Here’s why we’re not at peak influencer
I’ve always found the concept of ‘peak influencer’ a little… naive, yet this topic arises so often in interviews and conversations alike. It’s true that in most global markets, there is a saturation of bloggers and Instagrammers of varying quality who actively take on brand collaborations. However, to say that the relevance of a blogger may be diluted due to their volume doesn’t quite add up. There’s also the argument that in order to be noticed, content creators have to step up their game and nimbly adapt to whatever algorithm, trend or demand from their audience. Yet that still refers more to content than it does to commercial relevancy. When it comes down to influencer marketing, this phenomenon is far from its heyday.
The typical argument against peak influencer is that there’s a constant growth of social media users and that we are all individuals who can appeal to an ever increasing audience. But step aside and observe objectively, and you will see that there are a few new niches to the social media world that require the aid of bloggers to gain trust and build awareness. These are just two areas that explain why we aren’t at peak influencer yet.
The luxury sector for example, are notoriously cautious of social media activities because of the risk that their sponsored content will be seen as ‘off-brand’. As many are tentatively approaching influencers, they’re looking for content over figures and critically, engagement not sales, are a priority when dealing with a product or service at such a high price point.
Then there’s the travel industry that at first, may look like a huge and intimidating minefield for newbie bloggers. But with 63% of people worldwide interested in a service that suggested holidays and things to do based on interest and budget, this puts into perspective just how large the potential is to serve recommendations. Furthermore, as I suggested in a previous article, the very concept of luxury has evolved for millennials. Money will be spent on new travel experiences, not just status items.
Buy it online
Next, if we were to look at the commercial role of influencers, we can see that their promotional activities follow the traditional retail calendar. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have gone global and one clog in the machine are affiliate programmes like Reward Style, offering their members exclusive discount codes for their following. And if we look at wider seasonal trends, you’ll notice that May-July is a lucrative month, with an array of seasonal products beyond clothes – think sunscreen, certain types of alcohol, swimwear, self-tan etc. August is also a strong month for business, in the run up for Fashion Season. Business picks up again in November, in preparation for Christmas and that whole host of commercial opportunities for brands… You get the idea.
Now when we think about shopping behaviour, 40% of people use cross-channel methods (like comparing online prices across websites and against in-store) to ensure that they’re getting the best price for the product they’re paying for. So although in-store still retains dominance, the critical role of e-commerce only grows. The most recent example of this is the Black Friday that’s just past, where analysts reported that although sales went up, they weren’t as impressive for the high street as online really took the winnings.
And it’s at this point that we have to factor in the importance of bloggers. The seamlessness of social shares that lead to a product landing page has been a great steady source of income for some influencers (swipe up!) and by extension, the brands that they’re promoting. Then there’s the critical fact that even though some bloggers are ‘brand whores’ they still have more freedom of speech than most writers at publications. They’re also more to have actually used the product that they’re hawking.
Have you also noticed that those that question the relevancy of influencers simply aren’t part of the industry? However, it must be noted that the whole idea of ‘peaking’ suggests that there’s unwarranted hype in the market. To me this is undeniable. The majority of brands out there don’t have the budget or strategy, yet they still want to work with influencers. I’m sure that if you’re a blogger and you’re reading this, you have an arsenal of examples to share.
I also believe that this will die out. Methods of fair and measurable ROI will emerge and stringent advertising standards will kick in. More brands and more social media savvy consumers looking for alternative sources of entertainment and suggestions will shape our industry. And critically, there will always be that steady stream of bloggers willing to fill in the gaps of those who can’t hack it anymore and drop out. Call me optimistic or biased but this will mean that we’ll always continue to be at our peak, rather than the industry facing peak influencer.
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