After decades of employing celebrities and actors in their advertising campaigns, brands have spent the last few years enlisting social media personalities, broadly known as “influencers,” to help tell their stories.
At first the shift appeared to add authenticity: real people sharing “real” recommendations with their followers. But as more brands began pouring money into this nascent marketing strategy, the landscape quickly became overcrowded and fraught with the wrong incentives — and now it’s losing its value altogether.
Before you get ready to write a check for an influencer marketing partnership, here are three reasons to reconsider:
When having a big social media following pays, it’s no surprise that everyone wants to do it — and they’re willing to fake it to make it. Influencer hopefuls can easily buy thousands of fake followers and likes to try to look the part, and brands are paying the price. Retail Gazette reports that brands are currently spending upwards of $200 million a year, over 10% of the total spend, on fraudulent influencers who’ve built fake audiences. Given that influencer spend is projected to grow to $10 billion by 2020 (Retail Gazette, 2019), that is over $1 billion spent on fake audiences and engagement. Many aspiring influencers even begin by posting fake sponsored content; a bombshell report from The Atlantic revealed an ongoing trend of social media users staging photos and using branded hashtags in hopes of building their clout and eventually getting paid to post.
A timeline flooded with real and fake ads can make it near-impossible for users to tell who is really sponsored. And even when influencers are paid to post, many sidestep the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines for disclosure, so their followers are still in the dark about what is or isn’t an ad. In fact, a recent survey from BBC Radio 4 found that 82% of respondents thought it was not always clear when an influencer had been paid to promote a product.
Brands have value often touted by companies as their “greatest asset”. In fact, from Amazon to Coca-Cola or MasterCard, among 35 common brands Forbes values them at an aggregate $1.56 trillion whereas Millward Brown gives the same 35 brands an aggregate value of $2.36 trillion (75% greater). The value of McDonald’s alone is estimated by Millward Brown to be $126 billion. Why would you put something worth billions into the hands of an influencer who has much less to lose than the brand?
Despite any style guidelines you put in place or the number of approvals you require before publishing, working with influencers ultimately means relinquishing control over what is posted and where. And, unfortunately, it only takes one mistake to cause irreparable harm to your brand.
It’s long been said that the best form of advertising is word of mouth. And with the dust finally settling on the influencer marketing experiment, it’s clear that now, more than ever, there’s a need for greater trust and transparency.
That’s why the most effective strategy a brand can have – to impact sales and customer engagement, and help build direct relationships with customers – is through empowering its own customers to be their advocates. After all, who better to talk about why Dove soap is great, than someone who loyally uses Dove?
Instead of chasing paid influencers, who are rapidly losing the trust of both brands and consumers, brands who have invested in a solution to bring this “ideal” to life at scale, predictably and with transparency and brand safety will be the future leaders.
Customer or peer influencers come out the leaders in terms of delivering unmatched transparency and authenticity, ensuring the highest brand safety, the largest reach and – bottom line – the best return on investment.
By providing fun and engaging ways for customer or peer influencers to interact with and share around your brand, you not only enrich their experience as a customer, but also ensure genuine engagement and safe, authentic representation of your brand in the marketplace.
Vivoom is a peer-to-peer activation platform that harnesses the power of sharing for brands. We give brands the technology and services they need to turn their customers into influencers — instead of interrupting or imposing on them with ads.
To learn more about how Vivoom has helped brands enrich their experience – and empowered their customers to share it – check out some of our recent case studies.
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