Facebook’s 2018 was rough, but it wasn’t alone. While questions were being raised around Facebook’s data and privacy practices, speculation was also growing around influencer marketing. We saw brands and influencers alike actively not disclosing paid partnerships. Some bad actor influencers were artificially inflating their audiences and engagement numbers. Self-ascribed influencer Luke Sabbat was sued for not promoting what he was paid to. Influencer marketing's very bad year topped off by two Fyre Festival documentaries that were a scathing critique on the practice.
This is not the authenticity marketers were promised when influencer marketing came into being. It was meant to be a way for brands to use the online presences of everyday people to authentically, transparently and truthfully promote brands both parties believed in. That’s not where we are today. While there are many doing it right, the category is need of a shift. There are a couple things we can expect.
More Relationships, Fewer Networks
As influencer marketing grew in popularity so did expectations that its primary goal was reach. Suddenly this practice of engaging passionate fan bases became about reaching as many people as possible. Influencer networks, inflated follower counts and inauthentic endorsements followed.
It appears now that marketing is ready for reset. Instead of focusing on breadth of audience, marketers are starting to emphasize smaller influencer communities and followings with the hope that they're more engaged and run by influencers who are truly passionate about a brand.
Creativity Over Reach
With speculation around just how accurate follower counts are for influencers, marketers can still count on their creativity. Instead of just having them create content for their audiences, let them do that and then leverage those assets to reach audiences outside of an influencer’s purview. There’s no reason to separate paid social from influencer marketing. Instead, leverage influencer content along with brand content to fuel paid social efforts. This not only makes the most out of content influencers have been paid to create, it guarantees the content reaches an intended audience.
Back to Basics
Influencer marketing went corporate. As it grew up bad actors took advantage of the influx of dollars stripping the practice’s original intent and strength. Marketers took notice, and they’re pushing to take it back to its original promise. That’s how it should be. There is no Mark Zuckerberg to put pressure on to be better. It’s on all of us to fix the issues.