Move over X Factor, the next generation of kids aren’t interested in following in the footsteps of Little Mix and One Direction to become pop sensations. Instead, a recent study has shown that around 1/3rd of kids between 6 and 17 aspire to be YouTubers with a further 1/5th aiming to be bloggers or vloggers. Influencer marketing continues to be a growing industry, with sponsored Instagram posts increasing by 198% over the previous year and in the process generating over a billion likes. This is because telling your own customers that your own products are the best is seemingly biased and therefore unlikely to encourage people to purchase. Collaborating with influencers who have real, tangible impact to promote a product or service, however, is a different story.

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An influx of poor practices and incomprehensive campaigns have given influencer marketing a bad reputation over recent months. Several times this year Kim Kardashian, who is arguably the world’s biggest influencer, has been called out for promoting appetite suppressants to her young and impressionable following. It’s no wonder that this caused controversy since 50% of millennials have been inspired by influencers to make personal changes in their lives. So with that in mind we’re delving in and analysing the good, bad and damn right ugly sides of influencer marketing in order to answer the question … ’is it really worth it?’

The Good

The main argument in favour of influencer marketing is that it actually works. The results speak for themselves. Traditional forms of advertising have gradually become redundant as consumers have started to reject overt sales messaging. Influencer marketing, whereas, represents a more natural way of promoting products. It is particularly effective amongst millennials and millennial-focused brands as around 70% of millennial consumers reported being influenced by the recommendations of their peers in buying decisions. This is because social influencers, compared to normal celebrities, feel a lot closer to us as regular people because they document vivid details about their life online. In this sense we perceive these influencers as peers, so buying products that they are promoting increases our sense of likeness and affirms our role within that particular social group.

“We launched back in 2013 without any outside investment or marketing budget when we decided to send a £400 leather jacket over to the United States for a fashion blogger. After two weeks of posting the jacket, we were getting 3 orders in 10 minutes and then more.” – Nathan Alexander – @BODASKINS via Prolific North

Influencer marketing also helps to humanise brands, which is an integral aspect of the inbound methodology. Giving a face to your company allows your brand messaging to spread organically, as you’ll benefit from the influencers reputation. Being a faceless brand invokes scepticism amongst customers as they are likely to question whether or not a website or product is genuine. Using influencers proves that this is not the case. Research shows that 90% of consumers say influencer marketing is effective for generating brand awareness and 69% effective for boosting sales. What’s more, micro-influencers (those with less than 10,000 followers) are overtaking and become more effective than macro-influencers as they work in a similar way to word of mouth marketing and come across more authentic. Bigger is not always better – you heard it here first.

“The point is that it’s usually not conscious, unless it’s a brand influencer. But smaller influencers are more nudges and cause a subconscious reaction” – Andy Kinsey – @andykinsey

The Bad

That being said, the problem of influencers buying fake followers and engagement has become more prevalent. There are plenty of apps and websites on the market offering followers for as little as 1p each. Research by CampaignDeus suggests that around 1 in 8 Instagram influencers in the UK have purchased fake followers in the last 6 months. This is bad because essentially it is a form of fraud – influencers are using dishonest practices to portray themselves as more popular than they actually are. Within the world of influencer marketing those with bigger followers are justified in demanding higher rates of pay, but the legitimacy of this is called into question if followers and engagement aren’t transparent. If you’re thinking about collaborating with an influencer it’s therefore worth doing research into their following and engagement rates. SocialBlade is an easy way to expose influencers who have bought their followers. Obviously it’s normal for followers to fluctuate on a day to day basis but if there are random periods of heavy increases or decreases this is usually a tell tale sign because Instagram works to regularly remove bot accounts from the platform. Likewise, if an influencers following has increased but their engagement rate stays relatively the same their followers are probably just empty accounts.

“I 100% never buy products after seeing them promoted by influencers. I know it’s never genuine. If anything it lowers my perception of a reputable brand when I see them associating themselves with influencers” – The French One – @thefrenchone

Moreover, influencer marketing can be criticised for its lack of authenticity. There’s no doubt about it that being an influencer pays well, which means as a result that some people get involved in the industry for the perks alone.Influencers are unlikely to say no to a deal with a big brand that is going to pay well, regardless of whether the product resonates with them. As a result, influencers are promoting products they don’t need, use or like in order to get money. One example of this is reality TV star Megan McKenna promoting HiSmile teeth whitener over on Twitter despite the fact that she already has veneers. Not only does she not require whiter teeth, I’m not sure they could possibly get any whiter (?!). In a bid to tackle this Advertising Standards Authorities have dictated that sponsored content should be clearly demarcated. Most influencers therefore use #ad, #sponsored and tell their followers that they have been paid to post but all opinions are their own. However, is this really going to be the case? If an influencer collaborates with brands and consistently gives brutally honest/negative/neutral reviews they’re going to build up a bad reputation within the industry, which may affect the amount of future partnerships they get offered. If you’re being paid to review a product is there such thing as 100% honesty and transparency?

“I’ve bought things after seeing them promoted by influencers, but the situation is changing. People can’t be tricked anymore. They know the difference between authenticity and teeth whitening. For us the best way to convey quality is to ensure a good product fit.” – Danny Buck – @dclutt

The Ugly

We’ve analysed the good and bad, now onto the down right ugly, cringeworthy aspects of influencer marketing. Firstly, associating your brand with a particular influencer can be risky business. In a way you’re aligning your reputation with theirs, which means if they step out of line or do something controversial the spotlight falls on you. For instance, Swedish YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, known online as PewDiePie, has found himself surrounded in controversy recently after recommending an anti-Semitic series. Surprisingly this isn’t the first time he’s made anti-semitic comments. However, this calls into question his partnerships with brand such as Disney and YouTube, who don’t want to be seen associating or advocating racism.

Now for an example of influencer marketing gone wrong. The famous ex of Kourtney Kardashian, Scott Disick collaborated with BooTea in 2016 to promote their new protein shake to his 20 million followers. In their communications, BooTea sent Scott instructions of what to caption the post and when to post it. Scott got muddled up in the process and posted these instructions on his Instagram, making it clear that it was a paid advertisement and suggesting that Scott has no real interest or involvement with the brand. On the one hand Scott clearly slipped up, but on the other hand the company didn’t give Scott the freedom to come up with his own caption, which also contributes to its lack of authenticity.

Have you tried an influencer marketing campaign? Did it perform as well as expected? Get in touch we’d love to know!

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