In today’s world, we often start and end our days by scrolling through social media. It’s how we learn about news events from around the world, shop for products, and connect with those we know “IRL” and those we’ll never meet. It’s even how we find jobs, in some cases, as 93% of recruiters view a candidate’s social media profile. These highly visual platforms have turned into viable sources of impressive income for a select group of influencers, all with substantial follower counts and brand sponsorships. And while we’ve heard rumors that the influencer “bubble” will soon burst, others are starting to doubt that prediction and wonder how far the realm of social media marketing can really go.
According to a study conducted by USPS, over 60% of direct mail recipients were influenced to visit a promoted website. But many digitally powered businesses will argue that if you want to capture the interest of the internet consumer, you need to target them online. That’s where social media influencers come in. Some may dismiss this job as an easy one that appeals to lazy millennials, but the truth is that successful influencers are required to hustle like nobody’s business. Some of the industry’s top influencers are worth millions and are able to create a content machine with a definitive brand voice. Anyone who watched the Fyre Festival documentaries is aware that Kendall Jenner was reportedly paid $250,000 for one post, but the Kardashians aren’t the only influencers who are making mad money thanks to their digital prowess. The words for “money” and “silver” are the same in at least 14 languages — but no matter what language you speak, the allure of a mega Instagram following will translate.
With all the hype surrounding Insta-fame, it’s no wonder influencers are able to translate their success on the platform to book deals, clothing lines, and major collaborations with the biggest brands in the world. The naysayers who wholeheartedly believed that the saturated market would soon not be able to bear the growing number of popular accounts may be proven wrong. One UK-based talent manager at an influencer agency said that she felt there were no signs of a downturn and that there was every indication of continued growth within the sector.
That said, influencer marketing may not be a smart use of money for all businesses. One recent study found that influencer metrics showed poor results as compared to other digital marketing strategies such as guides and infographics. That could be partially due to the rise of fake social media influencers. It’s a problem that acts as a thorn in the sides of genuine influencers, who have spent years building up a following and learning how to craft engaging content for the digital age. Brands have reportedly lost $200 million to fake influencers, who have paid for fake or robot followers in the hopes of boosting their audience and their potential to make money. It certainly worked, in a lot of cases, which is why many brands are regretting their marketing budgetary choices in retrospect.
To make matters worse, some Instagram users are even pretending to score fake sponsorships by incorrectly using ad disclosure hashtags in an effort to make themselves seem more legitimate. It’s a practice that angers brands and confuses followers. Ultimately, users who resort to this tactic may not find that it’s worth it — and users who buy fake followers can be banned from the platform and have their accounts deleted. New York State Attorney General Leticia James has even started to crack down on companies who sell those fake accounts, as some of these businesses are in the habit of stealing others’ identities and may even commit fraud as a result. One company was also found to have been selling endorsements from social media influencers without disclosure, which violates regulations established by the Federal Trade Commission.
Still, in spite of it all, users tend to see influencers as trustworthy. One recent survey found that one in three people trust the word of an influencer over what a brand has to say. So even though these partnerships may not have been the most profitable, it’s likely that the age of the influencer will continue — and that many people will be “doing it for the ‘gram” for the foreseeable future.
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