You cannot believe anything you read or hear in the mainstream media about influencer marketing. They’re hell bent on telling you it’s dead. Or dying. Or over.
The New York Post‘s big headline yesterday — at least for us business and marketing nerds — was this gem penned by author-looking-for-a-link Molly Borman Heymont. The piece uses the big controversy around Kylie Jenner and Forbes to try and prove influencer marketing isn’t effective. Forbes issued a retraction of Jenner’s placement on its most recent list of billionaires, saying upon further review, she was only worth about $900 million.
Heymont, author of the new book The Instagram Iceberg, says in the piece:
As the curtain is pulled back, the Insta-economy is revealed to be flimsy at best. The influencer business model centers around the idea that followers translate to sales. Now that Jenner’s sales figures have been exposed, we see this is blatantly not the case. Though Jenner has gained millions of Instagram followers year after year, these increases have not led to additional revenue for her spin-off lines.
Do you see the problem?
Heymont is basing the success of an entire industry of online content creators on the single, perhaps most notable example of someone commonly referred to as an “influencer.” She doesn’t take into account the fact that Jenner is not really an influencer, but a celebrity. She banks on her name and aspirational lifestyle her family’s fortunes created for her. She didn’t earn those hundreds of millions of followers by creating great content and establishing her own brand like the 99.9% of other people classified as “influencers” did.
The writer also seems to imply that the difference between $1 billion and $900 million is the dividing line between success and failure. Sure, she does point out that Jenner allegedly lied about her company’s sales and doctored her tax returns. Heymont’s pinnacle example of an online influencer certainly isn’t all she’s cracked up to be.
But the article seems to say that because one thoroughbred in a single stable sprained an ankle, we should shut down every race track and horse farm in the world and play the slots.
For context, Molly Borman Heymont was once a copywriter for Revlon and became known for starting Just Nips, a stick-on fake nipple, to cosmetically help breast cancer survivors. (Bravo!) She once worked for Shark Tank co-star Barbara Corcoran. She spends most of her time in the beauty and fashion space because that’s what she knows. She’s also a successful entrepreneur who, like Jenner, comes from money. So perhaps $900 million … or even $100 million … is failure to her.
But what about the outdoor influencer who partners with companies, creates great content and pulls in $85K a year? What about the medium to small businesses that spend $25,000 on influencers and realize over $1 million in annual revenue for the efforts? What about B2B influencers who aren’t on Instagram, and can not only earn tens of thousands of dollars for one webinar or white paper, but in turn drive hundreds of thousands, of not millions, of dollars in revenue for the companies that hire them to do so?
Basing your view of the influencer marketing industry on how Kylie Jenner is doing, is like basing your current level of confidence in standup comedy on Bill Cosby. There are literally thousands and thousands of others out there doing it well, making a living at it and supporting businesses who invest in it with a high degree of satisfaction.
The piece also includes this amazing paragraph:
To put it into perspective, civilian influencers, (aka non-celebrities) trail so far behind Jenner’s 179 million fans, it’s a wonder they are even able to compete, as the standard of excellence and high-quality content expectations for all those promoting on Instagram is the same, celebrity or not.
I’ve got news for Heymont: You’re out of touch.
Jenner’s content isn’t something most people would qualify as excellent or high-quality. It’s just professionally photographed and includes someone who is on a successful reality TV show. Try looking at some “civilian” influencer content now and then so you can get a grip on a world beyond 100-million follower counts on Instagram.
And brace yourself for this revelation, Molly: There’s more than one social network!
The New York Post piece offered up by Heymont is another shining example of how the superficial celebrity version of influencers is all the mainstream media thinks exists. It’s shitty advice for 99.9% of all businesses because it’s based on less than one percent of all influencer marketing examples.
Are there issues with influencer marketing? Is the industry perhaps inflated in some way? Sure. But if you think Kylie Jenner is the benchmark, you are as out of touch with consumers, brands and the industry as she is.
Note: I haven’t read Heymont’s book yet, but plan on picking it up. I hope it has more salient advice in it than her article in the Post.