Influence (pr. “in-floo-uh ns”) noun.
- the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.
- the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.
For a long time, “influence” has been recognised as a powerful marketing tool. Since the 1700-1800s it began with the testimonials of ordinary people who used the product that was being advertised. With the dawn of radio and television in the 1950s, movie stars led the way, followed in the 1980s by top athletes.
With the search for greater authenticity by modern consumers, the role of product reviews has come back to the fore – as a more trustworthy information source than slick advertising campaigns.
In so doing, influencers have gathered legions of fans to their presence online – with top Instagrammers commanding audiences in the hundreds of thousands. Brands have tapped those audiences by monetising influencer marketing – sponsoring high-performing influencers and creating ready-made, packaged content for them to post direct to social media.
As such, the influencer world has become more polished, sophisticated and aspirational. However this has led, perhaps inevitably, to recent backlash from consumers. Modern audiences are smart, savvy and equipped with highly-developed bullshit detectors – recognising and deserting influencers who have lost the genuine touch.
In the words of James Want from The Versatile Gentlemen:
“This whole space has turned into a vacuous black hole of shameless promotion, both of products and self. Credibility isn’t even a thing anymore, and influencers out there admit it”1.
That said, we’re not likely to see a complete desertion of influencers – and their power is not going to go away anytime soon.
As audiences continue to grow more discerning in their tastes and online following, we’ll likely see the continued rise of a “genuine” few influencers. Those that can’t (or won’t) meet rising standards of authenticity are likely to get left behind.
By Robert O’Reilly, Account Manager