52% of 310 million bloggers worldwide write about products and their opinions on brands; grabbing the attention of 1.4 billion, active internet users who consult blogs for products or to be updated with the latest trends and ideas.
A digital influencer's stamp of approval was considered the epitome of a successful product, bloggers with a huge following added credibility to a product. Having built a relationship with their followers and gained popularity over the course of many years, influencers formed some of the most trusted sources for product advice, swaying their audiences to become consumers.
However, despite their power of persuasion for their followers to purchase products, audiences are now wising up to the fact that the social-media personalities they follow, the ones who would typically, naturally sway them to make specific purchases, are receiving some sort of compensation to promote the products they "review". It's becoming much more apparent that the influencers' opinions may in fact not be genuine, rather biased and blatant promotional messages.
That “trust” which was once the key to influencer marketing success might be beginning to die down.
Just A Simple Transaction
Influencer marketing itself has turned into a simple, quick and short-lived transaction between a brand and an influential individual. “I’ll pay you if you post it on your social media channel, saying how much you like it"; instantly reaching to millions of followers. And for some, this easy transaction of services is becoming noticeably forced and unnatural in the influencers feeds.
Particularly for influencers and brands who focus on the instant and immediate reward of the one off Instagram post. Which consequentially means that all three parties involved- the brand, influencer and audience- loose. Influencers who don't consider their personal brand, doing anything and everything to make some sort of profit, shows that they don’t consider their audience. Brands who don’t invest in fostering long term relationships with influencers also means that the influencer won’t continue to promote the brand beyond that which was agreed. Meaning that their keenness for the brand doesn’t come across as genuine. Finally audiences don't know who to turn to for product advice, wondering whether any product reviews are honest opinions or mere promotions.
Influencers also add fuel to the fire when they try to fool their audiences by not disclosing sponsored ads, informing them whether or not they are being compensated for promoting/ reviewing a product. That within itself is a whole other story, but you can read more about it here.
Brands have become serial daters, dating several influencers failing to cultivate long term relationships with brands. They know well enough that building meaningful relationships with influncers, or allowing them to develop a genuine love towards the brand's products, takes time and effort.
But just like being a serial dater, as a brand you can’t then expect to go back to an influencer you’ve worked with once, and never contacted thereafter, to then promote your brand whenever you please. Especially if it doesn’t relate to their audience in that moment in time. They’d much rather promote products of a brand they’ve grown close to and personally like. Even though it’s easier and quicker to have one-off engagements with influencers it won’t pay off in the long run. One off engagements also means that their audiences- or a brand’s target market won’t be easily swayed.
An influencer that represents your brand today and your competitor tomorrow hurts both your brand's and their own credibility. Influencers who will work for any brand, the "highest bidder" only have themselves to blame.
Has Influencer Marketing Reached a Dead-End?
So the harsh reality is, that influencer marketing in this shape and form, will be short lived. In our view it’s up to the influencers to put a stop to this form of influencer marketing. Once they start rejecting offers from brands, and start becoming picky, selecting which brands they work with, products which in turn match the interests of their audience.
Bloggers who maintain and expand their audience, are the ones who are honest about the products they are promoting. When their interests are aligned with those of their followers. Promoting the products they themselves have tried and tested, of brands they have formed a relationship with. It’s important for influencers to regain the trust of their audiences, and to portray genuine reviews of products and brands.
For brands the key is to focus on building a relationship, and being on good terms with influencers. At the end of the day they will be representing your brand; it’ll be a great advantage if influencers talk about your products off the record, which is itself highly dependent on your relationship with them.
It's Just The Start for Influencer Marketing
Despite our concerns, Influencer marketing doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. A 2015 poll by eMarketer showed that 84 percent of marketing professionals are planning to launch at least one influencer marketing campaign within the next year.
Influencer marketing done the right way, is here to stay. Its' benefits override the disadvantages. It’s the perfect way to connect directly with consumers. It provides that relationship modern consumers strive for with their brands.
It's proven to be hugely effective when done correctly. It's the digital word-of-mouth marketing, generating twice the sales of other paid channels.