Influencer marketing has become a big business over the last few years and its great success doesn’t seem to be dwindling any time soon. But, why? What is influencer marketing, how has it transformed the face of advertising and what guidelines need to be adhered to?
Until recently, the Federal Trade Commission has not closely monitored social media and online influencers have not had to label sponsored products as advertisements. However, the FTC say that the trust that individuals place in online influencers is now being exploited due to the context of their product placement(s) not being clearly stated.
Not so many years ago, everyone from small boutiques to big brands put a strong focus on reaching a large audience. The idea was that the more exposure a brand gets, the more it will dominate the market, sell, and ultimately make more money. However, although it is very likely that a few of the masses of individuals that you expose your brand to will turn into loyal customers, another great percentage of those people will probably have no interest in your brand at all. It was quickly realised that great exposure alone cannot force individuals to turn into customers, unless they actually like what you are trying to sell them. Consequently, targeted marketing campaigns became the only form of advertising that businesses were willing to put their money into.
Influencer marketing takes this tailored approach a step further and relies on association. Imagine you’re back in school, you’re walking down the corridor and spot one of the coolest girls around carrying a new branded backpack. Immediately, you associate that brand with that girl and her lifestyle; you feel you know what she thinks is cool and by association believe you too will have a slice of her happy go lucky life if you buy into the brand she freely adorns – this is influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing has transformed the landscape of traditional marketing techniques and has paved the way for a world where the number of impressions and views gained only amounts to half of the story.
Why Businesses Invest in Influencer Marketing
In the modern world, we all seemingly live such fast lives and don’t pay attention to things unless we already have a firm interest in them. How many times do you fast forward on a television advertisement or zone out of the background noise of radio adverts, unless you have a vested interest in what’s being spoken about?
Influencer marketing works so well because just as you wouldn’t view the popular girl in high school as a walking advertisement, you’ll probably never notice that an advert is staring you in the face when carried out by a carefully selected influencer. Social media influencers work across all primary social media platforms, giving businesses highly targeted consumers to reach.
Not so many years ago, individuals from all walks of life began turning the cameras onto themselves, making way for a new kind of “celebrity”. These individuals filmed their daily lives, performed tutorials and even photographed their workouts, attracting a bunch of like-minded people to their content as they did so.
Television and radio are far from new platforms, and are not as easily accessed as mobile phone devices. Of course, mobile phones offer a wide range of interactive content and for this very reason are often found in hand, rarely tucked away from sight. The connection we have with our mobiles makes influencer marketing a sure fire way to attract attention.
Although a beautiful visual or animated advert may seem appealing, did you know that around 47% of 18-24 year olds enable an add blocker when browsing on their computers? You can’t prevent an individual from talking about a certain brand and this statistic is another reason that more and more businesses are willing to put their money behind influencer marketing, as opposed to other more traditional forms of marketing.
FTC Influencer Guidelines
Influencer marketing may be a more stealthy way of gaining attention to products or services, with many influencers seemingly “casually” mentioning that they use the product or service whilst interacting the way they typically would with their online audience. However, just like any other form of advertisement, there are certain rules that need to be abided by.
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission sent out over 90 letters to online marketers and influencers, reminding them of their obligations when advertising a product. The FTC Endorsement Guide states that if there is a connection between the endorser and the advertiser that could affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the advert, then this connection should clearly be stated, unless already clear from the context of the communication. Communication of the relationship between an influencer and a brand must be made much clearer than within hashtags such as #sp, links, or captions that thank a particular company.
According to the guidelines set out by the FTC, a material connection between an advertiser and endorser may be described as one or more of the following:
- A business or family relationship
- Monetary payment
- The gift of a free product
These guidelines apply to both marketers and influencers.
Instagram Ad Guidelines
If you’re social media savvy, you’ll know that typically only the first three lines of a long Instagram caption will show to those scrolling through their feed, but this doesn’t mean that adverts on such platforms can be disguised. The FTC guidelines state that any material connection needs to be clearly stated above the “read more” line to remain compliant with the most up to date guidelines.
The Future of Influencer Marketing
So, what is the future of influencer marketing, surely an increase in followers can’t be the only way to go?
Online influencers have, either knowingly or unknowingly, turned themselves into brands. Successful influencers have the ability to command the attention of their online audience and point them in the direction of where the “cool stuff” is. If they tell you that a new detox tea is the best thing, you’ll buy it, if they start wearing knee-high socks or slogan t.shirts, so will their crowd. Just like in the real world where recommendations from friends are well received, online endorsements may be seen as a form of peer recommendation.
Influencer marketing plays on people’s need to be in the know and part of a band of like-minded individuals. It seems that if you want your product or service to be well-received, you must first command the attention of their online influencer. But it’s a matter of fact that all audiences are fickle, especially those online that have a backup of thousands of similar accounts to follow, should their primary account become an unauthentic product pusher, without an individual voice.
Links to external websites and landing pages have already transformed social media platforms into a social marketplace of sorts, and it is extremely likely that this idea will continue to evolve.
According to the experts, in the near future, a social marketplace that allows individuals to buy products from within their social media account, without the need to follow external links is very likely. Not only will social marketplaces increase the speed at which online transactions can be made (something that in the modern age we are all obsessed with) they will also negate the need for brands (and influencers) to spur on the impulse to shop, as this act will be a constant feature, rather than simply a tempting opportunity.
As time goes on, it will certainly be interesting to see how the rise of influencer marketing will evolve and what it will mean to those that make money from endorsing certain brands.
Here at Active Internet Marketing, we like to stay ahead of the curve and keep up to date with all FTC guidelines for social media. Our team of creatives work in a bespoke manner to suit your business and your goals. If you would like more information on our wide range of services, we welcome you to call our friendly team on 01604 765 796 or fill out our online contact form.