Influencers – love them or hate them, they are the ones most brands are looking to spend their marketing budgets on these days.
Recent bad press aside, influencers serve their purpose well – high-quality, hyper-local content targeted at a highly-engaged, relevant audience. No other channels have engagement rates that come close to these influencers, whether they're individuals or online platforms.
Even though they are great outreach channels, what doesn't get talked about enough is that these influencers are just what they are – influencers, in every sense of the word. In other words, influential people who exert influence over their following. This also means that on top of the increased eyeball counts your brand receives, you'd also get an extension of the influencer’s traits as well – Xiaxue and her authenticity, Drea Chong and her elegance, or Jianhao Tan and his energy.
My point, however, is that influencer marketing is not the holy grail of marketing – and it wasn’t devised as such either. Though it has evolved and matured over the years, it is still not the marketing silver bullet most brands envision it to be – and here are three reasons why.
1. Reach and impressions aren't everything
Influencer marketing works on a simple basis: I have X amount of followers that garner Y% of engagement levels, and engaging my services would cost you $Z. Metrics such as conversion rates, click-through rates, or actual purchases are seldom actually discussed.
As a brand, what you’re paying for is really just reach and impressions and nothing more. In this sense, it is almost no different from the traditional word of mouth marketing – getting information and recommendations from someone you trust, admire, or simply like to ogle at.
The important thing for you is what comes after – what will you do with this immediate influx of new audiences, hours after your product is shared with tens of thousands of viewers? Are the right mechanics in place to maximise this increased visitor count? Are your supply chains equipped to handle an onslaught of orders?
While reach and impressions are two valuable metrics that are hard to achieve, especially for a new brand or for a product in a highly-competitive industry, what’s just as important is your brand’s ability to follow through. Likes and comments don't bring you bottom line, but your ability to leverage on this increased exposure will.
2. Building relationships with your customers
When influencers promote your brand’s products, the many comments and high quality engagements are definitely pleasing to the eyes - so pleasing that it’s often easy to get carried away. The truth of the matter is that the influencer is building upon their already-established relationships with their audience, and not so much developing your brand’s relationship with theirs. And this will be the case even if you’ve done your research to determine that their audience is in line with your identified ideal target audience.
By spending on influencers, you are effectively committing to a trade-off: attaining exposure at the expense of relationship-building. By depending on the influencer's clout to build your brand’s relationships with consumers, and missing out on using other tools – such as inbound or value-based content marketing – to do so, you are also losing out on the opportunity to create your own advocates. This is further accentuated by the fact that your brand is constantly sharing airtime with other brands as well, which might end up diluting your story and voice.
Of course, there’s no right or wrong approach here - just one that is in line with your intended objectives and outcomes of your marketing spend, so long as you are clear with them.
3. Credibility of your brand is literally in another's hands
The stock of influencers rises and falls with every negative press, online scandal, or even personal matters. The risk of engaging influencers is such that when the credibility of one influencer wanes, so does your brand’s. Your messages are inevitably intertwined with your influencers’ personal lives, and your brand inherits their values, both positive and negative.
Most influencers also push for the opportunity to create their own content, which we as content creators ourselves are highly supportive of. Their authentic voices are their most valuable assets, and too much interference would stifle with their creative processes anyway. While the resulting content is less disengaging and phony, this also holds the risk of the dilution of your brand’s story and values.
Compare this to building your brand’s own image and personality – developing a strong persona that is able to generate just as much engagement. Brands that come to mind include Oreo, Coca-Cola, and even our very own Scoot. All marketing efforts as a result are streamlined, and at the end of the day, your brand’s curated image is one to call your own, instead of one that's borrowed from others.
Of course, the intention of this piece (if it isn’t already clear enough) isn’t to slam influencer marketing, or simply strike it off as another gimmicky tactic that will never achieve its pinnacle (RIP geo-location marketing). It is still a highly effective outreach tool, and something we engage with on a regular basis as well. And as per every outreach tool, the usual practices apply – choosing the right channels, communicating to the right audience groups and defining success metrics properly.
Rather, I’d just like to remind everyone that marketing is and should be highly-integrated – no one channel is a silo, and the same should go for influencer marketing.