What are influencers if not influential?
The term ‘influencer marketing’ was coined to describe the art of promoting products through a person of interest on social media. It started with the ‘big names’ such as Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian etc. and has since funnelled down into what are known as ‘micro-influencers’, who are smaller names in the relative scheme of things, but still supposed noteworthy people nevertheless.
Influencer marketing hasn’t been around for a long time. It’s only really come to prominence the last few years, but boy has it grown. There are now not only individual persons, but whole agencies devoted to influencer marketing. And it’s now well credited as an effective way to promote a product or grow a brand.
But, as with any, the industry is massively flawed. You’ve got the likes of Georgia Steel, and even Kim K herself promoting morally questionable products such as hunger suppressants and arguably choosing pay packets over ethics. And you’ve also got many accused of influencer fraud, which is a blanket term mainly associated with those that lie about their engagements (by buying fake followers, for example).
Nothing is perfect, but influencer marketing has become really problematic recently.
The practice isn’t dead (as I still maintain that when targeted correctly, influencer marketing can be very effective) but it’s dying at the hands of engagement myths and skewed morality.
Influence Starts At Home
Some influencers are paid incomprehensible amounts of money to ‘promote’ a product across their channels. Which, as I recently found out from a behind-the-scenes guest post, isn’t even true to their authentic opinion. So how can we measure their impact?
Truth be told it’s very hard. Because likes aren’t always indicative of leads, sales, conversions etc.
I mean, a post could get an excess of 100,000 likes, but of those 100,000 likes, there mightn’t even be a single visitor to a website. Companies can use analytics to see if any traffic comes directly from social media. But the problem with this is, on Instagram (where most influencer marketing takes place), you can’t even link on a caption. Referral traffic must be tiny. Meaning essentially, this kind of promotion a stab in the dark. There’s no one true way to monitor a campaign’s effectiveness, and whether budgets have been well spent or not isn’t always clear.
What this means is that looks can be deceiving. This is where Instagram user and ‘influencer’ @arii comes in.
I came across this tweet last night; it got me to thinking about influencer marketing and whether like the original tweet-writer mentioned, the influencer marketing bubble is bursting.
Because as ‘@kissmyelite’ rightly mentioned, this Instagram user has 2.6 million followers, yet when launching her own ‘clothing brand’ that was supposedly supported by her devoted followers, she failed to even sell enough products to break even. The cruel irony as well is that she actually tried to promote her brand through her own bout of influencer marketing. Arguably, this led to her brand’s demise before it ever really truly took off.
In the since-deleted Instagram post, ‘arii’ explained how she received endless support for her business venture before it kickstarted, only to see virtually no sales following its launch. And while I feel for this girl and find the whole affair terribly sad, I can’t help but think that this debacle just sums up influencer marketing in 2019. A heavily saturated industry that’s become a tactic used as vanity metric above all else, I believe. A sponsored post might get tens of thousands of likes and ‘engagements’, but how many of those convert to actual sales? It’s sad to say, but I imagine there are fewer and fewer as time goes on.
So, Has The Bubble Burst?
I think the above fiasco is a really good analogy for the general practice of influencer marketing and what it’s become. However, that being said, I still maintain that this kind of marketing can be effective and can be profitable. If it’s done tactfully and with thought, as opposed to just being used to tick a box.
You Need To Find The Right Influencers…
I think what segregates the effective campaigns from the ineffective is the effort executed at the very start of the process. Because at the end of the day, if you’re picking off random ‘influencers’ without any research into their audience and their impressions, you’re cooking up a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, if you want to use influencer marketing to support your promotional efforts for a new product (for example); if you do the right research into the kind of persona you want to target first, and then find out the kind of people that they are influenced by, then you have a much better shot at making your marketing work. It doesn’t stop there, though. Once you’ve found a list of good, influential people that appeal to your target consumer, you’ll also need to make sure you’ve vetted them against fake engagement and following. There are some pretty nifty apps you can use for this now, but honestly, it’s easy enough to compare their follower count to their post-engagement to see if there are any anomalies there. Plus, it’s not hard to spot the kind of fake accounts that are used when likes are brought.
…And Use Them To Promote Effectively
Then once you’ve found your ‘influencers’, you need to make sure you’re using them effectively. In my experience in influencer marketing, the best ones are those with passion. Not the kind who’ll quickly throw something together then hold their hands out for their payslip, but instead the kind who care about their audiences and promote brands they have a genuine interest in. Take Em Clarkson for example, probably my most favourite Instagram user and influencer ever. In all my time following her, I have only ever noticed her promote one product through her channel. I don’t doubt that she gets many offers, she has an incredibly influential profile. But she only tends to allow sponsored posts to this one brand.
Why? because it’s a product she uses, it’s one that resonates with her and what she talks about on Instagram, and above all – it’s what she knows her followers like to hear her talk about. This is the kind of influencer you want associating with your brand, not the jack-of-all-trades types who are slowly sinking the ship.
So in conclusion, no, the influencer bubble hasn’t burst… But there are far more pins nearby than ever before. As this recent demonstration has shown.