Many companies are now keen on “doing” or being seen to be “doing” influencer marketing. This often involves paying Instagram or YouTube celebrities to endorse and promote their products. It’s probably the biggest marketing trend in recent years.
But like with most trends, influencer marketing has been overhyped. In their frenzied attempt to hop on the bandwagon, (many) marketers lose their critical judgement.
Marketers overestimate usage and reach
A 2017 AdNation research showed that whilst 33% of the Australian public used Instagram in a given week, marketers had estimated this to be 89%. This gross overestimation was clearly driven by marketers’ personal usage (79%), and the problem is replicated across other digital platforms.
After all, marketers are an incredibly poor representatives of the general public. They are more likely to be younger and more technologically savvy.
Fake influencers with fake followers
Influencer marketing fraud is endemic. As money and deals pour into social media personalities, the problem with bots and fake followers have increased tremendously. A 2018 study by CampaignDeus found that 12% of UK influencers had bought fake followers in the previous six months. The true figure may be much higher.
One major company has had enough. In a major move, Unilever is cutting ties with any influencer found to be buying followers.
This has also driven Instagram to act against “inauthentic content”. After all, Instagram is fully aware that the organic feel of its online community is harmed by commercialisation-driven behaviour. It has built AI tools to help identify accounts and behaviour that violate its guidelines. I am however sceptical that this would make a meaningful difference in an ongoing arms race.
Is influencer marketing right for you?
Having said all that, for certain brands and products, influencer marketing can and should be an important part of their marketing mix.
“When you have an influencer speak about product straight away, almost within an hour of them promoting something, you can see uplift in sales.” – David Legrand, Beauty Director at Selfridges
Before undertaking influencer marketing, it is important that you critically assess the following:
- How would your target customers react to influencer marketing? A recent survey conducted by consumer analysts Savvy Marketing for the BBC found that 71% of British shoppers typically do not trust any product recommendations made by social media influencers.
- Are you choosing the right influencers to represent your brand?
- Is the platform right for your brand and customers? Most influencer marketing takes place on Instagram and YouTube.
- Is influencer marketing consuming a disproportionate share of your overall marketing spend? Spread your marketing budget appropriate across the right channels.
And most importantly, as with all your other marketing efforts, ensure that your influencer marketing approach is evidence-based and their performance assessed regularly.