Just when you got rolling on your Influencer Marketing Strategy, it turns out this is another thing that us Marketers ruin…
Dubbed the era of the solo-preneur, and the You-Economy, many individuals are seeking to build their own brand. These individuals are hearing about the ‘millions’ being made by influencer rock-stars and want the same for themselves.
As they go out to become an influencer in a certain niche, an interesting development is occuring…
Swarms of Influencers
More and more influencers are getting into the social sphere, and as a result, they are promoting brands to their circle of friends and family. These smaller influencers, micro-influencers, have a smaller circle of their friends and family. So when they promote a brand or a product, their inner circle is the primary recipient.
Before diving in more, let me pause to define influencer marketing for the purposes of this article. We are likely familiar with traditional influencers, celebrity endorsements such as:
Selena Gomez, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian who garner millions of Likes and can charge $20,000 for a single Tweet.
Then there are other layers of influencers that are not celebrities but still manage to have a lot of followers, in the 50,000 to 200,000 range.
And now, with micro-influencers, you have a growing population of influencers that are in the few thousand follower range. This growth is with lower barriers to entry, thanks to tools available within platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and also through third-party applications that allow these influencers to manage their brands and the related monetization opportunities.
Previously, if your ‘techie’ friend would tell you about the new Samsung phone, you would believe they had researched the product and genuinely were recommending it. In this new era of influencers and brand ambassadors, can friends still rely on the recommendation? Or will they have to second-guess their friend’s true intentions?
An example of an influencer who is being rebuked by their followers shows that this backlash is already present.
You can see that while this influencer took a lot of time to put this post together, the comments from followers were critical. Unfortunately, there is still a learning curve for newer entrants in the influencer arena.
While celebrity and mainstream influencers understand the rules of the game, namely how one goes about properly disclosing their sponsors, newer entrants may not be aware of these guidelines. The repercussions aren’t limited to just an upset audience.
The FTC Weighs In
In April 2017, the FTC decided to reach out directly to nearly 100 Instagram influencers warning them about proper disclosure. Terms such as “#sp” (sponsored post) are not sufficient, nor is pushing down the approved terms such as “#sponsored” or “#ad” below line 3 acceptable (a trick that requires clicking ‘more’ to view the entire post).
#Awkward Posts by Friends
So imagine that you are going through your feed of posts by your friends and start seeing more and more “#ad” posts… There is a very likely possibility that friends keep promoting one anothers’ brands to help one another and the authenticity of truly recommending a product gets lost.
While criticism is part of the social media ecosystem, this trend of local and micro-influencers is creating a new dynamic between real world friends. Is it possible that people you trusted, can no longer be trusted thanks to a marketing sponsored relationship?
This Could Happen
While there is still a lot of room for growth for influencer marketing, and an opportunity for the everyday citizen to become a local influencer, as marketers, and as a society, we should look at the direction of where things are headed. We should ask ourselves if this is what we really intended to do, and whether word of mouth is going to be ruined by marketers.
Going With the Flow
As marketers, do we really have the ability to ‘influence’ what is happening here? Not really. We still have to leverage influencer marketing as a legitimate form of building and engaging our audience. After all, influencer marketing brings third party credibility that augments customer testimonials to give potential customers peace of mind that they can believe in what the brand is saying.
Beyond this benefit, influencer and celebrity endorsements work. Research has found that millennials and Gen Z do have increased brand loyalty when exposed to influencers. Collective Bias, which measures influencer marketing effectiveness, commissioned a report, along with Inmar and Placed, finding that influencer campaigns (in CPG) outperformed control groups online and resulted in foot-traffic in retail stores. Given that influencer marketing is driving sales, don’t expect this practice to slow down any time soon.
However, we can all self-regulate ourselves, and our influencers, to ensure we aren’t misleading the public, or our friends.