There’s a lot of negative press and attention on influencer marketing right now - followers are fake, influencers are overpaid, etc. Most of these accusations are fair. But are influencers the problem or are marketers?
For instance, Unilever is up in arms over fake or bought followers. For that to happen, somebody has to be evaluating an “influencer” purely on the size of their following. Why? Followers have been an easy metric to dupe all the way back to MySpace marketing days. Single metric evaluations are a poor evaluator of true influence, not to mention easy to manipulate. Why is one’s ability to influence the decisions of somebody else being measured by reach?
Brands and agencies that want to be serious about influencer marketing first need to realize that influencer marketing is not a media program. Media doesn’t shift or create consumer opinion; it doesn’t “influence.” So let’s stop looking at follower counts. If reach on Instagram is what you want, just buy it from Instagram. It’s cheaper, safer and guaranteed to a great extent.
If the challenge is to sway opinion or influence a consumer set, then take a look at leveraging influencers. Step 1 then is to identify true influence. When we build influencer group for our clients, we want to find the truly influential. To do that, we don’t measure reach. We measure trust, and authority. We look to answer the questions, “Will people trust what this person has to say?” and “Does this person’s opinion matter?”
Engagement rates, share rates, offline job descriptions, news mentions, other brand partners are all taken into consideration. We also look at who’s sharing. Is it other well known figures in their community? An individual with only five followers but all five are leaders in their own right is worth more than somebody with 100k followers from a previous set of giveaways who seldom engage, never the less pay attention.
This also means that those beautifully packaged influencer networks are off the table. “We have 125,000 influential moms/yogis/martial arts experts/fill-in-the-blank ready to activate and share YOUR product today! Just send us 50k samples.” How truly influential can any of those individuals actually be? How easy is it for that process to be gamed?
Instead of focusing on the source of one’s potential reach, let’s instead focus on the source of their actual influence.