Influencer Marketing: Is It Going Anywhere, Anytime Soon?
From the dawn of time, human beings have always turned to people of influence for guidance on how to live, survive or behave.
In modern times, celebrities (i.e. singers, actors, sports stars and many more) have usurped that mantle of influence on the masses.
The rise of social media stars is a recent phenomenon, which sprouted from the widespread success of certain platforms (such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and a host of other channels.)
Suddenly a new category of online users, referred to as “influencers” (also known as content creators or digital talent), emerged on the assumption that such influencers were able to influence others into following a certain trend, purchase a specific product or adopt a new opinion.
Influencers are of value to various businesses and their respective brands as they can promote brand awareness via their social media channels, promoting sales or brand recognition to their audience.
The question at hand is whether influencers are really commanding the loyal following of their followers. In simpler terms, do influencers still have influence on their followers?
According to Cara Curtis of TheNextWeb.com there seems to be a downward trend in influencer clout.
“It’s become impossible to scroll through Instagram without seeing a #sponsored post, perfectly staged product photos, or an influencer selling her own bathwater," Curtis writes.
"The industry seemed unstoppable, but a recent study has revealed that influencer engagement rates are nearing an all-time low."
In its latest Influencer Marketing Benchmarks Report 2019, InfluencerDB (a company that tracks and analyzes influencers impact) stated “. . . compared to 2018 the average Like Follower Ratio (LFR) decreased in each of our measured sectors: beauty, fashion, food, lifestyle, travel, sports, and fitness.”
Was this whole phenomenon of "influencers” merely a bubble, a pure smoke and mirror play? Was it causing the waning of the influencers’ influence? Several factors play a role.
The main culprit that has been identified by analysts and influencers is the ever-increasing over-crowding of social media by sponsored ads. Such increase appears to have a direct impact on the decrease in engagement rates.
In addition, the introduction of new algorithms (mainly by Instagram) which has altered the chronological order of feeds and favored sponsored posts seems to have played a role too.
The dip in engagement is not new, it’s been happening for about a year and a half now and it’s mainly because Instagram changed its algorithm, making it harder for posts to get the same reach they used to,” Luthra said.
The soaring numbers of “influencers” out there is another essential factor. It seems that everyone purports to be either an influencer or a wannabe influencer. This in turn is becoming a turn-off for many social media users.
Scams are getting uncovered and the constant shout-outs to miracle products are not helping. There is a new awareness and need for influencers to be responsible for the products and services they are selling. The days where it was acceptable to push harmful products like miracle teeth whiteners, “slimming” teas, and harmful waist-trainers are over. There is an increasing urgency for professionalism and transparency.
YouTubers are ahead on this angle: many are posting videos where they discuss their personal problems openly, whether mental, physical, or financial; several are taking a stand to help teenagers understand how one can “fake” everything if they wanted to. Vlogger Gabbie Hanna demonstrated that by staging her “attending” Coachella through clever photo editing tricks and props.
Does this herald the end of the influencer marketing era? Not at all. The influencer marketing industry is constantly evolving and adapting to new realities.
According to InfluencerDB “. . . the ‘gold rush’ of influencer marketing is over and companies can no longer use a ‘spray and pray’ attitude to achieve visible results. The industry matures and is becoming more diverse and responsible. Success is reflected in engaging and responsible campaigns that resonate with the audience and are strategically planned.”
Those who will not only survive but thrive are the ones who can seamlessly adapt and work with new trends and media platforms. They are the ones that work with brands, who can successfully and confidently promote products and/or services – and not just any brand they come across.
It is about understanding what their sponsors want to achieve and communicating the right content that will translate to followers buying the brand and not just “looking, liking, and commenting.” As such, influencers have an ethical duty to ensure that their message is properly measured and communicated.
Influencers have been around well-before the term was coined. Like many celebrities and public figures, influencers will always draw criticism from some and perhaps envy from others. However, they will also have a real influence on followers’ views, beliefs and behaviors.
Edelman CEO of global client strategy Michelle Hutton said to B&T “. . . 63 per cent of people believe what influencers say about brands, more than what brands say about themselves in their advertising.”
When it comes to discovering new products, influencers still have the upper hand. Whether you believe the business of influencer is here to stay or, simply, a bubble the “clout” (as the kids are now calling it) of online content creators and digital talent isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.
Written by Rosine Sioufi (@letsplayfashion).
Sioufi is an experienced fashion designer and blogger, who founded and worked as an Editor-in-Chief for a prominent fashion college. She is a veteran fashionista who after getting her Bachelor’s in Political Science decided fashion was what she truly loved. After having 3 kids, Rosine found her way back to her passion and has accumulated several fashion diplomas. She’s attended Esmod, London College of Fashion and CFD-Dubai and was recognized by Majid Al Futtaim Group at their MOE Bloom Competition where she was awarded Best Design.