Even as influencer marketing has become a foundational marketing channel, cracks within this relatively new avenue of advertising are becoming evident. So, just as companies are tracking to spend $8.5B this year on that channel, alarming updates regarding authenticity are coming to light. These problems come in the form of inflated follower counts and robots, but also through bona fide influencers themselves. This puts brands in a position where they need to simultaneously fight fraud—which costs them more than $1B annually—and also better assess true consumer sentiment. As I note below, users are now savvy to the hyper-transactional nature of influencer marketing. Going forward, brands will need to be more strategic and more focused in order to get this channel right.
COACHELLA AND CANCELLED
Consumers’ increasing awareness—and even full-fledged distrust—of the partnership between brands and mega-influencers was recently quite publicly exposed in the beauty world. In May, beauty influencers Tati Westbrook and James Charles engaged in a highly publicized feud. The consequences of their fight, which played out on YouTube to an audience of millions, were significant. In particular, consumers unearthed that Charles had promoted a product in order to gain access to the VIP section of Coachella. To this highly passionate and engaged audience, the promotion felt hollow; Charles was “cancelled,” and the brand’s credibility was questioned.
WHEN THE DATA SAYS TO GO SMALL
When approaching influencer marketing, brands need to concern themselves with fraud and the inauthentic collaborations that lead to PR disasters; both are costly. So, how can brands looking to enter the space navigate a smart strategy? Based on the research that I execute for our clients every day, I recommend that brands think smaller, on the micro and nano levels. Opportunity lies with the nano-influencer (those with a following of 1,000 to 5,000); they pack a powerful punch of trust factor.
eMarketer reported that 53% of U.S. internet users learn of new products through friends and family, as compared to the 11% that rely on influencers for discovery. Using our own research community, we confirmed those findings when targeting beauty consumers. Another examination of 100,000+ influencer profiles concluded that average engagement rates peak at 7.2% with less than 1,000 followers and then decline steadily from there, with the lowest average engagement rate derived from influencer profiles with over 100,000 followers. As a channel, influencer marketing blossomed quickly and is now evolving just as rapidly. Consumers perceive influencers with smaller social followings to be non-paid, and, therefore, more authentic and trustworthy.
HOW WE APPROACH INFLUENCER MARKETING
One way that we help brands build trust and connect with audiences is through sampling programs. Utilizing our proprietary research community that consists of over 20,000 nano and everyday influencers, we can foster endorsements and drive reviews in an impactful, cost-effective way. When our community loves a product, friends, family members, and social followings adore finding out. As consumers are forced to unveil authenticity in an online world made up of smoke and mirrors, the brands that invest in genuine marketing initiatives will see success.
Looking to discuss the efficacy of an influencer marketing strategy or understand how our community might drive results for your brand? Connect with us, today.