Web Influencers – A Major Factor Today But Will They Last?
By Tom Greenbaum
These are individuals who have developed a very large following on the Internet generally because they communicate information about a category of products or services in which they have a high level of interest and/or expertise.
Often the influencers are celebrities, but increasingly there are more and more “regular” people who have established a large following.
The motivation to become an influencer is primarily financial, as many people today are earning hundred of thousands of dollars from the fees collected from companies who pay them to provide reviews and recommendations about their product(s).
It is estimated that this year the influencer market will be somewhere around $3 billion dollars. There is no official source that measures this market at the present time, the actual number may be much higher or lower, but the advertising and marketing industry recognizes that the spending is very high and seems to be trending upward.
The main reason for this trend is that influencers are felt to be an excellent way of target marketing to the specific segments each influencer claims to reach. Further, according some recent research studies, over 80% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising.
While I suspect there will always be a place for influencer marketing in corporate marketing programs, it is my belief that this business will decline in both size and importance to advertisers in the very near future. This may not be a common belief of most market prognosticators, but I feel my prediction is well supported by the following key points:
The more people in the target market for influencers begin to understand how this industry works the less credibility they will have in the influencers.
Specifically, as people realize that influencers are paid (often very large sums) to recommend and promote products, the less believable their information will be.
In effect, influencer messages will eventually have no more credibility than traditional advertising.
There is a big difference between a celebrity that is an endorser and a traditional influencer who is recommending/enforcing. Specifically, the traditional celebrity endorser/ influencer had high level of awareness and a clear “persona” BEFORE they became an endorser. In fact the reason they were chosen to endorse a product is that they already had a known personality profile which the supporting advertisers believed fit with their product or service.
The opposite is the case with traditional influencers. Their awareness and recognition was built on the products the recommend for which they are paid to promote.
Another reason I believe the traditional influencer market will decline is that there are not currently generally accepted methods of measuring the results of the spending.
Unless the influencer effort is a single-minded activity to stimulate calls or direct sales, it is very difficult to determine the specific impact they generate.
Third, it is well known that word of mouth, particularly from people you know, is the most effective form of “influencer marketing”.
Both Facebook and Instagram are well aware of this, and as pressure for ad revenues increases from the influencer segment, I believe that they will work on platform enhancements that promote individual recommendations to other “friends”
In summary, I really see a change in the advertising landscape in the near future. Like all prognostications it will be interesting to see if I am correct.
Tom Greenbaum is a Certified SCORE Mentor with New York Score, He can be reached at:Greenbaum@scorenyc.org