SUMMARY: After explosive growth, the $8bn influencer marketing business may for the first time be showing signs of strain. Brands are beginning to question the returns that influencers actually generate, especially as the get-rich-quick appeal of digital celebrity is now attracting fraudsters who pay for fake followings. But what about brand advocate influencers?
The rise of influencers came after the shift of younger millennials and “Generation Z” consumers away from traditional media and towards social platforms.
According to data from marketing firm Izea, the average cost of placing a sponsored post on Instagram grew from $134 in 2014 to nearly $1,650 today. For mega-celebrities with millions of followers, prices can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per post.
But many in the industry cite “influencer fatigue” — where the marketplace has become overly saturated with vainglorious players, some of whom artificially inflate their numbers — as a worry. Meanwhile, US and UK regulators are increasingly scrutinizing the space, issuing guidelines urging influencers to more conspicuously disclose their relationships with brands.
“Influencers have completely eroded public trust. Consumers are so bored of seeing another product [after product],” said Amber Atherton, former reality television star on Made in Chelsea who now runs Zyper, a marketing software company that helps advertisers find fans to advocate for them.
What about brand advocates?
The idea that someone is going to buy something because a celebrity likes it may be waining but what about real brand advocates?
Last summer I purchased some Wharfdale speakers. I was so impressed with them that I went all over audio groups to talk about them. I know for a fact that at least four people purchased the product based on my reviews and recommendations. What did Wharfdale do in response? Nothing. A progressive brand would have embraced me, as a brand advocate, and used my reviews.
People trust REAL people far more than they trust celebrities who earn a lot of money promoting brands on Instagram. Brands need to reach out to these brand advocates and embrace them but they have to walk a fine line between saying “thank you” and “buying them”. Consumers often turn against “paid endorsements”.
Is all influencer marketing dead? No. It could be a great way to gain quick awareness. Measuring its impact against ROI is becoming harder especially in an era of “fake news”.