All Eyes on Me. Why Influencer Marketing fails.
Updated: Nov 11, 2021
By Ula Bieganska, Head of Marketing, LEGO (Middle East Africa).
Imagine you get invited to a big party (however difficult it is in global pandemic times, but let's allow this fantasy from the land of 'long time ago'). You dress to impress and come with hope of enjoyable or at least interesting evening. You arrive at the house of the host, no one welcomes you at the door. You let yourself in, the place is full, but you find the host easily. He is there, in the spotlight, demonstrating his camera in a new smart device to the crowd. He takes a photo of himself with it and shows to the gathering. Everyone gasps in admiration. 'Wow' 'You look awesome' 'Gorgeous' 'You rock'. Unexpectedly, he changes the subject. 'Hey, guys, did you notice my new shoes? Super rare sport model, only 500 were produced'. So now you all look at his feet dressed in the magic shoes he keeps on talking about them for the next couple of minutes. The crowd murmurs again 'Amazing' 'How can I get a pair' 'So awesome, man'. The whispers still go through the room, when suddenly he bursts into confession 'Guys, I have to tell you something. I love my wife. Honey, where are you? O, there she is. Isn't she the most beautiful woman you have ever seen? Babe, I love you since the day I met you and will love you forever...' he continues, with everyone looking at his wife 'OMG love your dress' 'You guys are so sweet and in love, oh' 'you're such a power couple'. After you all complimented his wife, he tells you a story about their last trip and shows you the photos. After that you check his new gaming set, after that his garden, his car, his pets, you name it...
Somewhere in the middle of the speech about gaming set someone tries to lean in with an opinion since they tried it as well, but is ignored by the host and shushed by the crowd. When you are standing by the car another person speaks 'For the same money you could have bought yourself something more efficient. This one is probably not the best in its class, if you want next time, I can advise you, since I am a car engineer.' The host looks at him with superiority 'This is the best car in the market.' The engineer tries to discuss however the situation gets quickly tense and personal. 'You have no idea what you are talking about', says the host. 'You are a moron. Get out of my house.' You all watch the engineer leave, and smoothly move to a story about yet another holiday the host has taken recently.
Would you enjoy this party? Would you come back to another one, when invited?
The social media was born from our need to interact with each other. As in the real world, some people have bigger social circle and some - smaller. However, the growth of social media has expanded the social circles to the size not possible to create in a real world. You can throw a party for 100, 200 or even maybe 500 people (good luck with that), but social media enabled us to invite millions to our life. This has transformed the popular kids into so-called influencers, who, by definition, are able to have impact on the masses of followers. Influencers quickly started monetizing their popularity and influencer marketing became one of default levers in marketing plan. But so many times collaboration between brand and the internet celebrity goes terribly wrong. And here's when.
1. Influencer does not bother to interact with their followers.
Realistically, if you have a million followers you cannot, within human capacity, engage with all of them. However, all of people with professional accounts have also a team working for them and interact on their behalf. It is just sad then to watch that the most they would do is to like comments people live on the page. They rarely take time to respond to comments, messages, or practically never go out of their own profile to engage with the followers in the other's territory - i.e. in profiles and pages of other people. In real life, how long would you stay in a conversation with a person who only talks about themselves, shows no interest whatsoever to who you are, does not bother about your opinion?
2. Influencer content does not add value to the lives of followers
I know very good influencers who I learnt from how to cook something, or got interesting tips on the places I intended to visit. Others make me laugh with funny content they are posting - they just make my day better. Some others I follow as they have interesting opinions about topics that I am also passionate about. Or they have a real skill - i.e. dance, sports, arts... But it is scary how many people are there who literally post nothing valuable. Ok so you look good in your new bikini and you are on a beach this weekend. How does this add to my life? What do you expect me to do with this information? From the brand perspective, how does such content enhance your message, amplify what your brand is trying to communicate?
3. Influencer does not stand for anything
What is unique about this person? Why should I trust them about what they share? Why their opinion matters? What are their values? So many of the influencers became just an announcement board. I cannot count times where influencers turn to my PR/social media teams asking for sponsorships, product giveaways. I check their profile and I see nothing relevant to the brand, no reason why their endorsement would matter in the area we are playing. They just expect us to work with them purely due to the number of followers they have. Who you are and who your audience is matters as well. And so often I find it difficult to understand why would anyone follow that particular person, who they are, who their follower may be. It makes me question the validity of the numbers they are projecting. Buying followers is far too common to fool anyone.
4. Influencer shows no flaws and accepts no critique
We all know it. Deleting unfavorable comments, blocking people who critique them. Yes, you should have always clear rules in your digital space, it is absolutely fair not to accept online bullying, aggression, trolling... But also accept that not everyone will agree with you on everything. Engage in a conversation, try to understand the others' points of views, admit you may be wrong, admit you are not an expert in everything. Show imperfection. That only makes you authentic. If I am working with you as a brand, I need to know that you are able to handle unfavorable reviews and manage conflict in a civil way, that it will not impact my brand negatively.
To sum up: How to recognize a good influencer?
Easy rule: see whether they apply in digital world the same rules of social interaction that we follow in the real life. Respect to the other people does not have digital boundaries, it applies everywhere. Imagine how would a party thrown by this person look like and you will know very quickly if this is someone you want to work with.