There’s a reason why the marketing landscape always changes… it’s because marketers always ruin everything. Marketers have been ruining their own marketing tactics since… always. Five years ago, it was social media. Now, it’s influencer marketing.

According to Nielson, 83% of Americans somewhat or completely trust endorsements from people they know. Word-of-mouth recommendations have always outperformed all other advertising types because people trust people they know. People don’t trust a marketing campaign.

For marketers who want to drive word-of-mouth recommendations, influencer marketing is the vehicle. In the next five years, influencer marketing is projected to become a $5-10 billion market. (Source: Gartner L2)

That is, if marketers don’t ruin it before then.

 

How Marketers Ruin Everything

It’s simple. Marketers are always looking for new ways to break through the noise and connect with consumers on a human level. While not inherently bad on its face, this objective has created a vicious cycle for marketers:

  • Step 1 - A brand or agency uncovers a new, innovative marketing tactic that’s never been done before. It’s spectacularly effective.
  • Step 2 - The marketing world recognizes the effectiveness and, wanting to be on the cutting edge, they invest heavily in this new trend/“hack”. I imagine this step goes something like: “We want to do influencer marketing. Everyone’s doing influencer marketing. Find our brand some influencers. Tell them to say this on their social media accounts.” *hands over one-sheet for product*
  • Step 3 - Somewhere along the way, marketers separate the tactic itself from what made the tactic resonate with consumers in the first place.
  • Step 4 - Consumers eventually catch on, get annoyed (because ads), and find ways to avoid experiencing the tactic.
  • Step 5 - The tactic loses the majority of its effectiveness with diminishing positive return on investment (ROI). What once was an “innovative marketing hack” transforms into just another line-item on the list of tactics in every marketer’s wheelhouse.
  • Eventually, the process starts over.

Related: Congrats, You Went Viral… Now What?

 
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It’s ironic that in their relentless quest to break through the noise, marketers create more noise, annoying their consumers in an entirely new arena. This time is no different… and that arena happens to be influencer marketing.

Related: Hashtag Hijacking: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

 

Why Does Influencer Marketing Have Influence?

Jon Wexler, VP of Global Entertainment and Influencer Marketing at Adidas, gets the essence of it: “If a brand is telling you how cool they are, they’re not that cool. If your peers are [telling you that the brand is cool], it sticks.”

He’s right… but there’s more to it:

  • Influencers are EXPERTS - They offer deep, expertise in a specific area. When a beauty blogger features a makeup brand that she uses every day, her followers are going to trust that she buys “the good stuff” because they trust her recommendations are authentic.

  • Influencers are CONNECTED - It’s not always about the amount of followers on Instagram -  Social media influencers, even micro influencers have quality followers with whom they regularly interact. This interactivity builds relationships and is central to why social influencers are so valuable to a marketing strategy - it’s a pre-built platform that facilitates receptiveness to a brand.

  • Influencers are AUTHENTIC - The best social influencers are authentic - they have the appearance of impartiality when it comes to what they endorse or recommend to their followers. To their target audience, they are the authority in whatever niche they’re occupying. They’ll tell it like it is...or so it seems.

 Celebrity endorsements just aren’t what they used to be!  According to  Collective Bias , non-celebrity bloggers are 10x more likely to influence in-store purchases than celebrities. Could that have something to do with the identity of celebrities lacking that essential authentic quality? 

Celebrity endorsements just aren’t what they used to be!  According to Collective Bias, non-celebrity bloggers are 10x more likely to influence in-store purchases than celebrities. Could that have something to do with the identity of celebrities lacking that essential authentic quality? 

 

How are Marketers Ruining Influencer Marketing?

Authenticity is the driving force that makes any influencer marketing strategy effective. Therefore, if influencers lose their authenticity in the eyes of their followers, they lose their influence. Today, influencer marketing faces an authenticity crisis.

One way brands have perpetuated the authenticity crisis is by focusing too much on the message itself and not enough on the human conveying the message. Rather than finding a social media influencer who is a natural advocate for their product and propping them up, marketers find someone with many followers who exists in a tangentially relevant target audience and then impose strict brand messaging guidelines on them, effectively paying often incompatible influencers to endorse their products their way.

Another part of the authenticity crisis facing influencers is the popularity and ubiquity of influencer marketing. The fact that influencers are everywhere, endorsing everything, has caused their consumer audience to take notice, as evidenced in a study by Splendid Communications:

  • 61% of consumers said they have unfollowed an influencer who works with “inappropriate brands” or who “endorses too many products”
  • 43% felt influencers are “often inauthentic” and work with brands “they don’t believe in”
  • Only 5% felt influencers are genuine/only promote brands/products they truly believe in
 Influencers are facing an authenticity crisis because they’re endorse too many products and often don’t follow disclosure guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) when posting content on social media. At the end of the day, the more products an influencer advocates for, the more likely people are to perceive that content as inauthentic.

Influencers are facing an authenticity crisis because they’re endorse too many products and often don’t follow disclosure guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) when posting content on social media. At the end of the day, the more products an influencer advocates for, the more likely people are to perceive that content as inauthentic.

 

How Marketers Can Stop Ruining Things (And Solve the Authenticity Crisis Facing Influencer Marketing)

  1. Don’t do it for the sake of doing it - Just because an influencer marketing strategy worked for one brand, doesn’t mean it will work for yours in the same way. If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.

  2. Let go of control - When it comes to an influencer marketing campaign, success means finding the right people to convey the right message to the right audience that is actually listening. The only variable that marketers can assert control over is who they choose to advocate for their brand. The rest must happen organically, with authenticity. If you’re afraid that the content could harm your brand… then maybe influencer marketing isn’t a fit.

  3. Don’t try to sell your product - The goal of influencer marketing is to create brand advocacy.  If consumers recognize that you’re just trying to sell more stuff, they’ll tune it out.

  4. Use influencer marketing in conjunction with other marketing tactics - People are more likely to respond to influencer marketing when they’re familiar with a product. In order to to maximize ROI, marketers should incorporate influencer marketing alongside other tactics.  

For a group of people whose job it is to build bridges between brands and consumers, marketers certainly have a knack for building walls instead. To be successful, marketers must remember that they’re supposed to focus on what people want, rather than on what works... Because, as we’ve seen time and time again throughout the history of marketing, what works is always changing.

Today, influencer marketing works. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

 

Kate Jacoutot is the Director of Marketing for AgencySparks.

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