Entrepreneurship · Lifestyle · Marketing · PR

Why influencer marketing is a big fat lie

I’ve had it. I’ve seen so many posts tagged #nsale since last Friday that I can’t take it anymore. And I’ve seen so many posts of Romanian bloggers having nose jobs at the same doctor, wearing the same dress, copying hairstyles and using tags wrong that I feel compelled to write about it. Fast backward to a couple of years ago, there was the aggressive advertising of the green box. It was actually an online shopping platform, and you couldn’t escape it. It was obvious the pics and captions were fakes, you could see from miles away that the respective person hadn’t written them. They all had the same style, and no ounce of individuality. It went as far as taking pics with the box at the door of the plane, using the juice extractor wearing their Sunday best and so much more that proved how much the PR agency lacked creativity. Influencers have no boundaries. They will pose in furniture showrooms and pretend they’re cooking in their kitchen, groomed to perfection, of course. Sometimes they won’t even add a caption, throwing in just a bunch of emojis. Maybe because they aren’t capable of writing something worthy of attention and they know it all too well.

What exactly is an influencer? A person looking for money. Or, to put it elegantly, someone who rents their social media accounts to a brand for a fee. There are 2 categories of influencers. The very few who can sell and earn millions of dollars because they are smart & subtle, and those who try too much, are too obvious about it and don’t really “influence” anyone. This post refers mainly to the latter. We’re long past the time we saw our idols wearing or using something and we’d be in a frenzy to have it. Influencers don’t really have a say in our buying decisions. What they can achieve at most is bring products to our attention.

When we think of influencers, we think of people with a great number of followers. What we seem to lose sight of is the fact that reach doesn’t equal engagement. Here I can give a straightforward example, a fashion blogger with over 1 million followers on Instagram only. Her pics have at most 15k likes. That’s 1,5 % engagement. She gathers a maximum of 200 comments per picture, including her own replies. That means 0,02%. And sorry but I’m not sorry to burst your bubble. That doesn’t offer any guarantee someone who sees the pic will automatically buy that bag. (insert Prada Midollino link net a porter) Reach doesn’t equal sales. Artificial follower growth is available to anyone these days, and it allows virtually anyone to become an influencer. You need a blog with 25k views to be able to get deals with brands, that’s all it takes.

In terms of budget, influencer marketing is mostly a loss, because brands pay great chunks of money and often there is no ROI. An influencer’s “worth” is not quantifiable, unfortunately. There are no guidelines to establish how far their “influence” goes. Some brands use criteria such as the type of content they share, the number of followers and engagement rates. However, that does not necessarily convert into sales, and marketers should know better. They determine ROI in 3 key areas: reach and impressions, engagement and conversions. Brands also encourage newcomers, because talent on the rise is cheaper. For the first time in history, PR budgets focus more on influencers than on TV or print.

There have been cases in the beauty industry when a Snapchat video had amazing sales results, the digital influencer was paid up to a seven figure amount for exclusivity and became brand ambassador. But that’s one in a million. Not everyone has that finesse, and not every influencer has that kind of power over their audience.

Let’s be honest here. How we spend our money is solely our decision and no influencer in this world has a say in it, like I said above. I come from a country where it would take 2 minimum wages to buy the cheapest pair of Louboutins, provided you don’t spend money on trivialities like food and bills. The fact that people like a picture doesn’t mean they will buy whatever the influencer is wearing.

Also, there is a problem of credibility. Not everything we see on social media is real or true, and we are aware of it. Without realizing it, brands have created a class of experts without any real authority, which recommend products. They pay for trips around the world, for drive tests, for accommodation in exclusive resorts and so on. The same blogger will advertise clothes, make-up and skincare, home appliances, food, furniture and say they were given products for tests or they’ve partnered with brands for a giveaway. Doesn’t that make you wish you were chosen for a free remake of your living room as well? How can they earn trust if they’re being so transparently dishonest?

An Australian blogger took things as far as claiming she had won the battle with terminal cancer using natural remedies and a special diet. Not only did she make it to the limelight, but she took advantage of the popularity she had gained and launched an app and a cookbook. Later, she admitted her diagnosis was a hoax, but the earnings she had promised to donate to various charities never reached their destination.

There’s a less known angle that influencers conveniently forget to mention. Followers don’t actually react very well to sponsored content or ads, so the solution is to find ways to evade admitting they’re endorsing products and making money while at it. And if they don’t earn, they don’t need to pay taxes either, right? Remember the recent scandal about celebrities who posted product ads on Instagram and never paid a dime for taxes? Fortunately, regulations took care of the matter and dishonesty is now sanctioned not only by followers, but also by law.

Many influencers claim to be naive and innocent, and to have acted according to the instructions they received from the legal departments of brands. At the end of the day, they take no responsibility if something goes wrong. They are generally paid to express opinions on what is hot, but they sometimes get carried away and express opinions which might be detrimental to brands in the long run. And the worst is that they cannot be held accountable for it.

To conclude with two more examples of influencer marketing negative results, brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci have suffered a massive decay within the luxury segment. Luxury brands are supposed to show off wealth and status, and the fact that the masses are increasingly wearing them means the rich minority will ignore them and reorient towards more exclusive items.

Wether we like it or not, whether it has positive or negative results, influencer marketing is a phenomenon causing a hype right now. Its efficiency rates are questionable, however it is on the rise and it appears it will keep growing in the future. So it’s something worth keeping an eye on.

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