I’m going to rip this band-aid off right now.
Instagram influencers are the best way to piss your money up a wall.
Instagram influencers are the best way to blow your whole marketing budget.
Instagram influencers are a waste of time, space, effort, energy, eyeballs, attention, bandwidth, iPhone data plans, creativity, interest, analysis, investment and good times.
You know exactly who I’m talking about. The folks whose job is to pose with products, abs and exotic locations to show you how #humbled they are, while making bank at the same damn time. The folks whose job is to be a model but without 90% of the work that it takes to be a model. The folks that people pay a hundred grand (for the record, yes that’s $100,000.00) to write a caption and snap a pic on their free, band provided phones.
At its core, the idea of an influencer isn’t terrible. Find someone who has influence, and ask them to influence their following, audience and the general public to invest in your products. But the good ideas really stop there.
It only works when it’s authentic. Okay, sure, a lot of people are buying skinny tea. The bad news is, it’s a lot less than it was before, because people have cottoned onto the fact that all of the influencer posts are just paid advertisements. They’re not real, authentic product reviews. This means that the trust factor is just about zero.
And it’s a lot harder now to hide that it’s a non-authentic piece of crap post, because it’s fucking illegal to not tell people that it’s a sponsored advertisement, and if you fail to disclose that, you’re going to be fined.
Influencers are turning content into commercial breaks. You know what that turns your fancy influencer’s feed into? Nothing but commercial breaks with no content in between. Bear in mind, this is Instagram, and there’s already advertisements to scroll through between the content.
If the content is a commercial break too, that means that brands and influencers think the general public and their dedicated audience are dumb enough to waste their days scrolling through literally hundreds of advertisements without giving them content that makes them at all bothered to scroll through advertisements. Top web development company in Bangalore
How stupid do you think people are, mate?
Ultimately, we don’t want to be constantly bombarded with advertising. Every time a platform has skewed too far in that direction, we’ve all abandoned ship for a platform that’s more respectful of our attention and our willingness to absorb advertising.
Why do you think we’re more into Netflix than cable?
The content itself is just off-brand. Do you follow someone on Instagram because you like seeing photos of amazing locations and beautiful buildings?
Tough. Here’s their latest post about protein shakes.
Do you follow someone because she’s a talented indie filmmaker and blogger and you wanted to see her Instagram behind-the-scenes?
Great. But here’s their latest post about protein shakes.
The influencer model is essentially requiring people to sacrifice the style, the tone, the imagery, the story and the message that they committed to and attracted an audience around, purely to push product. The posts have nothing to do with their work or their aesthetic, and it means that any honest content they make is going to be poisoned by the off-brand opportunism. Gross.
And you know what? The ROI isn’t even worth it! I have seen influencer marketing work, I’ll admit it. In some industries, with some influencers, on some platforms, with some products – it can provide 500% more ROI than any other form of advertising. But the qualifications are many and varied, and I’ve seen far more brands just throw money away and only receive vanity metrics in return.
Clicks. Views. Likes. Shares. Who gives a fuck?
The only metrics that should matter to you are these:
In the startup marketing game, we call these Pirate Metrics (AARRR!) and I am bringing them up because your entire approach to marketing should be based on these metrics, and if you have an activity or a strategy or an expenditure that does not contribute to growth in one of these areas, it’s a waste of your time.
If you can run an influencer campaign that impacts these? Great. But I’ll bet you a slice of pizza that ya can’t.
Finally? They’re rogue agents. And you can’t trust them. Spent a couple hundred grand on an influencer? Nice!
Actually managed to move the bottom line with real, measurable ROI? Awesome.
What do you do when they come out with some racist, homophobic, indefensible shit that severely messes with your brand, makes you look bad, offends yourself and your staff and winds up hurting vulnerable and marginalised people?
I’m not saying they will. But it is a clear and present danger.
This is from Vogue:
Brands who have jumped on the influencer bandwagon are now scrambling to reset their storied houses. In an effort to make their brands more inclusive, it would appear that influencers, who represent “the people,” just might harbor values that are not so all-encompassing, after all. When Kuwaiti beauty influencer Sondos Alqattan published her views on the treatment of household workers – employers should possess employee passports should the latter decide to “run away” – a deluge of complaints were directed at her collaborative brands. M.A.C, Shiseido, Max Factor Arabia, and Phyto severed ties immediately with Alqattan. When you let people who you can’t ensure will stay within your brand’s boundaries have a massive association with your brand, you’re risking a lot of good will.
The negative associations can just keep on coming back, and coming back. The nature of the game for influencers is that they’re generating constant posts on an insane schedule with very little oversight, feedback or checks/balances in place. That’s how you wind up with Pewdiepie and his Nazi crap. If the influencer messes up their career, that’s on them. Sucks if they could take your whole brand down with them though.
And it’s not even just the risk factor. It’s selfish, irresponsible influencers who push cheap fast fashion, gender norms, sexualisation and insane body standards on young people and teenagers who are already vulnerable, and do so without any regard for their mental health. It’s influencers who want to pose around the place holding up vapidity as a goal and damaging kids’ ideas of who, what and where they ought to be.
Okay, so what’s the alternative? Collaborate.
Don’t sponsor posts – work with people to make good, solid content that people will enjoy, that connects them constructively your brand and provides influence through positive associations.
Instead of a paid Instagram post series where some moron takes photos of himself using body oil, work with a talented film maker with an audience who cares, to create an Instagram based documentary series starring athletes and creatives who are within your target demographic, and make it good.
Put the focus on making content and supporting creatives, rather than paying for fake advertisements. Stop working with kaftan wearing faux celebrities and start working with that young artist who has dedicated her life to a craft and can make your brand resonate with an audience who appreciate her creativity and will respect you for backing her.
The truth is, influencers might not be fucked now. They might not be fucked tomorrow. But as a category and a vertical, they’re on their way out. People just aren’t stupid, shitty advertising just doesn’t work, and weight loss protein shakes are snake oil for idiots.