The phenomenon of influencer marketing

It can seem like influencers are ruling the Internet now. And while experts all over the world are repeating that this trend will be soon gone, companies are continuing to send influencers free PR and sponsor curated posts on social media.

Influencer marketing is nothing new. For years companies used famous people to advertise their products and services to appeal to the general public. However, nowadays said celebrities have their own platforms to promote brands in exchange for free samples or a paycheck. Social media gave the opportunity for regular people to become celebrities in a very short time and with little effort. On the one hand, it gives companies more opportunities and options when it comes to reaching social media users. Contrarily, if the brand makes the wrong choice of influencer its reputation can significantly be hurt.

Advantages of influencer marketing

Customers trust their internet “friends”

83% of customers trust their family and friend more than companies when it comes to product recommendations. A lot of people consider influencers their close friends because of the language internet celebrities are using and the personal content they’re sharing. Very often social media stars would refer to their followers as “family”, “sisters” or “brothers”, creating the illusion of very close relations between them. Besides that influencers are sharing all sorts of personal problems and accomplishments on social media, so the active fans are very much involved in their private lives.

This connection is making it more plausible that followers would follow the advice of their close internet “friend” when it comes to purchasing the product. And the fact that most influencers are offering discount codes or links makes it seem like the influencer cares about their fans and “arranged” the discount specifically for them.

Followers want to see their favorite influencer succeed

Although people tend to be jealous of the others’ achievements they genuinely want to see their favorite social media stars succeed. That is why a lot of influencers have their own merchandise and are open about the fact that they receive a small commission if someone uses their link or code. The collaborations with famous brands make the influencers’ fans feel happy for them and support them. Followers often choose to buy the advertised products because they know that it will help their “friend”.

Companies receive more exposure and influencer generated content

By collaborating with influencers, brands can gain a greater reach to users whom they would not be able to approach otherwise. Influencers, especially those with a specific niche, gather around fans who are also interested in said niche making then the perfect audience for the companies to have their product or service presented to. Engaged followers are more likely to purchase an item when promoted by the influencer than by regular ads. It helps companies not only to increase their sales but also to improve brand awareness. Even if the user won’t purchase the product a lot of them would check it out because of sheer interest in what their favorite influencer is promoting.

Disadvantages of influencer marketing

Dishonest influencers

Even with the use of analytics tools, it is hard to say if the influencer bought their followers or not. Usually, when the number of fans is unproportionately larger than the engagement it means that either the influencer does not actively entice their followers or the part of accounts is simply fake. Both scenarios are bad for the companies because fans would not be invested enough to care about the influencer and products recommended by them or the sponsored post won’t be seen at all.

When it comes to the reputation it is hard to say if the influencer is a good choice. Even most famous stars have their mishaps every once in a while. Some influencers are desperate to take every offer they receive from the brands without any prior research resulting in hurting their name and followers’ trust. The Internet does not easily forgive mistakes, especially made by famous people, so the companies that worked with such influencers or will work in the future can also receive a backlash from the public.

Influencers can lose their relevancy over time

Sometimes it is hard to say if the influencer still has the power over their followers. Such social media stars like Lilly Singh or Zoella (Zoe Sugg) still have around 10 million fans both on YouTube and Instagram but they definitely are not that popular as a couple of years ago. Although Lilly earlier this year started a late-night show her views on YouTube are declining meaning that her audience doesn’t care about her anymore. Choosing such influencers surely will get the product or service exposed to a few millions of people but would they be engaged enough to make a purchase?

For companies, it is very important to understand if the influencer is still relevant and not base their choice on numbers only. The opinion of the general public has to be taken into account as well.

Lack of niche diversity

If you take a look at the influencer market you can notice that most of their content is related to travel, lifestyle, and fashion. There is not a lot of celebrities who are in other fields so the companies have a limited choice when they want to find authority figures in areas of IT, science or finance for example. When brands want to work with influencers in specific industries they have to resort to micro-influencers with smaller numbers thus lesser impact.

However, sometimes companies decide to collaborate with social media influencers whose niche does not even remotely match the advertised product. That is why every so often you can see food influencers promote car insurance or travelers – home appliances. The imbalance of niche social media accounts creates ridiculous situations when companies choose the representative based on numbers instead of niche and when influencers prefer a bigger paycheck rather than an appropriate product. Such collaborations are more often than not are destined to fail and result in money and opportunity lost.

Facebook and Instagram are hiding like counts

Although the word about the end of influencer marketing was circling the web for a while now, the fact that Facebook and Instagram decided to hide like counts makes both influencers and marketers to panic a little bit. Some say that because the companies won’t see the number of likes they would not consider the influencers credible enough to trust them to promote the products or services. Others believe that the change, on the contrary, will show the power of individual influencers who despite the absence of likes will still have a lot of comments and reactions from their followers. As of right now (the date of article publication) Facebook and Instagram still are testing the new feature and we are left to wait to see how the change would affect the relations between influencers and brands.

Despite all the concerns companies won’t quit influencer marketing any time soon. Internet celebrities have a huge following and most brands want their products to be seen by the large audience even if the engagement is not that high. Some are even deciding to sponsor individuals with questionable reputation but millions of followers. Every company has its own strategy but almost all of them have to have influencer marketing in it.

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