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Will the real influencers please stand up? It seems there are more influencers than people being influenced. How did we get here and what does this mean for influencer marketing?
The increase of social media channels, the evolution to simple content (“long-form” blog posts to ephemeral content, IG photos, etc.) and the shift from “friends” to “followers” has created access and means for almost anyone to reach “influencer status.” Whereas in the beginning stages of the influencer movement, influencers were truly influencers. They researched, reviewed and conducted trials on services and products and reported on their experience. They did this based on their passions and interests so their opinions were genuine and backed by true experiences. They were motivated to share their story and connect with others who were seeking advice. As the digital revolution unveiled people turned to these blogs and early influencers to seek out advice. Social media platforms took notice creating more ways for people to share their views and brands jumped on board and monetized the movement. For a small fee, brands could connect with industry influencers to reach new audiences across social channels where their brand had limited reach. Brands thrived and influencers flourished.
But ultimately, this would create an abundance of “influencers” and lead influencer marketing away from its initial place of authenticity.
Today, many people are deemed “influencers” based solely on their celebrity status or their number of followers and engagement activity. The greater their social footprint, the greater the fees. Influencers are aware of this and are profiting off of brands. Rarely do we see authentic nonpaid endorsements, and followers are catching on. Influencers are getting paid to push products they may or may not actually use, and those who are ultimately using those same products are doing so out of loyalty to the influencer, not the brand. Furthermore, the ability to reach influencer status due to the variety of social channel options and simplicity of content requirements is making it easier for anyone to become an influencer to the point where this once revered status is now becoming a cliché.
Sounds like I’m leading you to the end of the influencer era, but fear not, in my opinion it’s going to rebound. Influencers still hold the power to reach mass audiences who are actively seeking their opinions and trust them more than ads and branded content. The key is how we identify influencers. Social platforms such as IG and FB have started rolling out new “measures” to remove likes/engagement from posts. This will aid in creating a more even, level playing field for content. Meaning, users will have the option to engage or not engage with content based on the content alone and not be influenced by the number of current engagements. When selecting influencers to work with, brands will have to judge influencers based on the quality of their content and possibly their character rather than combing through their social feedback and picking the influencer based on engagement numbers. Yes, individuals still have access to their social post performance, but the rest of us will have to decide whether or not to engage with something based on our own judgement of the content. You can imagine the shift this will create in how brands go about working with influencers and how the dynamics will change with those who are deemed influencers. If your engagement was the defining factor of your influencer status, what will happen when we can no longer see it?
So who wins? The brands, the social platforms and if there are any left, the true influencers. True influencers, or “micro-influencers,” will emerge who are able to produce quality content. Brands who lacked the budget to work with today’s influencers will be able to afford partnering with micro-influencers and quality content will be reborn. Social channels will benefit and ultimately become a place where people can share and connect based on their genuine interests and not be “influenced” based on celebrity.
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