Influencer marketing is starting to get a bad name. In the past year we've seen too many lifestyle gurus requesting free accommodation in 5-star hotels and so-called opinion-formers with millions of followers that turn out to be armies of bots.
Businesses are increasingly sceptical. Unilever, which has always told truth to digital marketing, has pulled its influencer spend - in the same way it aggressively challenged Google and Facebook earlier this year.
So if you've got an influencer marketing budget, now is the time to look carefully at how you spend that money. I work for a small business where the influencer team has done a great job building relationships with authentic personalities who produce outstanding content - and have hundreds of thousands of genuine fans as a result.
And while we'll keep these YouTubers and Instagramers close, we're also looking at how we can build up our own social media stars. Sounds tough if you're starting from scratch? True, but we're not expecting to put just one of our team (or our customers) on a pedestal right now.
Instead we're building a network of multiple 'micro-influencers'. Customers, employers and teachers who've got a great story to tell about how Lingoda changed their lives (and it has). In other words, it's not just these people who have the potential to be our biggest influencers. It's these people plus our product. Memo to my colleagues and our customers: get ready for your close up!
A recent report by my company, Stackla, revealed that only 23% of people believe content from celebrities and influencers is influential. Alternatively, 60% say content from friends or family influences their purchasing decisions. As an industry, we’ve lost sight of the fact that social influencers are inherently inauthentic. Even if they’re true fans of your brand, the content they’re creating isn’t earned; it’s just a modern form of paid advertising and content creation. Influencer marketing has become the social media equivalent of native advertising, and from my perspective, the impact is similar: incrementally improving soft metrics like awareness and engagement while failing to directly impact hard metrics like conversions and sales at scale.