Innovation That Matters

Social media influencing is all around us, but how do we know what to trust? | Photo source Austin Distel on Unsplash

Pros and Cons: Social Media Influencers

Pros & Cons

Social media influencers are often embroiled in scandal, yet influencer marketing can be very effective.

Influencer marketing makes the news for seemingly all the wrong reasons. From the Fyre Festival disaster to fake followers and unacceptable content, social media influencers are often embroiled in scandal that can affect the brands associated with them.

Yet at the same time, influencer marketing has proven to be one of the most effective ways for brands to engage with customers and drive traffic. So, what are some of the pros and cons of influencers, and how can businesses choose their influencer wisely?

Pros of Influencer Marketing

It works: There is no doubt that influencer campaigns, if done correctly, do work to boost sales and traffic. A survey by Media Kix found that 80 percent of marketers find influencer marketing effective, with 71 percent rating the quality of customers and traffic from influencer marketing as better than other marketing sources, and fully 89 percent saying that influencer marketing return on investment is as good or better than other marketing channels.

Building trust and credibility: In surveys, people tend to trust information and opinions from people who are similar to them more than information coming from companies or celebrities. This points to the value of influencer marketing in reaching people. Influencers spend a lot of time and effort to build their audiences. Most legitimate influencers have highly engaged audiences who trust them. So, when an influencer endorses a brand, their audience is more likely to trust their recommendation. Their followers may also end up buying the product a lot more quickly than customers who learn about the product through traditional advertising channels.

Reaching a relevant audience: Influencers, particularly micro-influencers, can help brands to reach a particular niche or target a particular audience. For example, to promote a hotel or restaurant, the brand could partner with a travel or food blogger, ensuring they are able to reach people who are already interested in travel and food. Or, for example, a wallpaper company might work with home improvement bloggers to create home makeover posts in which they used the company’s products.

Improve your reach: Influencers engage followers on a much more personal level than traditional marketing, such as print or television advertising. So, using influencer marketing allows brands to themselves build more personal relationships with potential customers. This encourages people to feel more attached to a brand, and more likely to stick with it.   

More bang for your buck: Although celebrity influencers can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, many micro-influencers will work for $250 per post or less. This means that brands can try out a number of strategies without spending a lot of money. A good influencer could also save the brand  money on content creation. They will already know the best ways to create content that will engage their followers. In fact, influencer-created content is often seen as more engaging than the content created by brands.

By partnering with the right influencer, a business gains access to an audience expert who can take responsibility for promoting your brand while you focus on other areas of your marketing strategy. Businesses can also re-use influencer content on their own social media channels, making this an effective way to add variety to social feeds and build followers. Showcasing a partnership with an influencer becomes a marketing campaign in its own right.

Cons of Influencer Marketing

Using the wrong influencer can harm your brand: Today, it is bad news indeed for a brand to be associated with an influencer who ends up causing the wrong kind of controversy. Making racist statements, not disclosing that a post is sponsored, making insensitive posts, using bots to inflate follower numbers or accidentally posting the brands instructions in the post (which happened to influencer Scott Disick) can all make the influencer, and any associated brands, look bad. And as a brand, you will have no influence over the influencers’ behaviour.

If a consumer feels misled by an influencer who has not made it clear that their endorsement was part of a paid partnership, they could be less likely to buy that brand. Because of this, hashtags such as #ad and #sponsor have become more common. These are good for transparency, but can detract from the authenticity that makes influencer marketing so effective.

It can be hard to measure success: It can be very difficult to track and monitor the performance of an influencer-led campaign. Businesses need to be prepared to measure different types of engagements, such as clicks, likes and shares, as well as the cost per engagement.

It’s also important for businesses to keep their ROI in mind. The whole point of an influencer marketing campaign is to generate leads and turn potential customers into buyers. To maximize their ROI, businesses need to be able to identify the influencers and marketing channels that are generating the most leads. For a small brand, this may require spending additional money on an analyst. 

An arms race: A survey by Media Kix predicted that the influencer marketing industry will become a $5-$10 billion market by 2020, up from between $3.2-$6.3 billion in 2018. As the influencer market heats up, brands will need to spend more and more of their marketing budget on influencer marketing. This is probably not something they have a lot of control over, but is a consideration, particularly for small businesses.

The increasing advertising of life: If you are a customer, then you need to think about the fact that it can often be difficult to tell when a post you like is actually an ad. This may not bother most people, but it does point to the way in which everything around us is becoming an advertising tool. Before long, it may be difficult to tell if anything is really free from advertising.