Do social media influencers still hold sway?

About a decade a few years ago, brands started shifting their marketing spend from celebrities to social media influencers: seemingly normal people who had huge followings and were willing to promote products on their accounts, for a price. But after years of showing ads for Flat Tummy Tea, more than a third of social media users have reported unfollowed accounts due to too much promotional content.

Today, brands are finding new ways to engage audiences with the shift to Web 3.0, and the influencer marketing industry is expected to reach $16 billion by the end of the year. Here, Umair Tazeem, founder of Emboldena platform that connects advertisers with influencers, and Shannae Ingleton Smith, head of influencer talent at Kensington Gray agency, share their insights on how influencer marketing is adapting to the rapidly changing social media landscape.

SHANNAE INGLETON SMITH: Influencer marketing has been around for a long time, but what we define as an influencer has changed. Previously, you had to have hundreds of thousands of followers. Now anyone with a phone and the ability to tell a story can be an influencer. More and more, we’re seeing people with just 2,000 followers making $20,000 working with five brands a month.

Umair Tazeem (art: David Sparshott)

UMAIR TAZEEM: This shift towards nano-influencers, those with only a few hundred followers, is because as an influencer grows, their audience expands and engagement begins to drop. Nano-influencers have the ability to reach hyper-local niche audiences – people who love fitness or makeup, for example – and achieve higher organic engagement rates. And for brands, this targeted reach will become even more valuable as the cost of advertising on Facebook and Google continues to rise – in November 2020, for example, the cost per engagement on Facebook increased by 25% in one year. week.

SIS We’re also seeing a shift towards more “real” content with the rise of apps like TikTok, where videos that look authentic get the most views. Many influencers are now showing people the less “perfect” aspects of their lives. You can’t just show up and be a pretty face anymore — there has to be a relatability that makes people want to engage with your content. Influencers who continue to offer this overly organized “avocado toast” lifestyle are likely to be out of a job in a year or two.

Utah There is a level of burnout among consumers that comes from seeing this type of product placement visible everywhere. People are quick to scroll right past. One thing I tell our clients is that it’s not about subscribers or internet views; it’s about knowing who the audience is and whether the content resonates with them.

An illustration by Shannae Ingleton Smith
Artwork by David Sparshott

SIS Influencers are also starting to create their own brands rather than just promoting other businesses. Kim Kardashian did it, and others want to follow suit. We’re going to start to see more and more brands engage influencers in product development, and brands need to be prepared for this to be a partnership where the influencer gets equity in the product.

Utah Another big change is going to be the impact of Web 3.0 on all of this. Web 1.0 was where you went online to read the content presented to you. Web 2.0 is what we have now, where you can read but also contribute through platforms like Instagram and Facebook. We are moving towards Web 3.0, where you can read, write and own some of what is online. Currently, influencers rely on the algorithms of social media platforms to reach their audience, but the move to Web 3.0 will give more control. We are already seeing influencers building their mailing lists and accessing other apps, such as Tribe and Circle, where they can text and email their fans directly.

SIS There are a lot of opportunities in the metaverse. I was testing an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and saw how brands could fit into this portal. For example, they can hire an influencer to host a VR event or one-on-one fan interactions. But people tend to go where their communities are, and there aren’t a ton of people hanging out in the metaverse yet. It will be a while before metaverse influencers become mainstream, but that’s where we’re headed.