Why Traditional Influencer Marketing Doesn’t Work

Traditional Influencer Marketing

If you are on social media (I mean, who isn’t!), then you are probably already familiar with the influencer marketing model. Influencer marketing takes the concept of celebrity endorsement and places it into a modern-day content-driven marketing campaign – creating a collaboration between the brand and influencer. These influencers help promote and sell products and/or services through their capacity to have an effect on the character of a brand. Influencers can affect the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something through their established level of influence with their given community.

However, contrary to popular belief, influencers don’t need to be celebrities – they can be anywhere and anyone as long as they have a large following on the web and/or social media.

The Rise of Social Media

With the introduction and rise of social media came the rise of influencer marketing. Social media lowered the barrier to reach an audience and transferred power and influence from companies to the individual because it didn’t require extravagant budgets to reach these audiences. This shifted the focus towards influencer marketing.

While social media provides quantitative metrics like followers, likes, and comments, to measure results, that metric is only one dimension in measuring a given influencer’s effectiveness. Realistically, influencer marketing is no longer considered to be an effective means of marketing, especially with its often expensive costs and controversy of purchased users who are often bots.

In 2016, businesses spent an estimated $570 million on sponsored Instagram posts alone, which is a substantial amount of money being thrown around to influencers for brand promotion. Sadly, most of the money given to these influencers reaps no actual ROI and there are no effective methods to validate these metrics and results.

So, why exactly doesn’t influencer marketing work?

1. Influencer marketing relies on someone who can effectively sell someone else’s product

Influencers who sell a brand’s product need to be able to use it, decide that it would benefit their audience, believe in it enough to promote it, and do a good enough job of promoting it that others would want to buy it. Throughout any of these steps, the sale could break down at any point. Because the product they are selling isn’t theirs, that leaves the door open for miscommunication and a lack of sincere care for the brand and/or its product.

2. People value personal relationships

Influencer marketing attempts to emulate the relationship and trust created by online reviews, friends, family, and colleagues – but fails. These people are the ones that we have personal connections with and trust the most. By engaging in influencer marketing, brands attempt to replicate that relationship by reflecting that they are more relatable and trustworthy. However, in actuality, for the audience this blurs the line between advertisement and authenticity – making influencer marketing seem unauthentic.  

3. What do numbers of followers really mean?

Today, controversies surrounding bought likes and followers are no stranger to the public eye. Social media monetizes people – encouraging them to pay for their content to be seen and to gain followers, likes, and views. Most users briefly scroll through posts without paying any attention to the content they are liking, thus proving that these users are not as beneficial as people think. Quality and “real” followers who are genuinely interested are more expensive to get (in terms of how much effort you have to give and maintain to keep them) and require you to work harder on your content to make it better and more interesting. Having thousands, and even millions, of followers reaps no value when the engagement rate is below 3%. Because quality followers are much more expensive and rare, an influencer with thousands of followers may not be as “successful” as you think and may not bring any significant ROI.

So, while influencer marketing sounds promising, in actuality, it isn’t worth it and doesn’t provide the concrete results and ROI that businesses are looking for when they invest in influencers. Instead, influencer marketing only increase awareness and doesn’t provide any substantial ROI.

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