The Social Media Influencer Is Broken

The Social Media Influencer - CPSD - Christine Panourgias Social and Digital Media Marketing - Image From Rawpixel

The Social Media Influencer is Broken

Originally Posted in 2012 – 2019 Update added.

After this past weeks #RBChat it became abundantly clear that the social media influencer is broken and so is the process for selecting social media influencers and social media influencers themselves are… broken.

Having a large audience doesn’t make one influential.

Let’s use “Kate” (not a real person)  as an example. Kate has 20k followers. She is passionate about women’s fashion, shopping on a budget at vintage stores in her suburban neighbourhood and takes city transit everywhere. She doesn’t have a driver’s licence and probably never will. Three brands are currently looking for influencers and brand ambassadors. Company “A” is a car manufacturer who is launching a HUGE SUV and wants to give a week-long test drive to  influencers. Company “B” is a Haute Couture Fashion house who would like to invite influencers to a fashion show downtown in a boutique hotel. Company “C” is a pet accessory company. They want to give their influencers doggie treats. Yes, doggie treats. Should Kate be asked to represent all, one or none of these brands? If you work in marketing and possibly PR. you would agree that only one of these brands is a fit for Kate. It’s not Company “A” or “C” and this is why:
  • She doesn’t drive
  • She doesn;t hold a valid license
  • Kate doesn’t know anything about cars let alone SUVs
  • She’s never – EVER even talked about owning a pet or knowing anyone who does.
Kate should absolutely be approached by company “B” and here is why:
  • She loves to shop for fashionable frocks
  • She is probably finding awesome vintage couture on her shopping sprees at Value Village
  • Kate can really put looks together as we’ve seen on her Instagram feed (no I didn’t mention it above but we can assume)
Even a 1st year marketing student could do the math. Why are brands with marketing departments full of smart people and PR agencies selecting the “Kates” of the world to represent EVERY single client and product in their dossier?  It’s not authentic, and doesn’t seem to be working.

We Can Rebuild Them

The other day during #RBChat we discussed influencers. Thanks to #RBChat co-host @LindsayFultz for putting together a group of awesome questions for the chat. Lindsay has had great experiences using Klout to locate influencers related to @LoveIt. If there isn’t passion for a product. Discussions won’t feel authentic, trust won’t be built and sales won’t be made. The old formula still holds true. Relationship => Trust => Sale Has everyone forgotten the basics of sales and marketing with the introduction of a few new tools? Brands should re-examine how they market on social media in order to increase their returns. Target audiences, and engaged passionate brand ambassadors are waiting.

The Social Media Influencer Update - 2019

Not a lot has changed, since I wrote this blog. Many of my “Influencer”, friends have continued to grow their audiences and build real communities. This was fun to watch and I am proud of the group who have worked to create ACTUAL content, and stayed true to their brands.

That said, so many FAKEfluencers have emerged, as we knew would happen. So many who completely lack any relevance what-so-ever, still remain on the lists of PR companies, who are running the social media campaigns for brands.

Instagram, is experimenting with hiding likes, and influencers are posting viral video melt downs because they can’t do any other work, or work a 9-5.

Let’s not forget the failed Fyre Festival, which used influencers to raise awareness, and funds from sponsors for what was supposed to be the most spectacular, and exclusive festival in history. If you haven’t heard of this colossal failure, then here is a link to the Fyre Festival wiki

It seems we’ve learned nothing since this was originally posted in 2012. I for one, don’t much care for the state of influencer marketing in Canada, and Toronto specifically. So much needs to change. Raising awareness for brands is an amazing marketing tactic, WHEN DONE RIGHT. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of nonsense in our social media feeds, that is NOT driving traffic, making an emotional connection, OR making sales. 

It’s time that we either rebuild the social media influencer or stop calling them influencers. We can just call them photogenic people who post to social media but do nothing for brands … Just my 2 cents.