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Under the Influence: Preventing the Influencer Marketing Hangover

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PREVENTING THE INFLUENCER MARKETING HANGOVER

You’ve heard the buzzwords: influencer, brand ambassador, content creator. Our social media feeds have become inundated with sponsored posts and affiliate marketing links. It is no secret that influencer marketing has become an integral part of the advertising industry. If utilized strategically, this marketing tactic can be highly effective. But what happens when a brand gets drunk on influencer marketing? What happens when a company lets third-party individuals who are not trained in the brand voice speak to consumers on their behalf? While influencers are a helpful tool to support an overall marketing strategy, brand managers and advertisers must navigate the saturated landscape of influencer marketing to avoid the hangover and find success.

THE OLD FASHIONED WAY OF INFLUENCE

The concept of influencer marketing is nothing new, stemming from the idea of using celebrity endorsements to sell products. Celebrities add credibility and star power to anything they endorse, so for decades advertisers have utilized their familiar faces to catch and hold the attention of consumers. Celebrities have amassed an audience because they resonate with people in one way or another. It is clear that influencers have the same effect, becoming a new form of celebrity in their own right.

Across industries, brands are harnessing the power of the celebrity endorsement with the accessibility and immediacy of social media to elevate their product or service. Consumers enjoy emulating people they relate to in some way, and in this digital age, an endorsement from a dependable social media personality often carries the same weight as a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend.

INFLUENCER MARKETING ON THE ROCKS

Sponsored content on a social media feed or blog gives brands a tangible way to showcase products and services, while simultaneously gaining access to an entirely new audience of engaged followers that mirror their core consumer. However, the tactic begins to lose its effectiveness when a consumer’s social media feed is saturated with posts that are promoted by a brand or captioned with #ad. Consumers are smart; they recognize when they are being sold to. Ironically, this exact dilemma prompted influencer marketing in the first place.

In today’s modern landscape, many consumers are becoming disengaged at the first sign of an advertisement. If a television commercial doesn’t immediately grab a viewer’s attention, they may mute it, fast forward, or change the channel altogether. Many are willing to pay for subscription services that stream music ad-free and uninterrupted. Attention spans are short. Consumers are not generally inclined to devote time or energy to an advertisement when they can find other content at a moment’s notice. Influencer marketing was established as a way for brands to speak directly to their potential consumers through the content creators their audience was already tuned in to. Since a consumer’s first touchpoint with a brand is critical, many companies opt to sponsor influencer-based content as a means of creating a positive first impression with these new audiences.

SPONSORED CONTENT SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED

But as brands focus more and more efforts on influencer marketing, the tactic loses its efficacy. A company that devotes all marketing dollars to influencer partnerships puts the reputation of their brand in the hands of people with their own personal agenda, promoting products in exchange for a paycheck. It is important to remember that no influencer cares as deeply or works as hard for a brand as the brand itself.

Instead, companies should communicate directly to consumers and allow influencers to be the chorus that echoes their brand’s voice without giving them the responsibility of defining it. Influencer marketing has certainly shaken the advertising industry, but not stirred it enough to make it the sole tactic by which brands should advertise their products and services. One tactic alone should never preempt the ability of a brand to tell its own story. Influencer marketing must be a singular touchpoint in the overall marketing strategy, supporting other tactics to ultimately increase brand awareness and loyalty.

THE LAST CALL

There is still a place for influencer marketing in our industry, and there are brands and advertising agencies that approach it strategically. In order for influencer marketing to remain a viable tactic, however, brands must make data-informed decisions to leverage sponsored content in an impactful way. A strategic agency partner can help to evaluate seasonal trends in search volume and social conversations, evaluate website behavior, and analyze influencer performance based on earned media coverage to maximize partnerships and yield the greatest results.

As influencer marketing approaches a tipping point, the advertising industry needs to be prepared to react. A brand’s marketing strategy should be diverse enough for it to stand strong regardless of trends that come and go. When everyone else is under the influence, make sure your brand is coherent enough to stand on its own two feet.

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