Insights & Trends

Influencer is Not a Swear Word

July 12, 2019

Years ago, in a small but mighty ad agency in Maine (yeah, I’m talkin’ ‘bout us here at Rinck), a small team of PR pros spent their days reviewing WordPress blogs and combing through Facebook pages to evaluate what most in those days were referring to as “mommy bloggers”.

They were real people. Literally, the girl next door. The term mommy blogger came from the fact that they were typically moms first, bloggers second. Maybe not even bloggers second…often times blogging was their side hustle in addition to a full-time job, managing a household, volunteering—you know, generally being a decent and involved member of society.

Their blogs were a release, a way to reflect on their passions, find camaraderie in those moments of motherhood that make you question how we as a species have managed to evolve. Their sites were their place to share the things they loved with the people they loved…and even those they didn’t.

Instagram wasn’t a thing—let alone shoppable Instagram. SnapChat, TikTok—just a glimmer in their social media mother’s eye.

Brand promotion came from a place of authentic interest. If it was something they bought and loved—they shared it. Sometimes they reached out to a brand to collaborate. And brands took note. Those relationships were worth something: free product, sometimes compensation.Tell us your story…

Rise of the Insta-fluencer

Over time, with innovations in technology and emerging platforms—plus growing accessibility to both and a smaller learning curve—the gig got easier. The rise of Instagram and YouTube usage in particular created a bumper crop of influencers. Suddenly there were influencers in every corner of the digital universe focusing on everything from food to fashion, finance to film, fitness to furbabies. More and more people wanted in on a piece of the influencer pie—or a slice of the avocado toast if we’re getting super literal.

And, why wouldn’t they? With a smartphone in hand, anyone and everyone could be an influencer. They didn’t have to be a celebrity. They all had stories to tell and the right to tell them. And if they could tell them in a unique and engaging way with the metrics to back it up, they were all of a sudden monetizable. And for someone who is juggling any combination of raising a family, managing a household, building a career, having an interest or passion, or you know, EATING FOOD…why wouldn’t they take advantage of the opportunity to make a little extra income off their day-to-day musings or basic human survival efforts?

We’re Just Silently Killin’ It Over Here…NBD

Haven’t I Seen You Here Before?!

On the flip side of the coin, there were those who truly had no idea what they were doing. No originality. No authenticity. It got to the point where a few minutes on Instagram meant you’d almost be guaranteed to see at least one post of perfectly manicured hands holding a latte with the foam “just so” and certainly a staged-but-trying-to-look-candid photo of a woman in a hat against a bright artsy wall. You could pretty much envision the caption and hashtag before you even scrolled down enough to read it. Wait for it….#OOTD…yup, there it is! By 2017, three hundred hours of video were being uploaded to YouTube every minute… and it was starting to feel like every other hour included at least one new skincare routine or makeup tutorial video. We entered a world of extreme sameness.

There were also those not in it for the right reasons (ahem, $$$), and those who didn’t follow the rules.

Fyre Festival. Branded Engagements. Sponsored Weddings. Lawsuits.

Influencers, managers, brands, and agencies alike muddied the waters with projects and activations that made the average person question the validity of influencers as a whole. What started as an industry of honest, hard-working story-tellers with a creative point of view earning compensation for their opinions, started to seem to many, to merely be a money-grabbing free-for-all that created a large amount of distrust. The prevalence of fake profiles, purchased followers, and influencer pods impacted the entire industry.

Not to sound cantankerous, but for those of us who’d been playing nice in the sandbox for years, suddenly it felt like there were kids showing up just wanting to throw sand.

Influencer is not a swear word.

Thankfully, those bad apples have remained the minority. Despite those who can never lead, only follow—except when it comes to following the law—the influencer industry has continued to grow. The influencer market size has grown from $1.7bn in 2016 to $4.6bn in 2018, is forecasted to hit $6.5bn by the end of 20191 and up to $10 billion by 2022. And that’s because some 87% of shoppers admit that they’ve been prompted to make a purchase by an influencer. 2

The way we look at it, there are plenty of influencers, brands, and agencies who are doing it right and continuing to create authentic and impactful influencer partnerships, while adapting to changes in technology, platforms, and audience response.

Melissa Johnson, the voice of Best Friends for Frosting, who Rinck recently partnered with for a client campaign, agrees that authenticity has been key to staying relevant and impactful. “I often compare the internet to the gold rush. I’ve worked in influencer marketing for nearly 10 years and witnessed bloggers become influencers,” Johnson said. “The online landscape is constantly evolving and changing. It used to be all about perfectly styled photos where now people are craving more meaningful and relatable connections, the kind that make a reader feel like you’re doing life together and still continuously offer value to your readers—where to find the cutest doormat for the next holiday, a good recipe to make for dinner, patterns that are trending, and so much more. The Pinterest-perfect styled photos aren’t as successful on Instagram as much as they used to be. People are craving in-the-moment-relatable connections from the girl next door. It feels so much more authentic to see a photo of someone at a party taken on an iPhone paired with live stories versus a perfectly styled photo taken on a high res camera.”

We couldn’t agree more. The influencer marketing industry will continue to thrive so long as it is done from a place of authenticity, transparency, and relatability.

Influencer is not a swear word. The influencer marketing industry is not dead, nor dying. There’s simply a smarter way to do it…and that’s what comes next.

Katie Greenlaw

VP, Public Relations and Influencer Marketing

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