Since the fashion influencer @arii was recently put to shame after she couldn’t sell 36 shirts to her 2.6 million Instagram followers and the infamous Fyre Festival failure, everyone’s wondering: “Is the influencer bubble bursting?”

Our answer is no. 

Influencer marketing isn’t an exact science and we’ve seen some serious influencer marketing flops, but the strategy is nowhere near obsolete. It’s been alive and well since savvy marketers started leveraging celebrity images and endorsements to sell more products. However, it has evolved. The boom of social media has allowed anybody with a large, devoted following to influence our thoughts, opinions, and purchasing habits. 

The infamous 2017 Fyre Festival is a case in point. The festival organizers paid models $250,000 (including Kendall Jenner) for one post and sold out their event within hours. Despite this festival’s overall epic failure, it’s a fantastic example of how influencer marketing can still generate huge profits and spread brand awareness. 

Though it can be lucrative, influencer marketing is a gamble. Before you pay to play, it’s important to understand the pitfalls and problems that may come your way. 

What IS Influencer Marketing, Anyway?

Compared to traditional marketing where companies control what is advertised, influencer marketing means handing over control of your brand narrative to someone you haven’t trained and may not even know in person. 

This is scary for brands, but from a consumer perspective, this provides a more objective opinion of the product or service and keeps the trust between influencer and their audience. 

A common misconception about influencer marketing is it only works for famous brands with the most popular influencers. This idea may appear true; however, influencer marketing is for any brand who wants to expand their reach through individuals in their niche on social media. These individuals can be micro-influencers who don’t have millions of followers but receive a higher rate of engagement. 

In short, influencer marketing is a social media advertising strategy that leverages the social clout of influencers.  

Related: The Top Secret Ways Influencers Edit Their Writing

The Evolution of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has been around for ages in the form of celebrity endorsements. However, in the age of social media, anyone can become “someone” by gaining followers. These online celebrities can use their popularity to make money through endorsing brands that align with their niche. 

Now that traditional and online celebrities are marketing through social media, customers have grown wary of brands that use influencer marketing strategies. Influencers can be bought to endorse products they don’t believe in. 

The evolution of marketing points to savvy consumers who don’t buy into marketing gimmicks. Like any other form of marketing, influencing will continually have to be more focused on creating genuine trust with followers. 

Today, influencer marketing on Instagram is more popular than it has ever been. Instagram surpassed over 1 billion users in 2019. It’s even projected that companies will spend about $2.83 billion on Instagram influencer marketing! 

That’s a crazy amount of money for one platform!

As long as brands remain authentic to their mission and voice, the ability to connect directly with consumers creates a stronger bond and results in more trust. More trust means they are more likely to invest. 

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What to Take Into Consideration 

For a successful influencer marketing campaign, companies need to seek out social media influencers with a loyal and engaged following — not just trendsetters or people with tons of followers.  

Your niche

Though influencer marketing is powerful, it’s not ideal for all products and services. For example, law and medical would most likely benefit from case studies rather than influencer marketing. Meanwhile, brands and products in fashion, beauty, and fitness are great candidates for influencers. 

Your audience

For any influencer campaign to be successful, you need to define who you will influence. Be specific and narrow down your audience. Your goal is to target a small niche of people who will be your loyal fans. Once you hit your biggest fans, they will promote your product, share your content, and grow your brand’s reputation. 

Just because one influencer has over a million followers doesn’t mean they are the people to buy your product. For example @arii’s flop was nobody’s fault in particular, just a good example that the wrong audience was targeted for the product launch. 

The influencer 

Influencing is more than popularity. You don’t automatically become an influencer once you hit 10,000+ followers on social media.

Influencers are thought leaders in a niche who people look up to for advice and answers. To run a killer influencer campaign, you need to find the people your audience trust and look up to, not just the ones with big numbers. 

Thought leaders create conversations with their audience. Rather than looking at how big an influencer’s following is, look at engagements. Someone with tons of followers with little engagement means that your product may not reach an audience effectively. Someone with a small following but big engagement means their voice resonates with your target audience. 

Related: How to Influence People Online

The cost

Influencer marketing can be very profitable, but you don’t want to go broke investing in, say, Kendall Jenner. The costs typically depend on how many followers an influencer has. More followers = more money.

  • Pay per follower. You can figure out how much an influencer costs by calculating $5-10 per 1,000 followers. This means a post by someone with 1 million followers can cost up to $10,000! This seems like a crazy amount (which it is!), but more followers mean your business will reach tons of people!
  • Pay per engagement. Instead of calculating cost by followers, you can pay $0.25-0.75 per engagement (e.g., a comment or video view). Paying by engagement can be cheaper but, if a post goes viral, you may end up paying more than paying per follower.

Although influencer marketing is not cheap, your costs can be lower if you take into account how much engagement an influencer typically receives or finding an influencer with a mid-range amount of followers. Also, it may be more profitable and successful for you to invest in a handful of smaller influencers than one influencer.

The ROI 

If you’ve determined that engaging an influencer is for you, investing money in influencer marketing can be one component of your advertising strategy. On average, brands make $6.50 for every dollar they invest! Around 70% of companies earn $2.00 for each dollar invested. 

The flip side? 18% of brands didn’t get any returns. Like any other form of marketing, influencer marketing is a gamble. 

Think about what industry you are in, how much you want to invest, and choose your influencers wisely. A trustworthy influencer can easily skyrocket your profits and expand your brand awareness to thousands of more people. Otherwise, you might be looking at a pile of shirts you can’t sell.

What is the Future of Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is constantly evolving and the landscape is still expanding. Consumers have become savvier to paid campaigns, and there are extensive FTC guidelines for influencers and bloggers to disclose ads and paid product placements. If you are considering influencer marketing for your growth, it’s important to weigh the costs. 

With no shortage of social media platforms and influencers to choose from, this type of marketing will continue to grow and continue to provide the potential for solid ROI. Brands of any size can increase their reach by thoughtfully partnering with a solid influencer. You may even be able to find a huge influencer who truly believes in your product! 

Have you ever considered influencer marketing? What has stopped you or convinced you to try influencer marketing?