After several years of the exploding popularity of influencers, bloggers and Youtubers, it’s fair to say that the tide is turning for the spend within marketing and PR departments this year. Given the swathes of negative media coverage about influencers recently, it would be easy to think that next year might spell the end of the line for this trend. In fact, I think that this is just the beginning for the smaller, friendly influencer with bags of relatability.
As someone who has run a blog and built a profile on social media in recent years while working in PR, it’s been interesting to observe the ever-changing relationship between bloggers and brands from both sides of the fence. Marketing and PR has been slow to grasp that a huge following does not always equal good brand engagement, but the increased awareness of the epidemic of buying fake followers for social accounts has helped to speed this up.
Undeniably the vast majority of bloggers, influencers and Youtubers have cemented a unique position on the internet and social media as authentic, accessible and relatable personalities, which despite shrinking marketing budgets, continue to work successfully with brands large and small. In my opinion, they still have an edge over an everyday celebrity posing with the latest weight-loss sweets or teeth-whitening kit. This brand of influencer is still pretty terrible at disclaiming their partnerships and businesses have understood the impact this can have on their own credibility.
Authenticity, though an over-used term in 2019, is integral to the success of today’s influencers and micro-influencers, especially on Instagram. Although signposting paid or gifted work with brands has mostly improved after the introduction of the Advertising Standards Authority’s guidelines for influencers, there are still a number of high-profile influencers that fail to communicate honestly with their audience over paid endorsements and risk losing their credibility in the process.
Over the course of this year we have seen a shift in brand power towards micro-bloggers (generally classed as anything between 10,000 – 100,000 followers), steadily gaining popularity on Instagram and securing valuable partnerships with top global brands for their friendly and approachable style. This segment benefits from highly engaged and loyal followings as opposed to celebrities and influencers with millions of followers who often pay little attention to the messages they’re giving to their audience.
This highlights that more than ever, genuine engagement in the form of likes, meaningful comments and shares will be the key indicator of success for the ongoing relationship between bloggers and brands. It’s no longer enough for businesses that influencers have a giant following; they want to know that their budget will help towards achieving specific goals and improve brand messaging in the longer-term. I would argue that the age of the mega-influencer is over, but brands will still make space in their budget for smaller, meaningful projects to make a larger impact.