Influencers: The Good, the Bad & the Trending
Scroll through your YouTube feed, swipe through your row of Instagram stories, or check your Facebook or Twitter timeline, and you’re bound to see at least one of them, staring at you through the screen, ready to unbox some sparkly new product: The ubiquitous social media influencer.
They’ve become such a crucial part of modern-day marketing that global spending on influencer marketing is expected to reach between $5 to $10 billion by 2020.
But you may have also heard the not-so-good stuff. Brands and establishments are exposing influencers who hit them up for free products and services in exchange for posting about them to their followers. Business owners are so angry at social media stars for having the nerve to request freebies that some are going so far as to ban them altogether. And there’s a lot of doubt floating around about bloated follower numbers – just how real are those follower figures?
Anyway, bad press is still press, and it seems that influencers are here to stay. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the trending in the world of marketing via influencers.
If they weren’t pulling in consumers and rousing interest in brands they promote, social media influencers would have long died out. But they are a marketing tool of choice for 78% of marketers, and, in turn, influencers have delivered 11 times the return of investment (ROI) compared to traditional marketing strategies. Plus, 81% of the marketers who collaborated with social media influencers rated them as effective, meaning they’re unlikely to be dropping them anytime soon.
To illustrate, Twitter users who see promotional content from influencers on their timeline are five times more likely to purchase the product being promoted, while 60% of the 1 billion-strong Instagram users first found out about a new product or service on the app itself, presumably from influencers!
Companies believe that consumers’ trust in social media influencers they like and follow is the biggest factor behind the success of influencer marketing. A lot of these influencers feel like close friends—consumers see them talk about their daily routine, partners, pets, what they had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Occasionally, they’ll squeeze in some new products or services that they vouch for. This is especially true of YouTube influencers; their fans are seven times more emotionally attached to their favorite YouTubers compared to other online celebrities. Seeing them on screen in relatable situations, almost on a daily basis, is a big factor.
Numbers aren’t everything, and bigger isn’t always better. It’s been noted that user engagement tends to drop once an influencer has a reach of more than 10,000. A more conservative reach of 1,000 to 10,000 is estimated to be the ideal figure for many marketers.
When choosing influencers, 42% of brands also worry a lot about how much an influencer’s follower count is made up of fake accounts generated or bought by the influencers themselves. The difficulty of telling apart influencers with actual reach from those whose fans are mostly bots is one thing that might make marketers think long and hard before picking an influencer for their brand.
Meanwhile, though not completely about influencers, there are also increasingly high expectations from brands who have a strong presence online. Seventy-eight percent of consumers who complain to a brand via social media expect to be replied to within an hour, but the bad news is, only one out of 10 messages sent to brands’ social media accounts actually get replied to! That’s not very reassuring.
Generation X users are also 160% more likely to unfollow a brand’s social media account due to an offensive post. So account managers and social media influencers have to be careful about what goes live. What might be fun and quirky for millennials could turn out to be a major turn-off for another generation.
Now, we know how effective influencer marketing can be. So where’s the hottest place to be an influencer right now?
Instagram is currently the most popular platform for influencer marketing, with 7 out of 10 hashtags used are for brands and 93% of influencers in 2017, making it their platform of choice. The photo and video-sharing app logged around 1 billion users recently, and this number is expected to grow at an exponential 50% every year! No wonder it’s at number one.
Coming in at second place is YouTube, where vlogger influencers can reach up to 1.5 billion users a month. Facebook ranks at number three, despite its 2.27 billion users. This dwindling influence is a result of recent scandals. Twitter claims fourth place with 326 million users.
So, for both aspiring influencers and marketing teams looking for ways to expand their reach, these four social media platforms are their main arenas for now. While we can’t predict the precise future trajectory of influencer marketing, one thing is for certain—this lucrative strategy isn’t going away anytime soon.