Between Unilever’s call to action against influencer fraud, headline-grabbing PR disasters like the Fyre Festival and the recent college cheating scandal that put the spotlight on the social media star daughter of actress Lori Loughlin, it’s no wonder some are questioning whether influencer marketing is in a bubble—one they’re speculating is on the verge of bursting.
Influencer marketing has certainly been experiencing rapid growth that can precede a bubble. With 78% of brands implementing influencer marketing campaigns in 2017 and 65% of marketers planning to up their influencer marketing budgets in 2019, it’s logical to be wary. Could all the hype be leading up to a collapse?
As it turns out, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no.
Influencer marketing’s bubble
Compensation for all levels of influencers (especially on Instagram) is continuing to go up, as do the projections for the industry as a whole. Influencer collaborations are, in some cases, very overpriced, and more and more influencers are bringing on managers to negotiate their brand deals. As the market floods with managers looking for a cut, a gold rush mentality can drive poor ROI if brands aren’t careful.
Some high-profile YouTubers have been earning $15,000 to more than $50,000 for a single video, which raises the question: What’s the return on that kind of spend? Payments have been largely driven up by vanity metrics that have no direct correlation with numbers that contribute to business success.
There will surely be a breaking point for these trends, but we’re not quite there yet. In the meantime, don’t blow your entire marketing budget on any one influencer, regardless of their hype. Take the time to carefully consider the potential value from your influencer partnerships and be prepared to walk away from a deal that just doesn’t seem right.
The bubble has already popped
In a lot of ways, influencer marketing’s bubble has already popped or is in the midst of doing so. For instance, brands are less focused on potential impressions in favor of more meaningful metrics, like engagements based on program objectives.
Authenticity and trust have also become key to delivering a successful influencer campaign, as consumers turn away from forced, overly commercial partnerships. The issue of influencer fraud continues to be newsworthy, but agencies and platforms are getting more involved with stop-gap solutions to protect brands from unethical influencer business practices. Facebook and Instagram recently filed a lawsuit against companies promoting the sale of fake accounts, likes and followers, reinforcing their stance that this kind of activity won’t be tolerated. You can take steps to protect yourself against influencer fraud by looking for obvious red flags like a burst of unexplainable significant growth in followers or engagement in a short period of time.
Another emerging bubble-bursting trend comes from brands, which have historically struggled with knowing how to integrate influencer programs into their overall marketing efforts. As influencer content becomes more prevalent, brands have begun working with agencies to holistically manage their campaign strategies. Influencer marketing is no longer a standalone tactic; it’s become part of the big-picture strategic plan.
Protect yourself from the ups and downs
Bubbles come and go, but influencer marketing is here to stay. The best way for you to navigate fluctuating trends and price adjustments is to develop futureproof strategies based on evolutions with the market.
For instance, marketers are waking up to the fact that micro-influencers are not only far less expensive than celebrity influencers, but they typically have much higher engagement rates. Big-name influencers with followers in the millions can feel impersonal, can attract thousands of fake followers and often aren’t viewed as authentic and relatable.
Plus, they’re the ones who tend to get into hot water, PR-wise. (Logan Paul, anyone?)
Today’s audiences want content that feels authentic and useful and are starting to turn away from excessively staged cash-grab imagery. While using creative agencies to keep up with content demands can be expensive and unsustainable, savvy brands are tapping influencers to create brand-owned influencer-like content. Without the overhead of a big studio, this is a more affordable option for generating targeted content that’s an organic fit with audiences.
As the industry matures, self-corrections will happen. Some brands will jump on the wrong trend and others will sail through unscathed; you can bypass trouble by staying focused on making data-driven choices and listening to expert advice. There’s no way to avoid bubbles entirely, but it’s a good bet that those who prioritize the efficiency of their influencer partnerships over follower counts will fare the best over time.