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Braving the Bubble Burst of Influencer Marketing

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Paul Dyer, President of Lippe Taylor, discuss the keys to effectively thriving within the evolving networks of Influencers and how to prep for when the Influencer bubble does pop.

Paul Dyer was once called by a new employee at Lippe Taylor “the grandfather of social marketing.” And in his talk “Why the Influencer Bubble Will Soon Burst, and How to Prepare for It,” he delivered context for his dire prediction and tips for how to weather the storm ahead, just as a good grandfather would.

Dyer’s been delivering this prediction for nearly a year now, and he notes that it’s always met with cries of “why would you say that?” Measurement is showing a 400% increase in brand-sponsored influencer posts, and that’s just the ones that ensure FTC compliance with the tags #ad, #sponsored, or #spon. When noncompliant posts are tabulated, that percentage could be considerably higher. We’re seeing more influencer posts than ever before, and in 2016 Twitter reported that users trusted influencers almost as much as their friends. But since then, a bit has changed. A few things have, as Dyer put it, “broken” that trust- and with it, the spell that influencer marketing cast on the industry.

The disastrous Fyre Festival broke it. Fake engagement, executed through bought followers and influencer “pods,” broke it. 450 specific influencer tools, designed to streamline and speed up their work, broke it. In no small way, influencer marketing transforming into a $3 billion business has broken it.

However, Dyer mentions a few comforting notions to prevent brands from pulling out of the strategy outright. After all, he started his talk by mentioning his new colleague and Director of Influencer Marketing, who’s on her second day of work. Despite the forecast of a bubble burst, she still has a job. In a knowledgeable, measured, and grandfatherly tone, Dyer went on to share a few factors and strategies that will help companies mitigate the effects of this coming shift.

Don’t Rely on the Tipping Point

Dyer brought up an interesting point when addressing the origins of influencer marketing’s success: it relies in large part on the counsel of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, a book released nearly twenty years ago. The crux of Gladwell’s argument is grounded in the idea that people will look to one or a small group of influencers…and that the power of that influencer is fixed. This wisdom, doled out steadily, is what filled the bubble in the first place.

But this advice doesn’t hold as it did when Gladwell originally shared it. The level of influence an individual has shifts often. Moreover, consumers are influenced by different people from day to day, and in various areas of their lives. The result? Much of the wisdom that guides influencer success, needs to be updated- and open to future updates. And the bubble may have to burst for the industry to finally realize that.

In order to stop relying on this antiquated view on influence, Dyer says, we have to constantly remind ourselves that influence is dynamic- and build our marketing budgets and strategies accordingly.

Seek Substance Over Small Talk Influencer

The meteoric rise of influencer marketing has had several consequences, many of which affect how well it works. FTC regulation, inflated market prices, and the rise of “black hat” strategies are only a few of them. But an important one to look at, is who decides to do the work. As the landscape changes, longstanding influencers may decide to leave the game, allowing for micro-influencers’ entry into the market. Be careful there, Dyer warns.

Many of these micro-influencers may be strong in one area, but engage in “small talk.” What successful brands will do in this area, especially bigger brands like Dyer is accustomed to working with – think Proctor and Gamble, Pfizer, or General Mills – is work with influencers who have something clear and substantive to say. These individuals are most likely to survive the bubble burst, intact and still influential.

What should you look for when identifying these people? They’re great storytellers, they’re interesting beyond their area of influence, they’re experts in something, and they’re successful on multiple platforms. Influencers with these credentials are most likely to stand the test of time.

Work With Influencers Who Would Wear the T-Shirt

Dyer shares one more criterion to hold influencers to: they want to work with you, and not just for the money. If you were to offer the influencer you’re thinking about working with the T-shirt of your brand…would they wear it? This is a sign of their genuine enthusiasm for your brand. It’s that organic interest and appreciation that will make them a good ambassador for your company.

This is not an easy thing to find, but Dyer’s okay with making it a little hard. “Create barriers to entry,” he advises. “Those who want to go through it and go through the hoops, will be the most influential.” They’ll be the most practical and measured in their approach, you’ll get to work with them longer. Put another way, “passion is always going to trump reach. And influencers who love your brand are always going to be more compelling than influencers who just took the paycheck.”

These authentic affinity-based relationships will weather the burst of any bubble. So even though a change is coming in the hotly appreciated area of influencer marketing, the pop doesn’t mean the impact dissolves. On the contrary; an opportunity is presenting itself to make this a meaningful, productive, and enduring practice. It’ll be up to your organizations to look at the practice through that lens, and prepare accordingly.

Lippe Taylor is an award winning marketing and public relations agency specializing in marketing to women.

 

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