Influencer marketing isn’t over, but it is changing.
Fyre Festival might have happened – or not happened – almost two years ago, but thanks to new documentaries from Netflix and Hulu, and the recent incarceration of founder Billy McFarland, it’s still very much in the public consciousness.
One issue still very much leading the conversation is influencer marketing. Fyre Festival used 400 instagram influencers to launch the event, with celebs such as Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber paid to post first a mysterious orange square and then luxury shots of themselves on Fyre Island. While the founder has been sentenced to six years in prison, there are some who wish to see those involved in promoting the festival held to account as well.
It’s that accountability that many have suggested signals the end for influencer marketing and there certainly seems to be a public appetite for greater transparency in sponsored posts. A petition started by actress and activist Jameela Jamil, which aims to stop celebrities from promoting ‘toxic’ diet aids and appetitie suppressants, has gained more than 185,000 signatures following a backlash against public figures advertising products they do not use or have the expertise to recommend. It’s also thought that fees for celebrity advertisers have fallen by two thirds in just two years.
All of which has led some experts to denounce influencer marketing altogether – but the truth is that influencer marketing is still relevant, it’s just getting smaller.
Micro influencers, as the name implies, are not traditional celebrities but are influencers who have built a smaller audience organically. Typically they have between 2,000 and 50,000 followers, although some can have up to half a million. What’s important though is not the size of the following, but the engagement levels of their audience. The Kardashian/Jenner clan might have a combined Instagram following of more than 520 million users, but as they are well known for partnering with any brand that will cough up the cash, they have little connection with their followers. In fact, it’s possible that becoming affiliated with a Kardashian or Jenner could be damaging for your brand.
Take low-calorie ice cream brand Halo Top as an example. When they realised traditional marketing methods weren’t working for them, they reached out to social media influencers. These influencers, for them, included “not some big celebrity” but a person with “at least 1,000 followers and an average of 100 likes per post”. Fast forward a few years, and Halo Top ice cream is stocked in all of the UK’s big four supermarkets.
The key to successful influencer marketing is understanding what influence really is. It’s easy to be attracted to accounts with a large number of followers, but engagement is a much more important metric. How many likes, comments and shares do posts receive – and does the user have time to respond to comments? If so, it’s much more likely that their followers will be influenced by their recommendations, and the partnerships will be cheaper, or even free, so it’s a win for the budget too.