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Influencer Marketing: Is the Gain Worth the Risk?

In recent years, influencer marketing has gained momentum with marketers. Why is it working and will it last?

Influencer marketing is centered around brand recognition and it is seen most when brands partner with someone who has a large following on one or more social media platform. Companies seek out influencers to help promote their products or services in a way that appears organically throughout social media. An “influencer” could be a popular YouTuber, Instagram model, a well-known celebrity, or popular blogger. Essentially, an influencer is someone with a large following within your industry or vertical that can help boost your brand awareness and build trust with your target audience.

Although influencer marketing is not a new concept, it has adapted to meet current trends and platform updates. Nowadays, influencers do not need to be an A-list celebrity, let alone be famous. They simply need an above average audience on one or multiple social media platforms. This form of marketing places quality over quantity, therefore, it’s critical to align your brand with proper influencers who you believe will represent and convey your brands message properly.

Moreover, with the rise of ad blockers and the declining listenership of radio, influencer marketing is becoming even more effective in the advertising world. Again, quality over quantity. Let’s take a deeper look at the pros and cons of paid promotions.

The Pros of Influencer Marketing:

1. Cost Effective.

Brands are looking for ways to get their products in front of massive audiences, but aren’t necessarily willing to pay a Grammy winner to do it. Finding someone with a few hundred thousand followers could be their answer. The going rate of an influencers vary, so if you are looking for budget advice you can check out Digiday’s article “What Influencer Marketing Really Costs”. For example, in 2017 a marketer could be expected to pay roughly $500 for a snapchat campaign or $250 for an Instagram post for some social stars. The cost fluctuates with followers and notoriety. Kim Kardashian reportedly charges a $250,000 for one Instagram photo.

2. Reach specific demographics.

Pre-teens and teenagers are more interested in watching their cell phones than television. They aren’t reading printed newspapers or magazines, and they are not likely paying attention to billboard advertising when they’re riding in the car. Consumers aged 13-24 watch over 12 hours of video a week on social platforms, like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook, all hotbeds for influencer marketing.

3. Idolization.

Fans of influencers tend to idolize them as if they are celebrities. They want to copy what they are doing, wearing, saying, and certainly the products they are using.

4. Brand building.

The halo effect is described as what happens when a brand uses the reputations of a specific person to push a product onto a potential consumer. If the influencer is loving the product and sharing it with their audience, it shines a positive light on said product, making it desirable to the influencer’s followers.

5. Trust.

A personal connection with the consumer is important. If the consumer sees a product being used and/or recommended by someone who’s opinion they trust, they are more likely to buy it, even if the price seems to be inflated.

The Cons of Influencer Marketing:

1. Damage to your brand.

If an influencer’s life is too “edgy,” they could sabotage your brand. Remember earlier this month when viral YouTuber Logan Paul uploaded an offensive video of himself and others exploring Suicide Forest in Japan? Paul was named one of Forbes magazine’s top influencers in entertainment in 2017. However, he was slammed by YouTubers for his insensitive video and he embarrassed brands that he sponsored such as Hanes underwear.

2. Missing disclosure.

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has been cracking down lately. Just last month, the Sinclair Broadcast Group was fined $13.4 million dollars for running sponsored content as news and not disclosing this to viewers. They showed new stories on a Cancer foundation, however, they failed to disclose that the foundation was paying for them to air.

3. Overfeeding.

You may be paying the influencer to advertise your brand, but in doing so, you are making them bigger. If their popularity rises too much, you may have to pay them more to endorse your brand, or risk losing to a competitor.

4. Lack of brand control.

Ultimately, influencers become an extension of your brand that you can’t really control. It's risky to let the influencer promote your brand how they like. Therefore, brands tend to write scripts and/or give specific instructions for advertisement, which can seem unnatural to viewers and turn them off your product completely. Similarly, there is always the risk that the influencer could not be 100% honest in their contests and giveaways. Just recently, an Irish blogger, Terrie McEvoy, was forced to apologize after rigging two of her Instagram competitions so that people she knew would win them.

5. Fraudulent influencers.

Ratings aren’t everything they appear to be. The demand for popularity online has driven many to purchase followers on their social media platforms. According to CNBC, around 48 million of Twitter’s reported active users are bots rather than real accounts. These bots will add to the follower count, but will not interact with any posts, leaving you out of exposure and advertising dollars.

Is influencer marketing really worth it?

Despite the risks, there are a lot of great reasons to be attracted to influencers and influencer marketing. People look up to those with high-profiles, want to be like them, and often want to purchase products they use or endorse. Brands across all industries are feeling the pressure to join this quickly escalating, and comparatively cheap way of advertising. 2018 appears to be the biggest year yet for influencer marketing.

My advice to anyone looking to use an influencer is to do your research. Become intimately familiar with your industry and learn from those who have made mistakes. Be sure you investigate influencers and know they are a good fit with your brand before putting your hard-earned money behind them. Lastly, pay attention to the FCC and the FTC’s warnings about giving full disclosure to make sure you aren’t in any type of violations.

Written February 1, 2018 by

Becca Melrath

Semi-functioning adult and social media aficionado.

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