Rule Breakers in the Influencer Industry

The influencer industry is notorious for having attention and trust advantage, sloppy metrics (more often than not) and generally considered by many to be a challenge due the lack of control of the communication process. And then we have the influencer advertising platforms, which are like getting your car repaired. If you don’t know enough about cars, you won’t know whether you’re being treated fairly. So what happens is that mechanics end up having a significant knowledge advantage, and you end up being charged for things you didn’t want in the first place. Here’s where it gets funny: You don’t know whether the actual problem is being solved, or it’ll emerge a new one. You see where I’m going with this, but let’s put some context here.

The TV aftermath

There was a time when marketers (still true for big corporations) just bought 30 second slots, and if they didn’t work, it wasn’t their fault. Because they could go to their bosses and say, hey I bought this ad—as I’m supposed to… If it didn’t work it’s not my fault.

Most of the times when someone bought a TV ad, that person just didn’t want to know if it worked (hard but true), instead they bought an excuse so he or she wouldn’t get fired.

And I’m afraid I’m starting to see the same scenario in the influencer industry.

Influencer Marketing is the next big thing. That headline has been (still is) all over the place. So if we think about the worldview of the person who do the marketing in a company, this sounds a lot like the scenario described a couple of paragraphs ago: hey, boss, this quarter I invested in this influencer marketing thing everybody’s talking about, if it doesn’t work, well, it’s not my fault.

If you compare these two scenarios, they are a lot alike. So what does that guy do when a campaign doesn’t work? Easy. That guy shows metrics. Twitter impressions, likes, views, engagement…

What might seem different now there are a lot of ways to measure results, but there’s a big distinction to be made here. While the digital world allows you to measure and track basically every single thing, it’s up to you to measure real results. What do I mean by that? Most people measure clicks or views on their way to results, not results. For example, measuring impressions is like that Mad Men guy buying 30 second ads, it’s just a process to cover his or her ass.

And that’s the TV aftermath. Great tools, great influencer platforms, but unless you measure the right things, none of this matters.

When it comes to influencer marketing we start finding the same patterns of sloppiness, where marketers just want to find an excuse when a campaign doesn’t work. But hey, if they hire an influencer and run a campaign, they can say this campaign had one thousands of impressions, retweets, likes, shares, you go down the list.

The race to the bottom

Influencer companies know what goes on in marketing departments. They see a profitable business model, therefore lots of new players are trying to get a piece of the cake by exploding the topic I just pointed out. Those are the rule breakers.

What happens when there are too many new players at once is that there’s a race to the bottom, and the problem with that, as Seth Godin says, is that you might win.

What Seth Godin means by race to the bottom, is squeezing money, quality, ethics… and whatever they have to do in order to win the race.

Cheaper TV ads. Longer and cheaper TV ads.

What does this mean to the influencer industry?

The race to the bottom means competing in price, to see who’s the cheapest. Slightly translated, competing to see who’s got the cheapest attention.

Every day a new player comes in this industry. Lots of new companies racing to the bottom. And the deeper they go, the dirtier the tricks.

The only thing we get with this is a lousy internet, where brands don’t get the performance they seek and people get annoyed by some people who call themselves influencers. Which ultimately might end up with a lack of attention and trust, just like TV.

A few days ago I was talking with a friend about this and he said: “what it can’t be is that somebody like me [referring to himself as someone with a few thousand followers in social media] actually goes to one of these influencer platforms and make 8-10 bucks just for publishing a tweet, even though I don’t influence–which costs to the brand like 20 bucks. I really loved it, but now as as a client, I no longer like it.”

Wrapping up

The problem I have with every new company racing to the bottom is that it’s underhanded. Most platforms that sell “influencer marketing advertising” use these “promising metrics”. And I am afraid that we’re matching these companies with lots of buyers who don’t want to know if it works (again, a hard truth). That’ll mean we’re just translating TV to the Internet, but on the latter the interruption-level is way higher.

By the way, every time an interesting topic emerges, scams are all over the place. The same happened a few years ago with Neuromarketing, where lots of new companies emerged selling the buy button in the brain. So here you’ll find the same BS. If they promise you that, run.

I believe influencer marketing can be a good thing. Actually I do make a living in this industry, but most companies who happen to be in the race to get cheaper attention… They’ll do whatever it’s in their hands to win. Yep, it’s a profitable way to play this game but not one I’d be proud of.

Maybe it’s time to start regulating this thing.

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