There is a force at play in the influencer marketing space that puts the entire industry in danger. If that force isn’t reckoned with, and soon, the practice of leveraging individual content creators with attractive audiences on social networks for brands will die.
This particular group isn’t killing influencer marketing intentionally, mind you. But they’re treating the space we all know and love as a money grab, rather than a way to build a sustainable business. For all the talk they spout about influencer marketing being how brands do business and how marketing happens in todays world … they’re slowly chipping away at the magic that influencer marketing can be.
So who is killing influencer marketing? Influencers.
I explain in today’s commentary.
I mention that software more than others in my book because it’s the platform I’ve been using for a few years now to find influencers, engage with them and manage campaigns. Julius has powerful filters that let me drill down find just the food and beverage influencers in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Or the men’s fashion voices that most impact Vancouver. But it certainly also gives me the mega influencers and celebrity influencers I might need to help launch a beauty, tech or automotive product. And in most cases, it has contact information so I don’t have to go fishing to reach them.
All the elements of campaign management are in the software, too. I love the fact I can assign a purchase price or value to every single social deliverable that is a part of campaign, automatically track it based on when the influencer says they’ll post, and get an ROI report for each element. You know I wouldn’t say this if it wasn’t true — You owe it to your brand or agency to do a demo of Julius today. Go to jason.online/julius and request one. That’s jason.online/julius.
How Influencers are Killing Influencer Marketing – The Transcript
Last month I wrote an article called The New Influencer Creative Brief. You can read it at jason.online/newbrief. In it, I shared my frustrations with an influencer project I am managing where the goal was to successfully communicate an idea for the brand. The influencers in question came back to me asking what my list of deliverables were. I had given them the deliverable … make your audience believe this idea.
The number of posts wasn’t my concern. That’s for them to figure out. Successful communication is the goal. How many Instagram Story frames it takes doesn’t matter to me.
But therein lies the problem. Influencers—and I will add their talent management firms and the managed services companies in the industry—have fallen into what I called the MBA-ification of marketing. When you rely so much on data for decision-making and you build formulas and algorithms to solve your problems … you remove the human touch.
I’ve thought about the problem a little more in the last few weeks. A better way of putting it is this: Influencers are turning their talent into a commodity. In their world, brands want X number of posts. Y number of story frames. Z number of mentions in a video.
In the real world, the brands want to successfully communicate an idea. The idea may be to go and try a product. It might be to associate that product with a lifestyle or mood. The idea might be to change the way the audience thinks about a certain topic, product or person.
The deliverable is to communicate a message.
Unfortunately, influencers think their deliverables are little units of content that they can crank off the assembly line like an off-shore manufacturing facility. The meaning or effect of those units doesn’t matter. They get paid by the post. So the post is what matters. The content is forgotten.
And their talent managers are not much help, unfortunately. While proposing a communications concept to a talent management representative of an influencer recently, I threw out an interesting idea to have the influencer more involved in the creation of the campaign. The reaction was, “So how many more posts do you need if we do it that way?”
If the influencer is paid by the post and the talent manager makes more money if there are more posts, then what will the recommend? More posts.
They forget the actual deliverable—to communicate a message.
And the managed services? I love them, but don’t get me started! When a managed service comes back to you with a proposal, guess what it focuses on? Number of posts. Potential reach and impressions. They’ll often throw in paid support to guarantee a certain number of impressions.
Guess what their proposal doesn’t include? An explanation of how all those units of things will successfully communicate a message.
You know why advertising agencies exist in the first place? Because if you went to a radio station, television station, newspaper or magazine and asked them to create your ad, they would just create an ad. They want your dollars to broadcast or publish the thing. Anything. They don’t care whether the ad is successful if they have your money.
Ad agencies emerged in the early 20th century because they cared more about creating successful communications through advertising, so that media spend was worth your while.
The framework of influencer marketing shuffles the order of things, but the parallels are the same:
Many of today’s influencers are just giving you the post because you’re buying the space. They don’t see the true reason you’re doing so … because you want to successfully communicate a message to their audience. The influencers who are acting like ad agencies, not media channels, are doing it right and will continue to prosper.
The ones who care more about the post than the message? They’re killing the industry for everyone.
Think I’m wrong? Have a counter point? Record a voice memo on your phone and send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may use it in a future episode.
Have a different question or topic related to influence or influence marketing you’d like my take on? Inspire an episode by emailing me at email@example.com. I may use your question as a show topic and send you a signed copy of Winfluence the book as a thank you!
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Winfluence – Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand is available now in paperback, Kindle/eBook and audio book formats. Get it in the medium of your choice on Amazon or get a special discount on the paperback version of the book by clicking the button below, buying on the Entrepreneur Press bookstore and using the discount code FALLS20. That earns you 20% off the retail price. Read and learn why we’ve been backed into a corner to think influencer marketing means Instagram and YouTube and how reframing it to be “influence” marketing makes us smarter marketers.