Log in to any social channel at any time, on any day, and you’ll likely come across scores of social media influencers in your feed. Do a search for keywords in your brand category, and you’ll find still more. From the heavy-hitter with a fanbase in the many millions, to the micro influencer who engages a few thousand people with his or her platform, it’s not at all hyperbolic to say that these are the people driving commerce today.
The strength of the influencer model comes from the fact that a genuine, ongoing interaction is initiated by the content creator and shaped by the viewer. There are really no shortcuts to that kind of connection. The only proven way to rack up a huge, loyal fan base is to produce consistent, informed, entertaining stories, pay close attention to audience feedback and then allow them the time it takes to develop trust in your point of view.
Kings and Queens
The fact that the internet gets louder and more crowded literally by the second means businesses—and the experts who market them—are constantly having to scale efforts if they want to break through the noise. Nowhere is that truer than on social media.
Even focused, creative communication, perfectly scheduled posting and friendly, helpful interaction can’t guarantee you’ll hit those KPI heights. The aggressive competition for share of attention means that even with amazing content, brands can have a hard time encircling and engaging their audiences effectively. Plus, Forbes says that 47% of online consumers use ad blockers, knocking down the effectiveness of paid ads.
One reason meaningful engagement is so tough is that today’s buyer wants genuine recommendations from peers to whom they can relate. We’re all increasingly concerned with making connections, rather than being sold to.
That means, while content may be king, user generated content is… what’s better than king? Queen? Okay then, queen.
Just because everybody else is doing it…
A scary marketing truth: The time and attention spent producing and promoting branded content may not quickly translate to ROI. If you’re a brand looking to social media for fast conversions, it makes sense that you’d want to collaborate with someone who has an already-engaged audience, ready to (often immediately!) act on his or her recommendations for products, services and experiences.
Last year, over 60% of brands implemented influencers in their overall marketing strategy. And, in a recent survey, 84% of marketers said they plan to launch at least one influencer campaign within the next 12 months.
Influence is pricey
How much is word of mouth worth? In 2016, it priced in at about $10 billion.
There are two top-tier lifestyle Instagrammers, each with a total community of around one million followers, who reportedly charge $15,000 and $20,000 respectively, for a single post. And a YouTube “beauty guru” with 2 million or more subs can earn upwards of $75,000 each month just through affiliate links.
For most brands, there’s no way they’ll see the level of ROI needed to justify that kind of investment.
More can be less
Marketers are taught, early and often, to figure out what works, and do that. Do it A LOT. So the idea that when it comes to promoting your message, more isn’t always more, goes against everything we know. But, overdoing any marketing tactic could negatively affect results, and influencer marketing is no exception.
Social influencer promotions are now ubiquitous, in fact, unavoidable. Which means the market is moving toward oversaturation. Additionally, users are ever more informed about—and suspicious of –the paid opportunities their favorite influencers accept. A blogger or vlogger might have viewer numbers in the millions, but at what point does that influencer stop being trustworthy or truly engaging to his or her fanbase?
Consumers will undoubtedly be desensitized if the social media influencers they follow devolve into cyberized megaphones just used to push product for whoever offers the biggest check. Influencer deafness will become the new banner blindness. Right now, just like with banner blindness, influencer marketing is at risk of diminishing returns.
Organic just tastes better
When done too aggressively, influencer distribution is anathema to compelling marketing. Buyers know when you’re pushing a manufactured reality. If the message seems forced, your target audience can sense that the brand is in control of the messaging. They easily see through the inauthentic and they ignore it.
The next step will be looking to already-involved consumers for organic content to use in campaigns. It’s a fresh and more honest approach that will look to a brand’s real fans and customers for genuine stories, and will aim those stories at driving like-minded customers down the path to purchase.
It’s a natural, authentic and, most importantly, honest approach to marketing content. And that’s exactly what buyers say they need to stay influenced for the long term.