The Lure of Influencers

The Lure of Influencers

Consumers today are filtering out brand messages from traditional marketing while trust in media and some brands is at an all-time low.

This is one of the reasons why influencer marketing has become the hottest media buy in town.

But marketers are guilty of perpetuating a crisis in social media. We became enthralled to the cult of content, blinded by reach and influence paid for by marketing budgets that didn’t always drive true product growth.

So, it is no surprise that Unilever broke cover this week and gave many brands a kick up the khyber to move the industry from the era of social media-driven brand narcissism to an era of social media self-control.  

Products may compete with other products, but marketing does not compete with other marketing – advertising has to compete with entertainment in its entirety.

We are not addicted to our phones, we are addicted to platforms.  Whatever your poison – Snapchat Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram – these apps are flooded with content – both real and fake entertainment, news, and so-called viral branded content. However, as influencers become more ubiquitous, scepticism is spreading to encompass them too. Some 75% of countries saw a decrease in trust of social media platforms in 2017.

Have we reached the peak in content production? Is it time for more minimalism in marketing?

The answer is less, not more. The answer is transparency and the new battleground of story-doing, rather than storytelling. This is why the appeal of influencers is so great, they’re not just telling us something – they’re doing something. Whether that’s reviewing a product, unboxing a new gadget or demonstrating a new skill, it’s inherently more interesting to follow that journey than to be told about it.

As consumer trust in brands has declined, especially when it comes to advertising, the opinions of our peers have become more important in the decision-making process. This is why Influencers have become particularly useful for brands – they help them build 1:1 trust.

That’s why Unilever stepped off the fence and opened the debate on shady practices that actually we all know are happening – and some tacitly endorse.


Trustworthy recommendations

Trust is the currency of 2018 when it comes to marketing, and transparency is a key tactic that must be adopted in its pursuit.

Half of people (49%) rely on influencer recommendations when deciding what to buy. We know almost half  of 18 to 29-year-olds use an ad blocker, so this is an effective way to reach people in an authentic way. Influencer marketing gives brands ROI and credibility.

Unilever is not saying don’t use influencers – quite the opposite – it’s called for action against shady influencers and wants social-media influencers to give themselves an authenticity check.

The big-spending advertiser that gives us everything from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Lipton’s Tea, Hellman’s mayonnaise to Dove moisturiser will no longer work with influencers who buy followers.

Unilever’s push against shady influencers is timely for several reasons:

  • Buying followers to inflate reach wastes your ad spend and causes price inflation for the entire market.
  • Mid-level influencers — those with 50,000 to 100,000 followers — often have about 20% fake followers, according to Points North Group.
  • Nearly 40% of advertisers plan on growing their influencer budget in 2018.
  • Stamping out influencers who have fake followers could help brands pay lower prices for sponsored posts, that are more reflective of an influencer’s true reach.


What is an influencer and how much do they cost?

An influencer is not a celebrity – David Beckham, P Diddy, even Caisey Neistat – they are an unknown army of bloggers, vloggers, Instagrammers, YouTubers, Snapchatters and Tweeters who you haven’t heard of – unless you are a follower.

Influencers speak on behalf of a product or brand, and up to now the benefit for brands has been in terms of reach and endorsement, through the influencer and their audience.

Influencers themselves have good reason to increase their followings. The more people they reach, the more marketers might pay them. The cost varies enormously from low hundreds but typically, influencers with 100,000 followers might earn an average of £2,000 per promotional post, while influencers with one million followers could earn up to £20,000. More followers, a higher cost.

At Honey, we believe influencers are an important way to reach consumers and grow brands. Their power comes from a deep, authentic and direct connection with real people – people who trust them.

It’s not just transparency on the numbers, we need to address this through the responsible content, responsible platforms, and responsible infrastructure that Keith Weed, Unilever’s CMO, is advocating for.

Every story needs a push, and that could be from pure PR if the content has media earned value, but not everything does. This is where ad spend or influencer spend – is needed.  ROI is no longer just return on investment – it is Return on Influencer value.

There is so much content, so much noise, so much entertainment. For marketers to get the reach that they crave, they need to create authentic social creative that resonates with their audience.  

This is Honey’s philosophy – Do Something Worth Talking About. Why?  Because if you do, then people will.


Mark Terry-Lush