The term in ‘influencer marketing’ is being thrown left and right in the world of digital advertising. Rightfully so, as it’s proven to be a tool so powerful that paid advertising may be left in its dust in coming years. Let’s start by defining what influencer marketing is. Think of it like getting a product recommendation from a friend you look up to. An influencer targets a very specific community, or followers who relate to his or her lifestyle choice. It’s not difficult to understand why influencer marketing shows37% higher retention ratefor the consumer compared to traditional paid advertising. As Hong Kong residents, we know all too well how exhausting the relentless bombardment of advertising can be. Conversely, the social nature of influencer marketing means that it feels more personal, less agenda pushing, and encourages an aspirational lifestyle. On the other hand, advertisers also benefit more from an influencer arrangement because it’s organic (native), traceable, and helps with SEO. In fact, now is the perfect time for brands to test influencer marketing because it’s currently remains a form of arbitrage, meaning the oversupply of influencers presents prices that will only go up from here. I think it’s safe to say that there’s an influencer for every consumer product, from technology to fashion, cactus enthusiasts to crafty knitters. For those within these communities, the goal is often to transition from spectator to influencer. You receive the company’s latest offerings, people listen to what you have to say, and you get paid for dabbling in your hobby. Dream job, if you ask me. But the problem that arises, as influencer marketing emerges from its nascence and matures, is that it’s becoming increasingly standardised on both the advertiser and influencer side. When something works, procedures are set and tactics are implemented. In the case of influencer marketing, a methodology that’s deeply entwined with creativity, the effect can only be homogeneity with regards to the content that’s being created. Let me use fashion as an example because it’s the most illustrative in terms of the influencer to brand relationship. Going through my Instagram feed, I know to expect:
You get the gist, and I’m sure you're familiar with this feeling if you follow any bloggers, vloggers, etc. The composition, content, and even opinions are all strikingly similar for all community influencers because – regardless of how many times that influencers say that they’re not being paid for their post – they can’t deny that being sent free products is a form of payment in itself. Consequently, everyone wears the same brands and has the same opinions about the industry.
THIS BEGS THE QUESTION: IS ASSIMILATION THE ONLY WAY TO BE AN EFFECTIVE INFLUENCER?
In my opinion, it’s quite the opposite. Strictly speaking, being an influencer is almost synonymous to individuality. Your opinions are insightful, you’re style is unique, and you make rather than follow trends – that’s why people are inspired by you and trust you. But if you’re in it to check boxes and gain followers, it shows. And what makes or breaks an influencer’s success or popularity comes down to how they’re able to deviate from the status quo. In essence, this is what makes influencer marketing powerful, and without it, this form of marketing is no different than paid advertising. No matter the platform or subject, the first and final intent of influencer marketing should simply be to showcase everything makes you, well, you. Why chant the same tune when you can sing your own song? Do you agree? We’d love to know what you think, so please leave your comments below!
Welcome back to Mandy's In-House Notes, a twice-monthly column touching on all things brand-building, entrepreneurship and female-empowerment related, from the mind of Mandy Pao.
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Cover image: Jezael Melgoza via Unsplash
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