Is Influencer Marketing Dead? Or Is It Just Beginning?
Recently, Influencer Marketing has come under scrutiny, after all, can you really trust a blogger review when they’re motivated by receiving free stuff? Well, apparently 88% of us trust online reviews, or at least, did in 2014.
But maybe that’s about to change.
It’s totally fair (and awesome) for an Influencer to develop a commercial partnership with a brand. Good on them. When done right, it’s credible and powerful. But this has inspired the masses and paved the way for a new breed of expectant bloggers who proactively seek products and payment. And who can blame them – everyone likes free stuff. Especially expensive toys, games, cosmetics, etc.
The problem is, it’s just gotten a bit much. For a while there, this issue even impacting PR services like Response Source. Journalists have found themselves inundated with requests for free stuff and some even opted to leave the platform as a result.
This topic has been the centre of attention in Digital / PR land after a lifestyle blogger asked for free accommodation at a notorious hotel. The hotel reacted by publicly responding to the request on Facebook and by banning all bloggers from the hotel as “sense of entitlement is just too strong” (lol).
Without a doubt, the hotel expected the story to blow up. Presumably to stoke the fire, the owner even invoiced the blogger for over €4m in PR exposure that she received. The whole plot was ingenious really, though a bit harsh on the girl in question.
Was it right, or “ok” to publically humiliate the ‘blagger’?
Well, no of course not. No one deserves to be publically humiliated or receive the abuse and trolling that she subsequently received.
But perhaps it was inevitable, or even a necessary evil. ‘Blagging’ culture is a big thing and it’s giving Influencers a bad reputation.
For example, in the run-up to Christmas, many bloggers were proactively Tweeting for product ideas and suggestions to add to their Gift List round-up posts. Seemed legit. In reaction, a clients product was put forward which was unique, genuinely helpful and potentially child life-saving. Despite this, in every single case, the product suggestion was met with money-to-feature requests.
This isn’t a strategy we’d normally recommend, but for the context: bloggers were requesting, the product was a perfect fit for the request, and the business is dedicated to the well-being of children. Of course, you can expect a few money-to-feature requests but it was truly shocking to see how widespread the ‘blagging’ issue was.
Moving forward, we’ll stick to Content Marketing…!
In light of these things, it’s easy to see why so many are starting to question the validity of “Influencer Marketing”. It could be only a matter of time before consumers stop trusting so-called-expert reviews and advice. In the aftermath of “Fake News”, “Click-baits” and so on, there could be a consumer U-Turn towards mainstream media again.
Are the days numbered for Influencer Marketing?
Hell no! It’s only just beginning!
Influencer Marketing is in its infancy and this will be an important catalyst in seeing it mature.
Take SEO and Link Building for example. 15 or so years ago, early SEOs learned that building links resulted in improved search results. Then the masses caught on and abuse it. It created a desperate culture of link building spam. Then Google gave everyone penalties and a handful of brands were publically shamed in the process.
At the time, people asked the same question – is SEO dead?
Well, I can assure you that in 2018, SEO is very much alive and kicking. Search is still the biggest driver of traffic, leads and revenue (depending on the business).
To achieve this, the SEO industry had to grow up. It invested in quality content, PR sensibilities and training in best practices. Sure, there are still some SEO wheel-kickers and link building ‘blaggers’ out there, but I doubt they’re having much success.
And so, the future of Influencer Marketing?
It’ll mature and get better. There will be a shift from quantity to quality.
In link building land, we set quality boundaries like ‘no sites with less than 30 Domain Authority’ and improved vetting processes. Linkers stopped spamming and shifted the focus from links to quality content. We evolved from links for link’s sake to creating editorial with true value and originality. We became Digital PRs & Content Marketers.
Influencer Marketing will evolve and make the equivalent adjustments. Hopefully, it won’t have to rebrand themselves 12 times like SEO Link Builders did! (“Web Relations”? “Social Linkers”? “Outreach Execs”?)
If recent events make ‘blaggers’ think twice, and focus their efforts on creating strong, credible editorial, then great. If a few of them throw in the towel, then so be it. Either way, we’ll soon see an end to the ‘blagger’ band-wagon.