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January 2020

Being Social

Influencer Marketing in an Overcrowded Social Landscape

By Spencer Hadelman

Brands from every vertical have dabbled in the recent trend labeled by our tech-savvy society as “influencer marketing” or, according to Traackr, the process of identifying, researching, engaging and supporting the people who create high-impact conversations with your customers.

The marketing strategy quickly surged to the forefront of our social media platforms, as brands saw the immense opportunity in using an individual they feel embodies their brand to reach and resonate with a large body of people with similar tastes and interests. At first, the tactic seemed to be the key to reaching a well-defined audience with a high appeal in specific brands. However, as more advertisers catch on to the tactic, users found their feeds flooded with highly curated, blatantly scripted sponsored posts.

A generation that grew up with a mass amount of advertised content, both on social media and through other avenues, has learned to navigate the clutter. This audience also is highly skilled in detecting authentic, trust-worthy content. This might explain the recent drop in influencer marketing performance – specifically from those with large followings. According to Mobile Marketer, “While influencers with more than 10,000 followers may help to reach a broader audience, marketers may see better engagement by working with multiple “nano-influencers” who have a smaller reach among highly dedicated followers.”

Brands are turning to “nano-influencers” to tap into a niche set of trustworthy followers, rather than paying large amounts for a disengaged audience among top influencers. This may seem counterintuitive for dominating brands to work with micro- and nano-influencers – which can have as few as 100 followers – yet the strategy behind the shift has a logical explanation. According to Business Insider, working with these smaller influencers means, “The potential engagement is a lot stronger...those influencers will be much more aware and in tune with their immediate following because they’ve grown them, they’re still small enough for them to be able to engage well with and also potentially know on some level.” This falls in line with a recent distaste in overly curated content, and a need to resonate using raw, trustworthy content to connect easily with people.

Both Millenials and Gen Z have become accustomed to a virtually curated world. Watching people’s seemingly picturesque lives from a mobile screen has become second nature; however, with the rise in mental health issues among these generations, many have started to take a step back and analyze the effects of countless hours of scrolling. Younger generations are more self-aware than ever, as we see trends of moving offline and users taking part in “digital detoxing.”

With a greater sense of self-awareness on digital platforms comes a shift in engagement across content. As the social scene becomes more populated, both by macro and micro influencers, younger generations seek to find trustworthy content from individuals they truly feel like they know. As a result, many influencers are taking their voice to more conversational platforms such as TikTok and YouTube. Through video-focused platforms influencers are able to express a more authentic, less-curated version of themselves. The audience is able to pick up on personality and genuinity. TikTok has specifically found its unique place among GenZ. One user describes the TikTok community as, “Super supportive... it’s not like Instagram, where everyone is more singular, kind of just posting pictures and occasionally videos.” (Vice) 

Younger generations have been bombarded with one-sided social content, and as a result are turning towards platforms that provide more conversation and a greater sense of community. Both advertisements and sponsored content are still present across both TikTok and YouTube, but are expressed in a less invasive, trustworthy manner.

What we can take from this is no matter the platform a social media influencer utilizes, they should strategize the content to express their genuine self. Furthermore, brands now need to realize that followers do not equate to success when it comes to effective influencer advertising. Instead, tapping into niche networks and communities that emulate their brand in the most authentic way is a far better strategy.

Take Glossier, for example. a digitally focused makeup and skincare brand that credits its strong sense of community for its success. “We are always focused on how we can use our customers to bring their other communities into our communities” for CEO Henry Davis said. “We are making our customers into stakeholders. If we make them stakeholders they help us create better products, but they also become our sales channel.” (Forbes)

This is just one example, but brands at large are finding that their actual fans are the most effective influencers, and community in itself can create an everlasting channel of trustworthy influence.
Does this transition mean the end of social media influencers? The reign of influencers is certainly not over, but we are seeing an evident shift in the way brands utilize influencers, and more importantly, how these influencers converse with their audience through social platforms. It also pulls into question how brands can effectively utilize influencer marketing. Trends in audience behavior from younger generations give clear evidence to brands that more emphasis now needs to be given to authenticity and a sense of community rather than popularity if you want to stand out in our modern, heavily crowded social landscape. 

Spencer Hadelman is CEO of Advantage Marketing. You can learn more at Hadelman will be conducting an education session on social media marketing at Golf Business Conference 2020 in Orlando,



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