And throughout this time there has been an identity crisis for influencers as the teenage phase of the industry created some doubts about impact and authenticity. The media often chose to sensationalise high-reaching influencers in a negative light with superficial and at times misleading behaviour.
All the while an ecosystem of influencers with a huge variety of passions and verticals was exploding across multiple platforms. All of this tapped into the premise that people want to watch other people who have something interesting to say, far more than they want to hear from a brand. This is the reason why 65% of people go to Instagram is to see what content influencers are creating, which is likely to be an even higher stat across new platforms such as TikTok. While it hasn’t always been pretty there is no doubt that influencers and creators (as they prefer to be called) are commanding large and engaged audiences with their messages of authority and impact.
Trust is the biggest driver of effective messages: if you trust the sender then you are much more likely to act or do something as a result of their message. This trust is crucial for brands to tap into influencers because trust in media and advertising has been declining, reaching new lows every year as measured by Edelman in their annual Trust Barometer. Influencers play an increasingly key role for brands as the main trusted bridge to reach audiences of both current and potential new customers. We know the outdated marketing funnel no longer acts in a linear way from awareness through to consideration and purchase but few brands have fully adapted their thinking to understand the pathways of the new model of behaviour based on a complex system.
To date, the biggest challenge for brands using influencer marketing has been how to plan for the role of influence in their brand’s marketing ecosystem and then how to find the right influencers and run programs at a scale that can fill the gaps left by declining traditional media.