With Influencer Marketing becoming a popular marketing strategy today, it is no wonder that brands are trying to jump into this growing business. Even though engaging influencers and marketing products through sponsored posts are much cheaper and easier than engaging celebrities, there are still dangers and risks involved in Influencer Marketing which brands should be well aware of.
1) Outdated model of Influencer Marketing
Though Influencer Marketing seems to be a very popular term used only recently, you would be surprised that it depends on a very old theory. The Two-Step Flow Theory developed by sociologist Paul Lazardsfeld, Bernard Berelson and Hazel Gaudet in 1944 argues that messages from the mass media are often passed through opinion leaders before being disseminated to the wider population. Rather than being influenced by direct information from the mass media, the general population are influenced by opinion leaders a lot more.
However, the problem with this theory is that mass media today is different from what it is in the past. Consumers are no longer passive recipients of a singular source of media, but they interact with very large, complex and diversified range of media sources, from traditional media to internet, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram etc. There exist thousands of potential “opinion leaders” catered to different groups of people with different needs and interests. In order for Influencer Marketing to still be relevant today, brands cannot focus on using a “one size fits all” method of marketing but work on understanding the particular niche of their market and finding the right influencer specific to their brand. By using a reliable analytics platform like Popular Chips, brands can efficiently and effectively find the right opinion leader for their own niche market.
2) Catering to the unique style and approach of influencers
This leads me to the second point. Every influencer is different and unique from each other. They are their own person with their own unique style of engaging with their audience. Their popularity is often due to them being “real” and “genuine” compared to the traditional celebrities seen on TV. By engaging an influencer, brands are putting their image and reputation on the line as any bad publicity by the influencer may affect the brand just by mere association.
This can be clearly seen from PewDiePie, a Swedish YouTuber who was accused by Wall Street Journal of posting videos with anti-semitic messages. While he was under fire, his contracts and major partnerships with YouTube and Disney were cancelled. Even though Pewdiepie has always been known for his over the top humor and satirical content, his growing fame made him increasingly susceptible to public critique and affected the brands that partnered with him. It is often a risk therefore for brands to give creators their own voice and letting them join in the creative process. By being careful with the choice of influencer engaged coupled with good, well thought out marketing strategy, brands can ensure that their message will reach the right audience without damaging their own reputation.
3) Conveying the right message
Using the right influencer is meaningless if the wrong message is being conveyed to the public. Take Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi Ad for example. The Pepsi Ad featuring Kendall Jenner shows the model doing a modelling shoot before she decides to join in the protest march. The ad ends with her handling a can of Pepsi to a policeman, eliciting a round of cheers and seemingly ending the protest. While Pepsi claimed that the ad was supposed to be a message of peace, unity and understanding, it misses the mark and faced public backlash for being sees as a devaluation of real efforts at ending conflicts by painting an unrealistic picture where conflicts can be solved by a supermodel with a can of Pepsi. This also isn’t the first time Pepsi faced a PR mishap. In 2013, its Mountain Dew advert was accused of portraying racist stereotypes and trivializing violence towards women. With social issues becoming more prevalent among the younger generation and people are no longer passive recipients of information, brands have to be even more aware and sensitive to social issues and whether the message that they deliver contradicts social and public sentiments. By engaging an influencer who was a social activist and letting her or him join in the creative process, Pepsi would have probably avoided the whole PR mishap.
4) Influencer Fatigue
As Influencer Marketing keeps growing, many micro influencers and brands are rushing to join in this lucrative business. There are agencies that help to groom and support influencers while many others are forming Instagram pods to increase each other’s engagement and followers. Many influencers have also turned to using bots to increase their follower base. Since Influencer Marketing depends a lot on authenticity and genuine interest in content creation, as more and more sponsored posts appear on social media feeds, one would wonder how long the credibility of the Influencer Market will last.
In order for Influencer Marketing to still work in the long run, brands have to seek not short-term returns but focus on building actual long-term and organic relationships with the influencers and their followers. It is only when trust and rapport is built, will consumers still continue to trust and support the influencers and also the brands associated with them. Marketing strategies that are based on building genuine relationships with their audience through the influencers will therefore be able to reap benefits in the long run.
An effective Influencer Marketing strategy is one that takes into account the unique style and niche of the influencer, the message being delivered, social and public sentiments as well as one that seeks to build long-term relationships with the influencers and their followers. Such a strategy will not be possible through an automated process, but requires the usage of a good Influencer Analytics platform and excellent foresight.