Influencer Marketing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

InfluencerInfluencer marketing is an industry buzzword this year, and for good reason. This Millennial and Gen Z-friendly marketing strategy is accessible and scalable for just about any retailer. Our industry is becoming fragmented and democratized as technology allows more and more independent and startup companies compete on a larger scale. Influencer marketing is another tool that helps level the playing field. Though when most of us think of the term “influencer,” we think of a celebrity or social media personality with national clout. However, that does not have to be the case. An influencer is really anyone whose opinions, statements, or endorsements can sway the viewpoints of others. For example, regular individuals have influence with their friends, neighbors, or peers.

The Good

Studies show that Gen Z has a high distrust for brands, marketing, and what companies say about themselves in general. This age group, more so than others, places higher esteem and value in what other people say about a business. We all check online reviews before making purchases or working with an unfamiliar business. Generally, these review-writers are random and tend to skew more negatively than the average customer experience. Instead of leaving a lot of your digital presence up to chance, why not put some of that power in the hands of spokespeople and customers with whom you have relationships?

The Bad

For independent retailers who don’t have the same legal resources as major corporations, complying with Federal Trade Commission guidelines can seem overwhelming and risky. This is especially true for influencer marketing, where retailers are ultimately held responsible for posts by their influencers. Basically, all individual posts advertising or endorsing your products need to be clearly labeled as an ad or sponsorship, especially if the poster is getting something in return as a direct result of the post. Though unlikely, if one of your partners violates guidelines, you would be accountable if the FTC takes action. 

The Ugly

Influencer marketing can be extremely effective for introducing your brand to a much wider audience. However, actual consumer influence relies heavily on the perceived neutrality of your spokesperson. A great influencer can spike traffic and provide a burst of cash flow. However, they can rarely sustain the same level excitement long-term.

More importantly, businesses need to be careful about who they choose to partner with. By having an individual support or endorse your products, your brand name will be appearing alongside everything else that person is posting about whether political views, interests, opinions, or even other brands. Make sure to screen each partner carefully to make sure their core values match up with those of your company.

InfluencerQuick Tips

Go Off the Grid

Though influencer marketing is typically applied to social media, you can apply the same principal to partner with other brick and mortar businesses or organizations in your area.

Numbers Aren’t Everything

It can be tempting to partner with people solely based on their number of Instagram or Facebook followers. Especially for small businesses, the quality of followers is more important than the number. Pay more attention to the interactions your potential business partner has with their online connections rather than just the volume.

Give Breathing Room

Influencer marketing works because of the personality of your partner and the relationship they have with their followers. Don’t script all of their promotional content. Give them some creative freedom and the results will be much more natural and effective.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

Influencer marketing can be a great asset, but it shouldn’t be your only marketing strategy. Ultimately, influencer marketing drives brand awareness. Once these new audiences hear of your brand, they’re going to search your own social accounts and website. Make sure those are also up to date.