If there is one thing we’re very good at, it’s the ability to repackage, rebrand and relaunch concepts.

Marketing fundamentals which have been around since the dawn of time, are no longer part of the current conversation.

They are ‘forgotten’, or most likely, ignored.

Yet, create something for the hashtag audience, and we’re onto something new, exciting and sector leading.

They are the extension to our vocabulary. Setting us apart from those who are not in the know.

Celebrity endorsements and word of mouth have undergone such a transformation. One suitable for the digital age.

Influencer Marketing.

It’s understandable why this transformation has occurred. For all its controversies and anxiety-incubation, social media has become a platform for undiscovered talent.

The rules once set by the powers of TV, magazines and radio are no more. A new dawn of creativity and entertainment has emerged.

We are all artists, comedians, filmmakers, journalists, photographers and models.

Everyone has the potential to create their own stardom. For that, we should be grateful.

However, with new opportunities, comes a new marketing promise. An idea based on ‘quick win strategies’ (yuck).

An influencer praising us or recommending our service or product will lead to untold amounts of traffic to our sites and increase sales.

And this is the issue.

Not only has Influencer Marketing practices been questioned and even legislated for (hence the #ad requirement), they are now losing trust.

Reality checking Influencer Marketing

The Drum published an article stating 96% of people in the UK do not trust what influencers say. Really? Is this that much of a surprise?

Whether it’s for fitness, fashion, beauty or any other sector, we have trivialised influencers by resorting to posed pictures and not-so-subtle product placements.

Everyone knows they’re being paid to say things. It’s obvious. Of course, it’s not trusted.

And sometimes, the promo subtly, speaks for itself:

As ever, the issue is with its execution. Rather than the concept.

Word of mouth has always been the most trusted form of marketing. From friends, family and those we look up to.  

If these people recommend something to us, we are more likely to believe them. It’s the trust we have.

They have used whatever they’re recommending. We are trusting their opinion based on their experience.

And this is the point. How can we trust someone else’s opinion of something they haven’t used?

Saving Influencer Marketing from self-destruction

“With great power, comes great responsibility.” – Stan Lee

As a comic book geek, to me, this quote perfectly epitomises the main challenge with Influencer Marketing. For both parties.

Influencers are just as responsible as the companies they partner with. If you keep ‘recommending’ stuff, eventually, you’re going to lose trust with the other 4%. Then you’ll have nothing left.

Likewise, as marketers, spending astronomical amounts on influencers which generate ‘brand awareness’ but no sales, is the quickest way to the exit door.

We need to change the game.

First and foremost, we should be actively encouraging real customer reviews. And shouting the positive ones from the rooftops.

These will always be more valuable. They’re believable. They’re real.

However, influencers have their place. We need to turn them into genuine customers.

The reason we all use sites like Trustpilot and TripAdvisor is due to us wanting to see genuine thoughts and opinions. We trust someone who has had the experience we are anticipating.

Give influencers the product or service to try. For free. Encourage them to be open and honest.

If they like it, they will create content. If they don’t, then don’t force fakery. It will come back and haunt us.

In my opinion, this there is another way to utilise influencers and their audience. Get them involved in the R&D.

Have an idea for a product or course? Want to test a concept? Release it early to key influencers in the sector. Let them be part of its creation. The shaping of its final form.

Imagine how much leverage you will gain from an influencer saying, “I helped to create this.”

Good influencers are promoters. Great influencers have the insight to know what works for them, their network and critically, their audience. It’s an untapped resource.

It’s time we utilised them in the right way.

Share your thoughts

Do you think Influencer Marketing still has a place? Do you think we will ever be able to rebuild the trust? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me @CJPanteny.

See you next time.

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