Influencers Aren't Going Away; Lazy Marketers Are

The advertising world was buzzing last week with a Digiday article titled "Calling BS on Social Media Influencers."

The post featured an anonymous interview with a social media executive who proclaimed: “Influencers are going to start disappearing. Brands are going to start realizing the amount of followers you have doesn’t mean shit. Just because photos look good and have 200,000 followers means nothing."

Well, this social media executive is wrong. 

Let's first explore the three reasons a brand would hire an influencer.

  1. They have influence/credibility in a space where your brand wants exposure.

  2. They have scale. You know, like 200K followers.

  3. They produce compelling content that you know users will respond to.

When I hear someone question the value of an influencer based on their audience size and 'photos that look good,' I have to ask - if it wasn't for those attributes, then what the hell did you hire them for?

A large audience size no longer commands immediate attention the way it used to in pre-algorithmic days, but that isn't news anymore. You are the marketer, they are the medium. That means leading the collaboration with your influencer and planning for mass exposure -- not just wishing it into reality.

I do agree with one thing this executive said: “We threw too much money at [influencers] and did it too quickly.” 

Indeed, some influencers are commanding $100K fees these days. But if the calculated value of what they can deliver doesn't match that fee, it doesn't mean the influencer lacks value, it means the marketer overvalued and overpaid for it.

Much like Miami's real estate market, influencer fees will soon find the reset button. Yes, the space is overvalued in terms of fee, but not in terms of actual value.

Here's where the future of influencer partnerships lays:

  1. Reduced fees but with a compensation structure that considers a percentage of upside on revenue generated from the partnership.

  2. Influencers regain control. Brands have treated influencers like new boyfriends. They get in bed with them because they love their potential, then ask them to change. Brands don't like it, but they have to relinquish control of the message to maintain authenticity.

  3. Collaborative content. If the brand wants to maintain control over the message and the distribution of it (the media, the paid portion, etc.), then they can still leverage the clout of an influencer by including them as talent in branded material. Then, the influencer can share it along with their followers -- and not have to be sneaky about it. (Nor should they.)