Influencers, has the time come to reassess their worth?

A survey by Sitecore that appeared on Marketing Week suggested 73% of those aged between 18 and 44 find influencers vain and annoying.

I recently mentioned the fact that a study I’d seen in the last week has suggested that influencers have had their time. A survey by Sitecore that appeared on Marketing Week suggested 73% of those aged between 18 and 44 find influencers vain and annoying. This was also backed up with the idea that 64% didn’t trust influencers either.

This is fascinating. Of course, influencers have taken off in the last few years in a big way, an endorsement from a top influencer can often make or break a brand. Those thrust into the limelight (think Love Island or Bake Off contestants) can often find themselves with lucrative deals. However, at what point do influencers become background noise and not be listened to? Have we as a society got so used to the model that it no longer has much of an effect? I’d say that isn’t true. The fact people are annoyed by them or have issues with trusting them still means they are highly visible. Even though they might be puppets for brands and a means to an advertising end, they are clearly still reaching the right people. Those 73% who profess their dislike of influencers are clearly seeing the products they hawk and, through some means, have seen it and have retained some memory of the products or services they were talking of.

The trick here is to be aware of your niche as an influencer and to perhaps gear your content towards what your audience wants to see. Being two-dimensional and simply talking about products or services that you think are valid isn’t enough. Influencers need to retain an audience and speak to them genuinely. It’s become a profession over the past decade, but being an influencer carries more weight than simply doing deals and selling. People soon become weary of being sold to directly, so earnest, honest and smart content is how many will be able to continue and will certainly be how they will succeed in the future.

Another way to spin this is to look at platforms that are performing well, TikTok for example, is seeing great swathes of success from its advertising end. TikTok recommends that to make an ad work, influencers or advertisers need to make a TikTok, not an ad. This can seem confusing, but what they mean is that to maintain attention, more emphasis should be placed on making a short video that captures the attention and even imitates other styles which are popular on the platform. Adopting the tropes of popular videos and not selling direct seems to be the way. The average user of TikTok will be able to spot a direct ad, but dress it up as a user-filmed video with authentic effects, style and content and you can influence a purchase without spurring the audience to simply scroll to the next video.

The key here is to research. Look at what is trending, keep up with the ever-changing meme culture associated with the platform and adopt what you think will work. Being cutting edge here is key; miss the shelf-life of a meme, and you could look foolish. It’s an exciting, reactive platform but users can be cutting and easily put off.

Being an influencer is exciting and can be hugely fulfilling, but perhaps it’s time for a bit more thought and leadership from the front.

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Peter Watson | Managing Director

Peter Watson is the Managing Director and co-founder of Distract as well as Featured Group, which seeks to found and develop innovative brands and businesses.

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