The solutions and pitfalls of influencer marketing
A growing army of YouTube stars is finding instant fame and wealth thanks to millions of subscribers to their pages. Personalities such as video-gamer PewDiePie, with 54.1 million subscribers and Germán Garmendia, Latin America’s biggest star on the video-sharing site with over 31.2 million subscribers, have become the rock stars of a modern, digital world. The top YouTubers in the world are fast becoming as influential, and in some case more so than mainstream actors and musicians, earning millions of dollars in YouTube revenue and product endorsement deals.
According to a study by MediKix, global spending on Instagram influencer marketing alone is projected to reach as much as $10 billion by 2020. Celebrities and socialites, eager to get in on the action, have taken to social media to promote various high-end products and brands on their various social media accounts, even demanding free stuff and payment for blog write-ups. Part of these deals is that the personalities post videos and images promoting a product or service in exchange for brands gaining access to their millions of followers, who would be more likely to buy a product used by their favourite personality.
As brands seek out new ways of forming more meaningful connections with their global communities, influencer marketing is becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix.
But this comes at a cost, with top influencers in the U.S demanding as much as R3.5 million per post, while a famous name in South Africa can make R250 000 – still big money by any standard.
Too often, however, a personality who is otherwise very popular and exciting, will have little knowledge of the brand but will publish posts purely for the money. The danger with this is that the promotion feels insincere and is diluted by the other brands they promote, often in the same product category.
Another worrying practice is that of buying followers, particularly on Instagram. It is still entirely legal, and for less than the price of coffee a person can buy 500 Instagram followers. Although there are multiple tools available such as FollowerCheck, which can help determine fake followers, these still don’t answer the question of who the real influencers are.
Flawed thinking leads brands to see influencer marketing as an effort to make paid-for connections and content look like they have been earned, but, due to the algorithms on social networks, most followers don’t even get to see the content from paid-for online influencers. The result is an “unnatural” fit which proves expensive, inauthentic and, in the long run, only marginally better than traditional advertising.