Are you scrambling to find influencers for your brand? Are you seeing competitors using bloggers and other content creators to drive social media shares and traffic to their site? And you think “hey if it works for them—it’ll work for me too. Right?”

Not exactly right. 

In this blog post, learn some of the reasons influencers turn off customers, the shifting world of the influencer, and how to spot the right spokesperson to drive sales and crush competition so trust isn’t lost in your brand.

Influencer marketing and the history behind it

Social media is fairly new as a marketing tool, but it’s already seen many trends come and go in its relatively short lifetime. One of the most popular social marketing techniques from the last few years, influencer marketing, is going strong—but it’s also gone through a lot of changes already as brands have experimented with how to best leverage its power. 

Influencer marketing is the latest version of a well-worn tactic: compel the audience to buy through positive word-of-mouth marketing – one of the most powerful sales tactics of all time. The purpose of using an influencer is to help businesses grow brand awareness, build new leads, and convert prospects into customers and it’s expected that by 2022 brands will spend around $15 billion to leverage the power of ready-made audiences with influencer marketing. 

So how did we get here? Where did influencer marketing come from, and how did it start commanding such a huge share of the economy’s marketing dollars? Here’s a quick recap.

But first, what is an influencer?

When it comes to marketing, an influencer is someone who can sway the decisions of potential purchasers. It could be a celebrity, athlete, prominent society figure, a friend whose advice you trust, or in some cases (like the Marlboro Man), a fictional character. Simply put, an influencer has the power to impact the purchase decisions of your customers.

How Influencer Marketing Emerged and Evolved

To find the origins of influencer marketing, you don’t have to look far. Facebook, which is still one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, can claim the roots of influencer marketing, thanks to the analytics and insights it was offering to its customers from the beginning of its advertising program. Data collected from Facebook ad campaigns helped advertisers learn more about what their audiences were looking for. As online advertising grew, though, so did pushback. People began installing ad blockers and backlash against Facebook’s monopoly on digital social media advertising caused shifts in the social media landscape and dropped the effectiveness of traditional ads. As businesses explored new options for advertising – they quickly found the power that peer-to-peer reviews had on brand awareness and sales. People trust their friends and family more than celebrities to give them product recommendations. This is why influencer marketing on a smaller scale is on the rise—it’s just more effective this way if more labor-intensive.

Micro & Nano Influencer Marketing

When influencer marketing was in its infancy, brands typically didn’t bother with accounts that had less than a hundred thousand followers – they either worked with macro or celebrity influencers. These influencers were thought to be the biggest source of ROI since their reach was larger than people with smaller accounts.

Over time, however, brands began to notice something: these macro-influencers and celebrities weren’t necessarily the best source of engagement and ROI. They had larger audiences, but those audiences weren’t necessarily receptive to sponsored posts. Why is this? Consumers, especially the younger generations like millennials and Generation Z, began losing trust in paid influencers and instead began looking to organic grassroots communities where their like-minded peers were sharing content and commentary about brands and products they actually love. From this discovery, the trend of “micro” and “nano” influencer marketing emerged. Brands found that often, smaller audiences were more engaged and trusting. These small influencers were often speaking directly to family and friends, groups with high levels of trust and engagement.  Read more about nano influencers in our blog post, The Rise and Power of Nano Influencers.

To stay on top of these influential generations’ purchasing power, influencer marketing strategies should evolve, not unlike any other marketing strategy. Start looking for more authentic engagement models and influencers that tap the true voice of your consumers to unearth new insights you can use to develop new products and boost engagement and sales; which we will explore in more detail.

Why are consumers losing interest in influencer marketing?

First, to keep things in perspective, we should note that influencers are still very much on the upswing, growing in popularity and gaining more influence over how we shop and buy. But after years of influencers buying fake followers, hiring click farms, and promoting products that they don’t even use, consumers feel that they can’t trust much of what influencers say because it is so easy to see whether an influencer honestly cares about a brand or product or if they are just promoting it for the money. Let’s take a look at some of the underlying reasons for this behavior change.

Saturated or not: Trust in online influencers has been increasingly steady for years now.

According to Google, 70% of YouTube users say they trust the recommendations of their favorite YouTubers above those of celebrities, and Twitter found that their users trust online influencers almost as much as they trust their friends. It’s not all that surprising that we’d eventually reach a limit in how much people are willing to trust influencers. Whether we’ve reached that peak now is difficult to say. But to say we’ve reached a saturation point in how much you are paying attention to social media influencers doesn’t sound like a stretch to us.

Blurred lines between sponsorships and authenticity: The influencer landscape has become increasingly commercialized in recent years to the extent that the lines between sponsorships and authentic recommendations are blurred. And a steady increase of influencer posts that people see on social media is sponsored. While the FTC publishes guidelines for disclosure on such posts, these guidelines are far from perfect and they are sometimes ignored or implemented incorrectly, adding to the confusion. While these guidelines may help, modern buyers are savvy enough to see who is paid for reviews and who is providing an authentic product recommendation. Trust can be quickly lost in your brand if they realize it before you do. 

Your influencer became too large and unreachable: A few years ago, when people followed their favorite fashion blogger on Instagram, they may have enjoyed an intimate, authentic connection with that influencer. Today, that same blogger might have millions of follows and have a staff of 20 people managing their posts, which begin looking more like a celebrity, elevating their content to a place that’s no longer relatable. This in part makes connections no longer close and personal, which can negatively impact your brand.

Your influencer doesn’t align with your brand: Your influencer strategy should align with your customers’ wants and aspirations while also building out your marketing funnel. Choosing an influencer solely on their follower count is no longer enough. Instead, start thinking, ‘how does this influencer fit in with our customer demographic?

Because things are always changing, it is important to keep an eye on this trend, but just remember—trust is key for word-of-mouth marketing, even online.

What can be done to restore trust in the influencers?

Gen Zers and millennials are influenced by authentic content provided by people they trust, and they are looking to members of the small, tight-knit online communities they’re part of for information about products whereas 75% of Generation Xers are influenced by events or people of the past and look towards YouTube for their information. These groups enable them to engage with each other, and with brands and products they love, in a meaningful way, and brands have a great opportunity to build these communities and deepen their relationships with their customers through them.

Rebuilding this trust should be a collaborative effort, involving both the influencer and the brand. Below are some basic guidelines to help identify influencers who are, in fact, real and could potentially help build authentic relationships:

Audit influencers: You should conduct a careful audit of each influencer you’re considering partnering with to avoid using one who is fake who might tarnish your brand reputation instead of helping it. Certain influencer marketing platforms, such as Dealspotr’s Influence Score can help with this research by providing you access to algorithms which filter out false patterns and give you a more realistic score of an influencer’s true reach.

Create long-term relationships instead of one-offs: The most successful influencer relationships should extend beyond a single post, and often involve a long-term ambassadorship where the influencer will continue to mention a brand over an extended period. Establishing these longer-term relationships is an effective way to maximize trust and authenticity in your customers when working with influencers. How do you find the right influencer who will partner with you long-term? Look for your superfans – people who are already telling your brand story online. These “superfans” are creating user-generated content and already sharing it with others in their niche communities across Instagram, Facebook, video game platforms, and dark social channels. Once you find these individuals and understand who their followers are and what demographic they represent (engagement, follower-to-following ratio, geotags, aesthetics, and hashtags) to ensure they have an audience that aligns with yours is when you can start building that authentic and official relationship together.  

Craft partnerships that go beyond monetary compensation: While the norm in the influencer marketing industry these days is to compensate influencers with some form of up-front payment in exchange for a mention or a review, these one-time setups often don’t align well with the interests of brands since the influencers lack an incentive to promote you over the long-term. When you are looking for someone to collaborate with and represent your brand look for an influencer who is doing what they do because they are passionate about it, and less about receiving a paycheck. When this happens, you have a better chance they’ll have a true connection with their fans and thus greater trust and recognition with your brand.

Adhere to FTC guidelines: When you are evaluating or auditing an influencer to collaborate with, you should do a scan of their prior sponsored posts. For instance, have they marked their posts as sponsored? Proper adherence to the FTC’s guidelines is a must, or else the influencer might have already eroded trust with their fans. When it comes to this type of evaluation, we recommend partnering with a marketing firm that has experience in this field, because the rules and regulations could sink a business and it’s not worth the risk when you do it alone.

These are just some of the tips we recommend when looking for influencers who genuinely love your product. By implementing some of them, it will help open up new opportunities for your brand to connect with existing and new customers and build a stronger online presence.

Bringing it all together

Attention for the younger generation and consumers alike is still shifting away from traditional forms of marketing towards digital, mobile, and social, and in this world influencers reign supreme. By investing in relationships with trusted influencers, you have an opportunity to navigate this increasingly complex landscape and increase mindshare by partnering with the leading voices to help build a strong community for your brand.

Are you ready to get invested in trusted relationships with influencers to help showcase your brands’ integrity to customers, and drive more sales? Connect with one of our experts today

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