‘Influencer’. The term has become something of a sneered-at title among some audiences, yet brands still seem keen to chase them. Are you chasing the right influencer, however? The case of the mass-influencer (and the sudden swing towards smaller, socially-targeted influencer marketing) is a life-lesson in why more isn’t always better, and it’s one social media marketers need to pay attention to. That’s why Zebra 360 Online Marketing is taking a closer look at this sticky topic- and everything you need to know to pick the right influencer for your brand.

The rise (and fall) of the celebrity influencer

‘Influencer’ has a bit of a sticky place as a job title at the moment. It’s easy to see why. Marketing has been on a bit of an evolution over the past years. We’ve swung away from blindly trusting brands. We want to hear the honest opinion of people like us, normal people we can trust. In fact, there’s less and less confidence in the honesty of consumer brands. We’ve become a society who cares about the value our peers can add to the purchase journey, not a slick salesman.

This saw the original meteoric rise of the influencer. And yes, most original ‘influencers’ were people we liked and trusted because of their knowledge on the subject. People with genuine chops in the industry or niche we were shopping, or celebrities with authentic opinions on products they loved. But that quickly fell to the cult- and there was a brief time when that was the only word that would fit- of the celebrity influencer. Sometimes this wasn’t even a ‘genuine’ celebrity, but simply an ‘internet celebrity’ with hundreds and thousands, or even millions, of followers devotedly following their every move for a wide range of reasons. Brands courted them, fans trusted them, and product got moved.

The shift away from ‘cpelebrity’

Sadly, the opportunity was somewhat squandered. Marketers and the ‘celebrities’ alike were foolish, losing touch with what actually created the ‘influencer marketing’ target in the first place. It was always about that trust factor, the personal connection the viewer had with the influencer. They didn’t want to hear from people motivated only by the eagerness to move product.

The original influencer wave, in short, faked out fast. People with a lot of greed and very little to offer started proclaiming themselves ‘influencers’ without much sign of influencing anything at all. Followers (mostly bots) were bought to bamboozle marketers into thinking people mattered and net deals that did nothing for brands. And the very people those marketers hoped to reach quickly realised that, while their favourite beauty blogger may once have offered genuine, thoughtful critiques of products they legitimately stood behind, today they will shill anything that gets them freebies and lets them write ‘influencer’ on their CV.

The rise of the personalized influencer

As a savvy marketer, it’s important to realise that the ‘classic’ celebrity influencer has little to offer you in 2020. They no longer carry the trust of an audience who wants authenticity and guidance. That doesn’t mean people don’t take their favourite influencers seriously- there’s still a ton of merit to be had from influencer partnerships with the right person- it’s just the face of the market that’s changed.

Ironically, it’s changed back to something closer to what the influencer once was. Those with small, targeted audiences who trust their input. It’s not about the big follower numbers, it’s about the connection they have with their audience and the faith that audience has in their authenticity. Corporate advertising still doesn’t interest the modern consumer as much as a genuine peer-to-peer recommendation from another consumer.

Influencer marketing is here to stay- but seek the right partnerships

So, where does that leave the smart social media marketer? Looking for smart, productive influencer partnerships rather than choosing your influencers on big follower numbers alone. Active, positive content with an inviting atmosphere. Followers with whom they’ve built up trust, and influencers who believe in your brand for a lot more than the freebies you offer them. ‘Traditional’ influencers have lost our trust, but influencer-led marketing is here to stay. Make sure you build partnerships that will nurture your brand to success.

There’s a ton of genuine value to be had in the right influencer relationship, and Zebra 360 Online Marketing can help you find the perfect partnership for your brand, as well as craft a social media marketing campaign that will build your ROI, bring in acquisitions, and ensure you convert every time.