Most influencers are turning into glorified ad-boards, so please can everyone in the PR industry stop calling this form of paid advertising influencer marketing.

Does anyone really know what influencer marketing means?

If I say ‘influencer marketing’ – which two words pop into your mind?

Close your eyes for five seconds and answer that question for yourself. The chances are that your answer includes the words ‘content’ and ‘reach’.

This is not at all surprising, as this is what the industry has been focusing on for the past two years.

This form of influencer marketing has been and still is on the rise. It is now firmly rooted within the PR industry, with some leading media companies and brands heavily investing in order to set up and build their own influencer marketing divisions.

The truth, however, is that reach and content are words that have nothing to do with real influence.

Last year was about ‘influencers’ becoming increasingly interested in monetising their (Instagram) accounts – with technology in place to match them with brands looking for paid content.

Most brands have been happy to pay big bucks to have an influencer (which started with celebrities and has now trickled down to micro-level) create content that matches the brief and brand guidelines perfectly.

The on-brand content will sit snugly between three or four other brands – and with a bit of luck you might even figure out what the engagement rate of the post was.

Job done & money well spent, right?

Pardon my French – but that smash-and-grab approach is turning influencer marketing into a straight-up shit show.

So-called influencers are building up a following based purely on content and are happy to promote most products for money – and realistically brands are not really getting that much out of it either.

I’d like to make an appeal to everyone in the PR industry that we stop calling this form of paid advertising influencer marketing. Most influencers are turning into modern, digital glorified ad-boards and that is absolutely fine – but let’s not mistake this for genuine, authentic influence.

What if I told you that every brand and product has loyal brand advocates – and that most of them use social media?

You may find them following your social media accounts, you may find them signed up to your mailing list – the point is, these people love your brand and are more powerful than any paid influencer will ever be.

Your brand advocates are authentic, credible and wield online, as well as offline, influence.

True influencer marketing is about putting in place a long-term strategy that goes beyond content creation.

There are a few simple ways you can add value to your influencer marketing campaign: measure brand advocacy levels; generate consumer insight; create a call to action that connects online with offline; and encourage recommendations & conversations to travel beyond content.

Ditch the ‘on-brand, on-brief’ approach and try to engage the influencer in a way that creates natural, authentic word-of-mouth.

The majority of brand conversations still happen offline and among ‘normal’ internet users. Influence stretches beyond reach and content.

It will become increasingly important to realise that this is the case – or you’ll find that your influencer marketing campaigns will be very limited in terms of impact.

This post featured in PR week a few weeks back (click)

« return to blog