The rise of the #deinfluencer
Why brands should not put their faith in the hands of influencers
The concept of influencers has been around for years. Contrary to what most people think, it’s nothing new. At least in its classic form. With the arrival of the internet and social media, a new form emerged: digital influencers. In recent years, this way of marketing has gained popularity rapidly but could lose it just as quickly.
The concept is simple, and sounds good at first. As a company or brand, you look for a person whose style or values match those of your business, has many followers and can demonstrate a high level of engagement with those followers. In exchange for a certain amount of money, this influencer recommends your product through Instagram or Facebook, which –hopefully – increases your sales. But this is where the good idea ends.The public has figured out that it’s all about paid advertising and, in part due to a lack of transparency, belief in the authenticity of these posts has deteriorated. Unclear legislation governing the subject hasn’t helped matters. The law currently says that if you advertise, this must be made clear to consumers. How this should be accomplished is not specified, resulting in a cobweb of interpretations.Finally, consumers have learned to identify these posts as “commercial breaks” when they scroll through their social media, which is an even bigger frustration.
To say that influencers influence nothing and nobody, however, may be an exaggeration. As a marketer, you should always look at both sides. We know that influencers can increase your sales, but can they also evolve into so-called “defluencers”?
Each day, over 100 million photos and videos are uploaded on Instagram, so an “influencer” who wants to stand out from the crowd faces quite a task.In a world where buying likes and followers is easier than ever – $1,350 for 15,000 followers and $50 for 500 likes – the influence of influencers is not all it seems. Guilty parties include Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber, among others.
On top of that, stories about influencers who lead a completely different life behind their filters are causing an increasing amount of commotion in the digital sphere. Think of Yovana Mendoza Ayres, a popular vegan influencer who came under fire last month because she ate fish and lied about it to her 1.3 million Instagram followers.
The age of spontaneous photos is long behind us. Now influencers take hundreds of pictures, construct an entire setting and add various filters to create “the perfect image.” Last year Scarlett London (24), a British lifestyle blogger, was all over the news because of a photo she posted that was far from realistic. She posted a picture on Instagram of herself sitting in bed with a cup of tea, pancakes and strawberries. The caption read “The best days start with a smile and positive thoughts.” Besides the fact that nobody wakes up like this, her cup of tea was empty and best of all, those “pancakes” were actually wraps.
As if that weren’t enough, Johanna Olsson probably takes the cake: her badly photoshopped “travel photos” were supposed to look as if she were in Paris. Instead, they revealed to the world just how fake the life of an influencer can be.
Consumers understand better than ever that the very concept of “influencer” is more wrong than right. The public has become suspicious and even hostile to the notion. Trust declines every day. Influencers evolve into defluencers. By connecting your brand to such an individual, you may inadvertently be eroding your credibility and authenticity.
On top of that, as a company or brand you can never influence the future behavior of your influencer. When the agreement is signed, it may seem like a match made in heaven, but the honeymoon can turn out to be shorter than expected. Neither bad behavior nor an influencer’s next steps are predictable. They have the freedom to work with whomever they please, including brands whose values are completely at odds with your own.
Once on board, they can start behaving badly and damage your image. And as every marketer knows, repairing a negative image is the hardest thing to do.