Social media influencers used to be authentic. Earned media, in the beginning.
People trusted social media influencers because they gave honest, third-party opinions and were subject matter experts. But companies started to pay influencers to blog about their brand. Or to promote their brands on social media. And so the social media influencer became just another form of celebrity endorser.
Influencers were no longer unbiased in these posts. Sometimes the brand or agency would even provide the content plan and social media script to them. So influencer marketing became just another form of paid media. Plus every Tom, Dick, and Harry started calling himself an influencer.
Thankfully, we are now seeing "influencer fatigue", according to this Forbes article.
"Today, being an influencer is mostly a transactional endeavor. In most cases, influencers have no interest in the brand they are promoting. They can promote toothpaste in the morning and sweets in the evening. In many ways, influencer marketing has become the antithesis of authenticity, an inverse image of what captured the imagination of followers in the first place. Luckily, some innovative brands are divesting their budgets away from big influencer marketing sponsorships. We are now beginning to see a move away from social media influencers towards creators, people who actually care about the product. Though creators may not have the same reach as influencers, they possess a far greater level of brand affinity and authenticity.
"The biggest development in marketing today is the shift from influencers to creators. Unlike influencers, creators produce content they genuinely care about, content that adds value to their respected communities."
To stay relevant, influencer marketing must once again shift the focus from the influencer as online personality, to the content creator as influencer. The content comes first, as well as the community.
Demand for authenticity
And instead of pushing products, focus again on brand purpose.
“Influencer marketing has always been a way for brands to promote purpose-driven campaigns; capitalising on the often wide reach of influencers in order to get a specific message across.
“Influencers can also act as an example of ‘doing good’, with audiences more willing to follow the advice of someone they like or trust rather than a large or faceless brand.”
With the renewed demand for authenticity, we are beginning to realize what true influence means.
Thankfully, the industry seems to be moving back to where social media influence actually began: passionate creators.
It’s time to reclaim social media, and once again make it about real people and genuine engagement.