Influencer marketing – a six-figure line 72% of brands had in their marketing budget this year. There’s no point in denying: influencer marketing works. At least for now in its current form.
As we all know, once a marketing trick becomes popular, its effectiveness starts shrinking over time. This already happened to organic Facebook reach and a number of growth hacks employed by different startups in their early stages. By all means, “proven blueprints” do work as long as they are customized and used rationally by brands. But when companies just apply the same “patch remedy formula” over and over again, at some point it stops “sticking” well.
This is exactly what seems to be happening to influencer marketing. We are yet to approach the holiday season, but 52% of consumers are already expressing their distaste for repetitive advertising offers being pitched to them by influencers. What’s even more problematic is that influencers are no longer viewed as “relatable” by the average user. The same study indicates that 54% of respondents view the majority of influencer content as a serious misrepresentation of real life.
For brands, that’s an early sign that some changes must be made to their strategies if they want to enjoy the same ROI from their #spon campaign.
One of the main goals of influencer marketing is to show that your product is highly favored en masse. The modern consumer doesn’t trust traditional advertising methods and is known to rely on peer recommendations.
However, to generate plenty of WOM and buzz around your brand you do not always need to invest in jumbo-sized influencer marketing campaigns. Plenty of consumers just want to ensure that they are “getting the good stuff” based on what others say. As Joe Rohrlich from Bazaarvoice puts it: “Today’s consumers are looking to corroborate what they see or hear in one place with the information they find elsewhere”.
That kind of “awareness” and “research” stage content should not only come from paid marketing campaigns. To mellow out influencer endorsements, you can develop Voice of Customer (VOC) programs and place more relatable characters in the spotlight, recruit brand ambassadors and mine plenty of feedback for future product development. In fact, another report indicates that 56% of forward-thinking consumers now take more inspiration from brands than influencers.
Instagram has become a popular launch pad for B2C brands in the beauty, apparel and a range of other industries. The problem? Growing your account these days has become a lot harder, even if you are relying on paid advertising tools. It’s no longer enough to publish great content or regularly run ads. So start considering the alternatives.
If you want to stick with Instagram, weigh in advertising and sponsorship deals for Instagram Stories, rather than posts. Ryan Erskine just shared some curious stats on how game-changing Stories can be for brands:
Another option worth exploring is direct celebrity endorsements. Apart from having a presence on social media platforms, some celebrities and Internet personalities have migrated to Personally Owned Platforms (POPs). For instance, Amber Rose, Dita Von Teese, and Ashley Tisdale now run personal fan apps with the help of escapex. According to Sephi Shapira, CEO of EscapeX, “Unlike social media platforms, POPs offer less competition for fan attention and more ways to engage with fans one-on-one, for authentic and meaningful interactions. Not to mention, when an influencer owns the relationship with their fanbase, it’s easier to mobilize and monetize their hard-earned following on their own terms.”
The ethics of influencer marketing often gets debated, especially when it comes to proper disclosures and affiliations. This year the majority (63%) of brands played by the FTC guidelines, while 37% still ran undisclosed campaigns with celebrities according to IZEA. Clearly, we are nowhere close to full transparency in this area and more efforts should be made.
As mentioned already, most consumers are not opposed to branded content per se. But they will ruthlessly call out supposedly “authentic” content when they spot such. A UK-based influencer Scarlett London made the headlines for all the wrong reasons earlier this year after sharing an overly staged “perfect morning” routine that included a product placement. Her content raised a lot of backlash on other social media platforms like Twitter, showing how consumers’ opinions are drifting towards increased skepticism.
Companies will need to rethink how they approach influencer marketing in terms of content creation standards, brand integrations, and transparency if they want to generate the same amount of buzz onward. Without performing the “balancing act”, influencer marketing will just become another used-out trick in the marketing stack.