are two types of media out there, content and advertising. Before the internet, and especially before social media, advertising was top dog because content publishers, from TV, to print, to music, to radio, all of them, they've been incredibly diligent at gating content behind advertising. We, consumers agree to be barraged by ads in exchange for the things that we wanted to watch. Marketing dollars will flow like water towards the channels that drive the most value, and the most interactions with the brand. And so for years, the very structure of our media system has supported advertisers as a disproportionate amount of our brand experiences. But all of this has changed in the last decade or so.

In recent years, consumers have flocked to social media in part because they're trying to escape advertising, and just get content. In a recent study commissioned by Mention Me and published on Marketing Week, 71% of consumers prefer to discover brands themselves, rather than from traditional forms of push advertising. So we're trying to get away from advertising and get to content. But marketers have been really lazy on how they're taking those dollars from advertising and putting them into social media, and putting them into content, and they don't understand it's not about social media at all. It's about advertising versus content. Case and point, influencer marketing is really only a thing right now because Instagram celebrities have A, they understand that quality content is branding, and B, they're the only ones who are willing to slog it out on new platforms like Instagram long enough for it to start to pay off.

And in a recent Forbes article, Mike Schmidt, the co-founder of social media services company, Dovetail, says this: "Influencers themselves represent a weird trichotomy of content, influence, and strategy. Some brands just want to piggy back on that influence with a more pump and dump strategy to increase sales, someone to acquire content, and the rare, yet savvy brands will look to those influencers for their creative opinion." Why would you pay those influencers for their creative opinion? Well, the answer is to get dollars out of advertising and into content production as quickly as possible. And that's how you can begin to fix marketing today.

If your CEO wants brand safety, then you need to be creating content. If your CFO is upset about the increasing cost of Google, Facebook, and other advertising platforms, then you need to invest in your own channels. And if your CMO wants to see your brand at the top of search results when people search for products in your category, then you need to put some of those ad dollars into ranking organically for the most competitive terms in your industry. 'Cause when you show up number one for the term Bandaid, you're the new Bandaid.

To get started, you don't need more budget. All you gotta do is use a portion of your advertising budget to fund your content creation. So historically, ad buys for TV were broken down like this. Eighty percent went towards the media buy, and then 20% went towards the media management and the content creation. Now look at what your company is spending on awareness right now, and ask yourself what would happen if we took a portion of that 20%, or all of that 20% and used it to create high quality content instead of a bunch of banner ads that you know, don't do so well, or maybe even paying off all of these influencers. That 80% media buy will go a ton further because the high quality content, with all the shares that it'll get organically and socially, it'll drive that overall cost per engagement way, way, way, way down, making your advertising more effective, safer, awesome, good branding, all these things. Fantastic, right?

And so that is how you can end up with a way to justify the creation of high quality content. Take your advertising spend and start to use it to create content that's promoted, versus advertising that doesn't go anywhere. The most engaging brands today have already learned this from influencers and are doing it right now.