Broadly speaking, there are two different methods of marketing in the modern age. One method is going down the ‘tried and tested’ channels of marketing that have worked for the past fifty years, which include billboards, TV commercials, adverts in newspapers, and radio adverts. You can probably throw paid-for social media advertising into that category as well because it works in a similar fashion. The other category is ‘fad’ marketing – jumping on trends that are hot in the short term but may not be around a few years later. Paying ‘influencers’ to market your brand on social media fits into the latter category.
Influencers didn’t even exist five years ago, and yet now they’re everywhere. Most of them started out as people who took selfies or posted videos from their bedrooms, but some of them are now celebrities in their own right. They’ve cultivated a following of thousands or even millions on their Instagram and Twitter accounts, and for the right fee, they’ll push your product or service to their audience with an enthusiastic endorsement.
If their audience is receptive to them, they might bring you huge numbers of new customers along with a welcome boost in awareness and publicity. In the right circumstances, spending $1000 on an endorsement from an influencer might get you more business than spending $10,000 on a Facebook marketing campaign. Increasingly, though, we find ourselves wondering whether ‘the right circumstances’ exist anymore.
Marketing works best when people don’t know they’re being advertised to. Due to years of exposure and saturation, the average consumer knows the difference between normal speech and ‘sales’ speech. To put it another way, they know when they’re being sold to – and most people hate being sold to. As soon as they become aware that someone’s trying to push something on them that they haven’t asked for, they switch off and become unresponsive.
Influencer marketing worked for a while because it was new, and therefore people hadn’t built up a resistance to it. The longer it goes on, the more jaded the public becomes, and the less effective the process is. That’s true of every single type of marketing imaginable – but have we already reached the point where influencer marketing is no longer worth the price you pay for it?
The depreciation of any form of advertising over time is inevitable, and no form of marketing is one hundred percent reliable. It’s a numbers game, and the way it works is comparable to playing online slots. You have no idea how many times you might have to spin the reels of an online slots game before you land on a winning combination. It might be the first time, or it might be the fiftieth. You might win something four or five times in a row, or you might go through half of your bankroll without even getting close to a win.
This is the risk and reward system that makes 2020 casinos so exciting and so popular to play, but people like to have more certainty than that when they’re investing in marketing. The most recent information we have concerning influencer marketing suggests that the odds may no longer be in your favor if that’s where you choose to spend your money.
Part of this is because influencers now have to clearly identify any content that they post which contains a paid-for advert or risk their account being removed from their chosen social media platform. Regulation like this was always inevitable, and follows the announcement that celebrities and influencers can and will be fined if they post commercial content without alerting their followers that they’re being paid to make recommendations.
Persuading someone to look at or listen to an endorsement is a difficult enough task to begin with. Alerting your followers that they’re about to see an advert before you’ve even had a chance to make your pitch makes that task a whole lot harder, and will drive away a significant proportion of potential customers before you’ve even had the chance to engage them.
The rise of ‘fake’ influencers hasn’t done much to help the problem, either. Because there’s no clear definition of who or what an influencer actually is, anyone who has (or appears to have) a large social media following can market their services as an influencer. The problem is that these accounts aren’t always what they appear to be. There are two ways of artificially boosting your following online.
The first is to become part of a ‘follow farm,’ which is a network of accounts that all follow each other, but aren’t followed by the general public. Often, these digital ‘farms’ include bot accounts that aren’t run by real people. Another way is to buy followers using one of the many shady companies that own and operate bot farms online. As these followers aren’t real, it could mean that the person with 100,000 followers who you just paid to advertise your service isn’t actually going to engage anyone with your placement.
Without spending time digging through the profiles of everyone who appears to be following an influencer’s account, it’s hard to know who’s genuine and who isn’t.
There probably is still something to be said for using influencer marketing so long as you can be sure that your influencer is genuine, and that they have a solid track record of driving both awareness and conversions from campaigns that they’ve taken part in previously. The people who own those accounts know their value, though, and will charge significantly more than the lesser-known influencers who may or may not be genuine.
With so much uncertainty in the market, it might be better to stick to the well-beaten path of conventional marketing to drive your sales in the future and allow the influencer trend to come to a natural end. That’s just one take on it, though – the choice is always yours, and if you want to risk your money with influencers, it’s your decision to make. Just like with the online slots metaphor we made earlier on in this article, some people will get lucky, and others won’t.