Is influencer marketing a bubble just waiting to burst?

Influencer marketing is in full bloom. As traditional media outlets shut their doors or struggle to make ends meet, a growing number of companies opt to advertise on popular social media profiles. A staggering 78 percent of American and European marketers worked with influencers last year, according to Launchmetrics’ latest report on the state of influencer marketing, based on a survey with over 600 professionals in the fashion, luxury and beauty industries.

Instagram is their platform of choice, with 36 percent of respondents saying they prefer to advertise with influencers with large Instagram followings. Facebook and YouTube come next, at 17 percent and 13 percent, respectively. The global influencer market on Instagram alone is estimated in over 1 billion US dollars by statistics firm Statista, which also predicts it to reach 2.38 billion dollars by 2019.

Obviously, companies wouldn’t be allocating so much money for influencers if they didn’t see a return on their investment. 90 percent of the professionals interviewed by Launchmetrics said they consider influencer marketing to be an effective tool to generate brand awareness, while 69 percent said their campaigns with social media stars helped them to boost sales.

Is influencer marketing a bubble just waiting to burst?

Social media seems to have become the new window shopping, as consumers . According to Facebook, which owns Instagram, one in three Instagram users in the US, UK, Brazil and Indonesia said they have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it on the platform. Google, which owns YouTube, also commissioned a research about shoppers’ behavior on its video platform. The study revealed that 80 percent of shoppers who watch a YouTube video related to a planned purchase do so at the start of the buying process. Considering YouTube is a search engine, one could assume most shoppers would use it at the research and action phases of shopping.

The use of social media for "window shopping" might explain why nearly 42 percent of marketers in Launchmetrics’ research said they prefer working with influencers upon launching new products. Sending out gifts and product samples is the most common way they interact with influencers, with 98 percent of them naming this as their preferred approach.

Consumers starting to grow tired of repetitive influencer content

However, despite of all these impressive numbers, influencer marketing may be a bubble just waiting to burst -- that is, if marketers and social media creators continue to offer the same content formats again and again. In a survey with 4000 European consumers, published by digital marketing firm Bazaarvoice this week, 47 percent of respondents said they are tired of the repetitive nature of influencer content. 23 percent of them feel content quality has been dropping lately.

The research also revealed that 62 percent of European consumers believe that influencer content takes advantage of impressionable audiences by being too materialistic (55 percent) and misrepresenting real life (54 percent). Germans are the ones with the strongest negative negative feelings about social media stars, with 32 percent of them saying influencers do not promote ethical behavior.

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However, part of these problems may be caused by the audience itself, as it has grown accustomed to constant updates from the influencers they follow. 49 percent of UK surveyors and 68 percent of French surveyors said they expect their favorite social media stars to publish new content every day. Although the companies behind social networks do not reveal how their algorithms work, creators such as Casey Neistat (over 10 million YouTube subscribers) and PewDiePie (65 million YouTube subscribers) said they noticed their channels grow faster once they started to post daily. On Instagram, for example, users who post Stories more frequently always appear on the top of their followers’ feed. The pressure for more quantity may be therefore be harming quality.

Respondents have also manifested a discontent with influencers whose opinions about products don’t seem genuine. Since many countries still lack regulations for influencer marketing, social media users often find it hard to tell editorial content and advertising apart. In fact, 49 percent of respondents said it is time for an influencer marketing association to embed stricter rules for content social media stars produce.

“At the core, influencer marketing is really intended to be about word-of-mouth”, said Joe Rohrlick, General Manager of EMEA at Bazaarvoice, in a statement. “It is clear that influencers need to work towards improving the quality and authenticity of the content they produce. There is a balance to be struck with advertisers and audiences, promotional content and the results that can reasonably be expected and achieved”.

Some common content formats among social media influencers:

  • Haul: when a creator shows what they bought during a trip or shopping spree. They describe each item, say why they bought them and how much they cost.
  • Get ready with me: when a creator shows the process of getting ready for an event: choosing the clothes, doing the hair and makeup.
  • Shop with me: when a creator films or photographs themselves while shopping, taking followers along in their process of picking and trying out products.
  • Unboxing: when a creator films the process of opening the box of an online purchase that has just been delivered to their home. Some social media influencers also document themselves unboxing gifts and samples they receive from companies.
  • First impressions: when a creator tests a product or piece of clothing for the first time and tells the followers what they think of it.

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