In 2018 the terms ‘social influencer’ and ‘influencer marketing’ were big buzz words in digital marketing. Despite influencer marketing being a fairly new branding strategy, it’s become one of the fastest-growing sectors of digital marketing.

What is influencer marketing?

Usually for a fee, an influencer will partner with brands and businesses to recommend products or services to their followers on social media platforms and/or blogs (although some influencers only work on a commission or conversion basis). This benefits the brand by getting the word out about the business, gaining social media exposure and potentially improving the bottom line.

However, due to its infancy, influencer marketing can still be seen as inauthentic and not bringing real impact (in terms of conversion and sales) to the brand and business. This can be attributed to several factors, such as choosing the wrong influencer, being unable to track and justify the impact brought by the selected influencer, and most importantly, the inability to cultivate a sense of trust by the influencer amongst your target audiences. Any of these factors – or a combination of the three – can put your brand and revenue in jeopardy. Furthermore, an epidemic of fake or bought followers by some self-claimed social media influencers has undoubtedly plagued the industry and given it a bad name.

Do social influencers still work in 2019?

Consumers today are smart, sceptical and content-hungry. They can see through a pretentious influencer’s post instantly conduct a couple of quick online searches. A recent report revealed that only 23% of customers find content from influencers and celebrities as influential. Consumers are far more likely to trust user-generated content that is genuine, relatable and trustworthy.

The key here is trust and credibility. Quality over quantity.

While it’s not the focus of this blog post to delve into the details of how to select an influencer for your brand or businesses, you need to be aware of the quality, relevance and social impact of your selected influencer amongst your target audience. It’s important that your influencer will need to cultivate a sense of trust amongst your target audiences.

The biggest issue of using social influencers

The whole idea of using influencers is that instead of using traditional advertising with its blatant hard sell, influencer marketing provides a softer and subtler platform to get the message across.  This makes sense if the influencer is perceived to be genuine by their followers and that they’re a real user of your products or services. However, if the influencer has spent the last 12 months singing praises to pretty much anything, there is a significant chance that their  followers will not believe what they’re claiming is true.

A similar effect also occurs when brands and businesses use too many influencers. While it is not common, there are businesses that use far too many influencers (more than 10 at a time) to promote their brand. This can be detrimental to the business as it can be perceived as “going overboard” by the target audiences. Furthermore, your target audiences would prefer to see genuine and credible user-generated content from the business to demonstrate their credibility, rather than another business-centric influencer post that is few and far in between.

Okay, give me the answer already.

So, would social influencers work for your brand in 2019? Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong answer. One must examine the industry and assess the pros and cons and also the associated costs and risks that come with influencer marketing. It is still an effective marketing strategy for some industries such as food and beverage, retail, and beauty and cosmetics. However, it may be less effective in a professional services industries such as legal, accounting and financial planning.