Digital MarketingSocial Media MarketingA brief look at the state of influencer marketing

A brief look at the state of influencer marketing

Despite ongoing negativity, it doesn't look like influencers are going anywhere anytime soon, especially ones with true purpose that brands can align with.

Influencers are always chasing those precious likes in order to show that they have an engaged community that brands will benefit from if they work together.

However, the most liked photo ever on Instagram was posted at the beginning of this year — and it didn’t come from an influencer. It actually smashed Kylie’s Jenner’s record of a measly 18 million likes when it received 52 million. This image was simply of an egg with the caption, “Let’s set a world record together and get the most-liked post on Instagram.”

Turning that heart red and adding your like to a photo has actually come under scrutiny over the last few years as the bot scandal continues and individuals believed to be cheating the system and faking engagement continue to be called out. It has become such an issue that, last summer, Unilever even announced it would be cracking down on influencer fraud with marketing chief Keith Weed saying urgent action must be taken to “rebuild trust before it’s gone forever” and making a number of promises including not working with influencers who buy followers.

On top of this, new regulations meant that influencers had to be even more transparent about how they work with brands — making it clear quite how much they weren’t declaring before and algorithms changed once again, affecting engagement for many. Plus, there are still some that promote appetite suppressants and weight loss teas, fueling a stereotype that influencers will advertise anything for money.

Fyre Festival Instagram post

Source: Instagram

And, of course, there was the infamous Fyre Festival and the subsequent documentary. This was an event so disastrous that the organizer ended up in prison and the influencers who promoted it came under fire for not having clearly understood that what they were being paid six-figure sums (per post) to promote was not, in fact, a real thing. And, of course, for not declaring that their promotion was an ad.

What does this mean for influencer marketing?

So, is this the end of influencers? No. But, what we have seen is less weight being put on the sheer numbers, and instead on an engaged community and a purpose aligned to the brand.

When we delved into the details of our “State of Content Marketing Survey” last year, we found that brands were opting for micro over macro influencers — those with a smaller following but a more engaged audience.

This is still beneficial for many brands. A study by Mediahub found influencers with 1,000 followers were “85% more effective at generating engagement” than those with one thousand times that size. Now instead of a single partnership with a celebrity influencer — who 78% of millennials are said to be either indifferent to or dislike — they opt for multiple partnerships with micro influencers.

What has become more apparent is that influencers don’t work for everyone and that they produce the best results when brands are selective about who they work with.

The stats

Graph that shows stats on influencer marketing

Source: Zazzle Media

This year’s survey found that Instagram, the top platform for brand and influencer collaborations, has been ranked in fourth place. Half of marketers said they use social media but do not generate tangible results from it. The results also discovered that the percentage of marketers using influencers has dropped by 15%, down to just 23% in 2019.

However, those marketers that did use them received tangible results, with 61% saying they definitely delivered results for the brand. Plus, all those who had used influencers said they would use them in their next strategy.

Influencer marketing is becoming even more granular. Numbers, big or small, mean nothing if marketers haven’t ensured that an influencer aligns with the brand not only in terms of what they sell but more importantly, in its ethos.

Are we losing faith or just not working with the right influencers?

As consumers, we want to trust the influencers we choose to follow and believe that they will only promote a product or experience they truly believe in. We will know if they don’t and this will have the opposite effect the brand was hoping for. Meanwhile, we want to know the brands that we purchase from think carefully about who they work with — if we can see the match, we are more likely to believe in it.

Influencers have been criticized for how they approach brand collaborations such as this one between Scarlett London and Listerine, and of course, for promoting something they don’t appear to truly believe in. But the blame also, quite rightly, falls to the brand.

What the disastrous Fyre Festival did show is the power influencers have. It was described as “Instagram coming to life.'” And while the festival itself failed, its marketing didn’t. Speaking to the BBC, founder of Influencer Marketing Hub, Werner Geyser, said,

“If anything [the Fyre Festival documentary] was showing that utilizing influencer marketing was part of its success in terms of marketing the event.”

By working with 400 influencers including the world’s top supermodels such as Bella Hadid, a new event that no one had ever heard of before was dubbed as “the next Coachella,” reaching 300 million people in 48 hours and as a result, tickets sold out.

A brand that has recently shown quite how much faith it has in influencers is Lush, which deleted all of its own social media to focus on its influencers instead. This is a bold move for a company with more than 500K followers on Instagram, 200K on Twitter and 400K on Facebook.

Screenshot of Lush's Instagram post showing its faith in its influencers

Source: Instagram

The brand has explained that it wants to form real life relationships instead of battling against the algorithm to be seen and feels that social media makes talking directly much harder.

Interestingly, the brand (known for its brightly colored bath bombs) believes that when it leaves social media it will actually be able to reach more people. It also intends to put more emphasis on influencer marketing. Many believe that the hashtag #LushCommunity suggests that this will be the brand’s true fans rather than personalities with a huge following.

The rise of a “shoppable” Instagram

There are more than 25 million business profiles on Instagram and of the one billion that use the app, more than 80% follow a business account. These huge numbers are a testament to the success of the “shoppable” side of the app – which brands can thank influencers for.

Influencers have always used this platform to promote products – it is the perfect place to do it. Previously, however, they would tell you about a product and you would have to go and find it for yourself or use their “link in bio” – which still regularly meant it sold out, especially if this advice came from the likes of Zoella.

However, changes within Instagram have helped influencers become even more beneficial to brands. Now they can provide a swipe up link in stories or clickable “Shop Now” links in their images that will take you to the exact product, so you can be purchasing it for yourself within seconds.

According to Instagram, every month, more than 90 million users click through on its shopping posts.

Influencers only work for certain brands  

As mentioned above, influencers don’t work for everyone. So, which brands do they work for?

  • Health and fitness
  • Fashion and beauty
  • Travel and lifestyle

Instagram has had a huge impact on travel. In fact, it has changed the way we do it as we increasingly follow influencers to the most Instagram-worthy destinations.

But, it’s actually the fashion and beauty industry that uses the most influencers. A report created in partnership with Econsultancy in 2016 found that almost 60% of fashion and beauty brand’s strategies feature influencers.

Influencer marketing: A success story

If you want to see what a successful influencer marketing campaign looks like, then look no further than Daniel Wellington. In 2018 the watch brand received more mentions than any other brand.

Its Instagram strategy — which is based solely around influencers — resulted in 20,873 mentions by 7,200 influencers. Despite having significantly fewer followers than Nike, this is 19,304 more mentions than the sports brand received.

The hashtag #DanielWellington has now been used more than 2,100,000 times and the brand has more than four million followers.

The brand owes its success to the fact that it initially opted for a micro-influencer campaign rather than big-budget marketing. This started with sending free watches to those with just a few thousand followers.

Just four years after it was founded, in 2015, the watch brand sold one million watches and generated $220 million in revenue.

Brands that are still getting it wrong show how important it is

Marks & Spencer, on the other hand, have recently released a new t-shirt range that will raise funds for Breast Cancer Now.

However, the campaign, which is fronted by Holly Willoughby, has been called out for its hashtag “Bosom Buddies,” its slogans such as “two is better than one,” and for being “pink and fluffy.”

Many of those calling it out were from current or former cancer patients themselves including @thatmumwithcancer and @girlvscancer who shared images with their large followings of what cancer really looks like and those they believe should have been used in the campaign.Marks & Spencer's Instagram post on a new t-shirt range to raise funds for Breast Cancer Now

Source: Instagram

Writing from her hospital bed, @bowelbabe’s Deborah James, who has 72K followers on Instagram herself, referred to the fact this it was actually Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and that they hadn’t used patients. Sharing a photo of her scars, she said,

“Here’s me – My scars that keep me alive, the rawness of reality. Yes I’m female and I have Cancer — it’s not pink — and yet I still smile and yes I like clothes! Behind that smile is someone who is scared of what might be and grateful to be here today. This is my version of what Bowel cancer looks like. Sometimes. Please, brands — think first about what Cancer might look like or feel like before embarking on yet another pink fluffy campaign!”

What those that responded show is that, among the fake engagement and promotion of questionable products, there are some influencers out there using their platform for a good cause and taking steps towards making a real difference.

Despite ongoing negativity surrounding them, it doesn’t look like influencers are going anywhere anytime soon — especially the ones with a true purpose that brands can align with. As long as brands research first and are very selective over who they choose to work with, it will be beneficial for both.

As for those likes, this year could see huge changes for influencers as Instagram announces it intends to trial hiding them altogether. The move comes after criticism that the platforms cause people to measure their self-worth based on the number that appears under each image they upload. Only time will tell whether less visible engagement will impact influencers or not.

Ellie Roddy is a Senior Content Editor at Zazzle Media. She can be found on Twitter as @ellieroddy.


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