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It’s the End of Influencer Marketing as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)


We all know the mysterious power of the Internet (and social media specifically), it can make literally ANYONE famous anytime, practically overnight. The fame is known to be so powerful that the individuals or brands involved have made so much  profit than anticipated. Welcome to the age of Influencer marketing.

In this tech age, you will easily spot an influencer with the cool toys, cool friends and the cool outfits. From boasting armies of followers (fake or not) to receiving freebies and commanding huge sums of money for sponsored content – it is arguably a dream job for many.

But before you jump on the train and shout – Influencer marketing is dead – let’s see it for what it really is. Everyone follows an influencer or has scrolled by an influencer-marketed post at some point whether they knew it or not because there are simply so many popular personalities and brands/companies trying to expand their reach online. Actually, influencers have always been with us in all levels of the society for as long as the human race has lived. Take for instance, when you get lost while driving, whom do you ask for directions? When you are torn between the choices of purchasing two amazing sunglasses, whose opinion do you seek? Or say you just arrived in a new city, where will you go to visit first? Where do you eat from or where will you hang out?
In all these cases, it is mostly a stranger who will tell you what to do or where to invest your time. Really, Whether you trust them or not, whether you like them or not or whether they have been paid at the back end or not. Now, transfer that interaction onto the internet, and you get the Social Media Influencers.

Media and technology companies that use social data, insights and attribution will thrive

There has been a misconception that influencer marketing is a type of company. Influencer marketing is really a tactic for distribution, and those so-called influencer marketing companies that you’ve heard about are really just talent representation companies or agencies. As a tactic, it may morph, grow, die or get absorbed by another tactic. It is only a tactic, a means to an end.

This model is antiquated, and the companies that identify themselves as influencer marketing companies are headed for extinction. And to me, this is actually great news. And yes, this kind of influencer marketing is dead!

But why are we discussing this now? Is it the success of the many influencers that triggers our curiosity or it is a genuine concern. For some, this is another deja vu? We have been here before.

Every time a new marketing tactic becomes more mainstream, marketers and researchers inevitably wonder if it has peaked or if it has started to lose its effectiveness.

We’ve seen this before with SEO, email marketing, Facebook marketing, and many others.

From a purely business standpoint, influencer marketing definitely seems like a great idea. Imagine you have a new clothing company or beauty line and want to start advertising online. You find someone on, say, Instagram, with several thousand followers, most of whom are in the demographic you think would be interested in your product. Why wouldn’t you pay that person to make a sponsored post about your product, to raise brand awareness, and to potentially influence their followers to buy into your company? It is a give and/or take market, and this one has always existed and will always thrive. In the past, the village chief was the influencer. His word would determine the community buy in or rejection of a product.

In my view, the companies that will survive and thrive in this space are media and technology companies that use social data, insights and online and offline attribution, showing provable return on investment. Again, if you cannot convincingly prove your Return on Investment, consider yourself, DEAD!

Influencers who will succeed will have to keep adapting with the trends of their fans and deliver content that is not just appealing but brings value. These kinds of influencers are on the rise. Maybe that comes as a surprise. People have been confidently predicting the death of the influencer ever since they first appeared pouting out of your phone screen, citing things like fake followers or a lack of authenticity. While some of these allegations have a basis while some don’t, it hasn’t happened. They’re smoldering on, finding new platforms, new ways of speaking to their audiences and new ways to carve up big brands’ marketing budgets.

Influencers essentially serve as a media delivery mechanism. Their ability to create aesthetic content and make consumers emote makes them valuable. The audiences they can reach act as a resource for an audience that’s most likely to respond. The good thing for them is that because social media is so ingrained in people’s daily lives and because of how easy it is to amass a large following online, it makes sense why influencer marketing has been such a common practice. It’s not even just celebrities with millions upon millions of followers who are in on it – anybody can be an influencer nowadays. Anyone can do it, and more importantly, profit from it. I mean, take a look at Kylie Jenner, whose fame skyrocketed with the use of platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Obviously, not everyone is going to profit off of being an influencer to the extent that Kylie Jenner is, but any profit to be made online at all is still worth it to most people and brands. And the space is also getting crowded.

It’s definitely safe to say that social media influencing has resulted in massive success, for both companies and personalities. But the digital age and the role social media plays in our lives are beginning to evolve, putting the future of Internet personalities and influencing in jeopardy.

Every year, marketers and brands are funneling more and more money into social media – but only a quarter of those marketers are able to prove it has had a positive impact.

This Medium article describes it best: it’s nearly impossible to factually prove that collaborating with a specific influencer generated new business or sales, even with the use of specific affiliate links and discount codes. As more and more people begin to distrust online media and advertisements in general, it seems likely that it’s not only impossible for brands to calculate profit from social media, but also that there’s not so much profit to be made anymore.

Many companies and influencers invested in the influencer marketing are now using artificial intelligence in creating their content and in identifying brands to work with – informed by social data and insights to align the audience with the influencer and the content.

Since the entire model of the advertising agencies and media is changing more rapidly. It is no longer the delivery of impressions or engagements that are the ultimate barometer of success, but instead, it is actual real-world sales. The many wannabe influencers are already getting a hit on this. No sales, no business, period. We can clearly see the changing-of-the guard in the influencer space in its biggest, felling of giants. In the end, it’s not about the talent that you represent, but rather the delivery of a successful campaign, based on ROI, that matters to brands and advertising agencies.

Finally, should you continue to invest in influencer marketing, or is it dead?

The answer isn’t exactly a simple “yes” or “no.”

But recent data can help you decide if influencer marketing has staying power and if it is the right tactic for your brand to implement in 2019. For this, see you in the next post…

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