5 Min Read |

Marketing departments have always struggled with three main challenges. Creating enough content to cover all audiences and channels, gaining the consumer’s attention and creating a trusted, authentic brand identity. When the influencer phenomenon came on the scene it seemed to answer all these problems in one go. So marketers were quick to take advantage of this new strategy – committing time, money and resources to building influencer campaigns, hiring hi-profile online personalities and acquiring platforms to manage it all.

But how much sway do these influencers really have, and should marketers be re-thinking who they get to front their campaigns.

Mediakix has recently estimated that the influencer market spend will reach $5-$10 billion by 2020. The influencer market is strong and continuing to grow at a rapid pace.

Their in-depth study indicates that advertisers spent a staggering $1.6 billion on Instagram alone in 2018. While, on a more pessimistic note it also pointed out that the fraudulent practice of fake Instagram influencer followings used by some macro and micro-influencers, could be costing advertisers as much as $100 million. In 2017 the FTC filed cases against individual (as opposed to just brands) when it was discovered a few months earlier that the majority of influencers on Instagram were not following FTC guidelines on brand sponsorship disclosure.

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that, while 75% of marketers presently employ influencer marketing activities, only 36% regard those efforts as effective and 19% actually admitted they are “ineffective.”

The rules on fake followers are tightening up. But is Influencer marketing losing its shine? For many brands, influencer marketing can prove to be a mixed-bag experience.

Authenticity

How do you know if an influencer’s follower numbers are real or fake?  It’s all too easy to add fake followers to an Instagram account – a quick google search will throw up several pay-per-follower methods to increase follower numbers – although Instagram is making an effort to eliminate the practice, Last year it warned users that anyone continuing to use the apps would find their Instagram experience impacted.

To weed out the fakes, marketers can use a screening tool like Instascreener to show up any discrepancies. It identifies an influencer’s actual following along with any fake followers, real engagements and impressions and their CPM.

Choosing The Right Influencer

Often, deciding just which influencer to go with can be a challenge.

For many brands the process generally goes something like this;

  • Search for keywords used in their bio/posts/blogs that match those you are looking for
  • Grade according to number of followers.
  • Manually refine the results…based on individual analysis.

Or it could look like this;

  • Define your target audience.
  • Identify the sources of influence most followed by your target audience.
  • Now manually refine these.

But how can you know what your target audience is looking at/visiting/subscribed to? Who are they following on Twitter/Instagram? What podcasts are they watching? What are they subscribed to on Youtube?

Until there is a way to access solid data to answer these questions (without spending a small fortune on a commissioned survey) then the process is a lot of guesswork.

Variable Results

Lets say you run a two campaigns with two different influencers. Both influencers have the same number of followers and put up the same number of similar posts each. Yet one campaign does significantly better than the other. Finding the reason for the discrepancy is nigh impossible and yet marketers are willing to invest scarce resources in methods that have no predictability.  

Using Celebrity Names To Draw Attention

Using celebrities is nothing new in social media marketing. But there are inherent risks and sometimes the sums of money involved can be astronomical. It can be all to easy to get carried away with the buzz – putting hype before substance. Kendall Jenner was allegedly paid $250,000 for a single Instagram post to promote the, now infamous, Fyre Festival. And if an influencer makes a mistake..or worse, the brand gets linked by association.

Brands should think carefully before committing large chunks of marketing budget to a strategy that relies heavily on ‘celebrity influencers’. It can end up soaking up the marketing resources that could be better used elsewhere.

Putting too much focus on building hype around a brand name doesn’t necessarily translate into positive views, feedback or into product sales. Influencers are good at getting attention, but that does not always convert into growing a business. You may end up with a barrel-full of metrics instead of building the brand.

Putting The Emphasis On Trust

While influencers may gain the attention of that 5,000 – 100,000 followers the marketer is looking for, that doesn’t mean the influencer’s opinion carries that much weight with his/her audience. A report by Stackla showed that only 23% of those surveyed accepted the opinion of influencers; instead preferring the advice of peers, friends and family.

Cameo is a service that allows fans to choose from a range of celebrities to get them to send brief, personalised video messages, for a fee. Low level Instagram influencers can charge as little as $5.00 whereas, higher up the scale a reality TV star like  Montana Brown charges $700.00. Other high- profile names include Blac Chyna and Ice-T.

While the site is intended to be harmless fun and not aimed at commercially promoting brands or products, does it contribute to the overall sense that celebrities are voices for hire?

Consumers are increasingly more aware of how some ‘influencers’ can be swayed by the offer of cash or other incentives.

Who Are The Best Influencers?

The best marketers are most likely to be your customers. It may seem like a cliché, but word of mouth is still one of the most effective ways of marketing. The power of social media along with the ubiquitous nature of smartphones has magnified the individual’s sphere of influence.

Just a few short years ago if you had a good experience with a brand or product you shared it with those you met. Now, it gets posted on social media and shared organically, reaching tens, hundreds or even thousands of people.

And consumers are more likely to trust this content over that produced by an “influencer”. It’s the in those shared photos, messages and tweets that the real influence lies.

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