If I had a ‘Like’ for every time I was asked that question…. I’d be, well, an Influencer! Or… not.
There is no doubt Influencer and Social Media marketing has changed the way brands and products talk to the consumer. It’s no secret that the control of brands has switched from the brand to the hands of the customer and, as such, many marketers see influencers as offering an opportunity to engage with customers on a personal level, listen to them and react accordingly.
Plenty of brands have drunk the influencer Kool Aid with global ad spend on Influencer marketing growing at a rapid rate. In fact, Influencer content generated 72% of all activity on Facebook in the US in 2018 and 57% of companies have an influencer marketing program underway.
Of course, influencers aren’t an entirely new concept. Paid spokespeople have always existed and it was generally understood they were being paid to spruik a product, so recommendations were taken with a grain of salt.
In a pre-Instagram world, editors of magazines or newspapers were considered influencers endorsing products or services without bias or payment to give readers an objective opinion. Not unlike social media influencers, this credibility got muddied by deals tied up in advertising spends and ‘bonus editorial’ eventually became part of the advertising package.
Nowadays, the lines are even more blurred on what is genuine and what’s ‘cash for comment’. And rightly so with influencers receiving continued scrutiny as questions arise around ROI and when this bubble may burst.
Right now, there are hundreds of Influencer marketing companies promising to “Strengthen brand messaging through authentic endorsements” but how ‘authentic’ are they when there is lack of transparency on how they are paid?
And this authenticity cuts both ways with customers questioning whether the ‘influencer’ is recommending a brand or product because they are being paid to or because they genuinely believe in it.
Furthermore, questions are being asked about the suitability of the partnerships with mismatched alignments and a grab for follower numbers resulting in opportunistic rorting of the system by fake followers and dishonest conduct (fake accounts, bots clicking likes, etc). Trust is a valid concern for both businesses and consumers making it harder for brands to protect their reputation.
Still, brands continue to work with influencers and if you are thinking about wading into the water, you’ll need to start with an understanding of the types of influencers and what they can deliver.
Mega Influencers are well known celebrities with huge followings that reach massive audiences but they are few and far between and very expensive! They are also the least trusted.
Macro Influencers, on the other hand, have less followers (over 1M) yet are more trusted for authentic content. Still, there are challenges with creative control and brands can be at their mercy.
The third group, Micro Influencers, have a smaller pool of customers to reach (between 10K and 250K), yet they are often far more targeted to audience interests. They tend to be more affordable making their content more genuine and their engagement with their followers much more intimate and responsive. The success of Jules Lund’s Tribe platform has been built on this and is completely relevant for some campaigns. Micro influencers, however, require a lot more time and effort from a brand.
So given all this, should you allocate more of your budget to Influencer marketing? I’d say it depends on a number of factors. Certainly consider it – but tread with caution and look at the bigger picture objectives for the product or brand. It may well be that your money is better invested elsewhere.