Ah – the second part of my sweary rant. PRweek published part of this piece last week. The idea? To generate awareness for the amazing lack of knowledge and education within the influencer marketing (aka bandwagon) industry. Anyway – here’s the full piece. Enjoy.

The influencer marketing industry is currently waging war against fake influencers. You bet your ass we’re insulted. How dare influencers deceive us and provide us with fake numbers?! How dare they use tools that allow them to grow their presence in a non-organic way?!

The industry has played more of a role in the rise of the fake influencer than we will ever dare to admit. But there is also a solution that will benefit us all. Education.

Most still treat influencer marketing as “influencer advertising”. Using outreach tactics and creating relationships with digital talent and paying them to create brand relevant content (well done for making it authentic) and pushing it out to a high number of followers. Reasoning? It’s an ROI we’re familiar with. We need eyeballs, we need critical mass. The bigger the audience, the more likely you’ll make a sale, right? Advertising standards. You may disagree with this, but I don’t think we’d be in this situation if this weren’t the case.

And with that, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We live in times where trust is consistently declining. Consumers don’t trust one-off content. Influence is long term. There needs to be consistent, long term content and in addition, (honest) recommendations from sources that consumers trust. Aren’t we all just craving more personal and trustworthy connections in our lives?

It’s much easier to sell reach and numbers than authenticity combined with a smaller, relevant and engaged audience. I understand the value of reach, but it would be a real shame to see influencer marketing become a programmatic advertising exercise where “influence” is defined as “follower count”, a monetary value upon which the industry is currently overly dependent.

The industry has been shoving the importance of reach down influencers’ throats for the past three years. Fake influencers have quickly adapted and know that more followers will lead to more opportunities and more money. They also know that even though they have fabricated part of their presence, brands and agencies will continue to work with them. Experts in the industry know how to spot a fake influencer – it’s not rocket science. So it appears that fake influencers have outsmarted most of us – and it’s our job to fix it.

And the best news is, we can fix it! Education on the topic of influencer marketing not only has the potential to solve the problem at hand, it also has the potential to create an elaborate framework that can help influencer marketing to reach the next level. I’ve seen the industry evolve slowly but surely into the right direction. Once we stop blaming others and start believing in our ability to measure success in long-term brand metrics instead of focusing so much on the short-term, influencer marketing will become an integral part of the overall marketing mix. Remember, it’s not a stand-alone solution.

There are some amazing long-term shared-value strategies out there which are utilising the entire spectrum of influence and taking influencer marketing beyond a “tick the box” exercise. They know that combining existing brand advocates, micro-influencers and digital talent correctly will leverage the power of earned, paid and owned media. Building amazing brands through word of mouth, awareness, recommendations, influence and insight.

Just remember, it’s up to us to take this opportunity to make a difference. As an industry, we are capable of mixing eyeballs and content with the trust and brand advocacy required to build your brand in this trust-deprived world. So let’s stop making excuses and work together to make it happen.

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