By Shelcy Joseph

In this age of digital marketing, influencers, with their loyal following and distinct viewpoints, are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional display advertisements and magazine placements. Partnering with brands to create original content to promote products to their often large and engaged audience, influencers are leading the change in how today’s consumers discover brands, products and ultimately make purchases. However, influencers are often and recently under attack. 

With more brands investing their ad dollars in influencer marketing (the industry is projected to reach $10 billion by 2022), well-established media outlets are facing intense pressure from declining advertising revenue. While these two players aren’t necessarily in direct competition, magazines are faced with a new challenge as a result: keeping their readers engaged while adapting to this wave of e-commerce.

This shift has democratized the editorial process and has instead placed the power in the hands of anyone with a camera, an audience and a knack for storytelling and content creation. So it’s no surprise that it has left some people unhappy, with critics going as far as calling influencer marketing a phony industry based on false premises.

Some people love to mock influencers. A common conception is that they are entitled, dishonest, self-proclaimed entrepreneurs who get paid just for taking pictures. This is probably because few people are privy to the behind-the-scenes work that is required to produce the glamorous final images we all see. But some influencers are outspoken about the amount of work that goes into creating their content. Dylana Suarez is one of them; on any given day, you can find her meeting with brands, scouting locations, shooting multiple looks and developing creative concepts for upcoming projects. 

Despite this reality, news coverage of the space has been mixed. Articles that go viral tend to focus on dramatic episodes like when an influencer fails to sell 36 t-shirts or touts her engagement for brand deals. While we all enjoy some degree of internet drama (I mean we’re only human), focusing on the negative moments can only lead to growing skepticism around influencer marketing, when it’s actually an effective new way of advertising.

Yes, issues of authenticity and automation prevail: some influencers buy followers, fake brand deals, fabricate their engagement and still land lucrative deals. It’s unfortunate, but as in any industry, there are those who don’t play by the rules. Yet instances of that are fodder for a group of skeptics who can’t seem to look past them and look at the bigger picture.  

The good news is that tools have been developed to authenticate someone’s following and increasingly sophisticated ways to measure ROI. When done right, influencer marketing helps consumers navigate the often overwhelming world of shopping, all while boosting brand awareness and driving sales. In fact, companies like Revolve, and shopbop continue to see great success from working with influencers, with the former reporting that 70% of their sales is driven by them. Estée Lauder recently announced that 75% of their digital marketing budget is going to influencers. CEO Fabrizio Freda told Adweek that social media influencers are revealing to be a highly productive investment for them. This all points to the increased significance of influencers in the marketing industry.

Beyond its commercial value, influencer marketing is a powerful storytelling and community building tool. There are influencers raising awareness of social issues, those giving back and making a difference in the real world, as well as those who inspire us with beautiful content, useful life tips and positive encouragement. And they aren’t just limited to Instagram; some influencers are launching clothing lines, investing in companies, and leaving their mark on the business world. Let’s get talking about them more, shall we?

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula to successful influencer campaigns, a combination of the right tools and deep understanding of influencer psychology will help brands craft winning strategies.

In conclusion, influencer marketing is here to stay. To quote the New York Times, “Influencers are the future. Dismiss them at your peril.”

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