It’s as predictable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. A certain tactic — in this case, influencer marketing — becomes popular. The next thing you know, everyone and their mom seems to be doing it. And then, the next thing you know, there’s a backlash. And soon, thought leaders will be pronouncing Influencer Marketing dead. But is that true?

Grumpy ad execs post “tell-alls” online. Instead of articles praising influencer marketing, there seems to be a race to produce the most articles on how influencer marketing is dead.

But is it, really? Despite the backlash and the very visible failures (we’re looking at you, Frye Festival), influencer marketing remains a useful and effective way for brands to connect with an audience. Here’s what you can do to succeed with influencer marketing, even in a crowded field.

Is Influencer Marketing Dead?

Nope, Influencer Marketing Remains Popular

Despite the claims, it’s not true. Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere. The 2017 State of the Creator Economy study (SOCE) revealed that three quarters of US marketers had direct professional experience with influencer marketing.

Even more importantly, more than half of US marketers had past-year experience with influencer marketing — and marketers were bumping up their budgets for influencer marketing. About one third of companies had budgets of at least half a million dollars for influencer marketing. Two-thirds of marketers had budgets devoted to influencer marketing on its own.

Beware those who claim Influencer Marketing dead. The reason it isn’t is that the nature of trust has changed in recent years. The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed what many people had an inkling was true already — that trust in businesses, the media, and the government was at a low.

Meanwhile, trust in the individual or the general population was on the rise. Who are you going to turn to for advice or recommendations? The businesses who seem to have lied to you throughout the years? The government that’s out for your money? Or your friends and peers, who might be experiencing the same thing you are?

For many people, friends and peers — and even complete strangers online — are the most trustworthy option.

Brands Need to Be Careful

Influencer marketing is still a viable way to connect with an audience, but brands need to be extra cautious when it comes to putting together campaigns. One of the issues brought up in the Digiday confession was that brands have no real idea what to pay influencers.

Another thing the Digiday confession revealed was that follower count doesn’t really mean as much as people thought it did. You can find an influencer with one million followers, but if those followers are mostly robots or people who never go on social media, you might as well work with an influencer with no followers.

Finally, as the mess with the Frye Festival revealed, it’s important for brands to work with influencers who are actually at least a smidge invested in the product or service the brand has to offer. Remember, influencer marketing is built on trust. If an influencer says, “I’ll be there!” or “I love this product!” but doesn’t show up or doesn’t actually use the product, the audience isn’t going to put up with that.

How to Get the Most From Influencer Marketing

Not yet is Influencer marketing dead, but you can’t just pick a random “influencer” off of the internet and hope that he or she will successfully promote your brand. Instead, it helps to keep the following in mind to get the most from influencer marketing:

Put trust first.

Influencer marketing dies and fails when influencers aren’t truthful with their audiences.

Focus on engagement, not followers.

It’s easy to get lured in by an influencer with a high follower count. But remember, how influencers interact with their audience is more important than how big that audience is. Pay more attention to comments and likes than followers.

Come up with a fair compensation structure.

Influencers deserve to be paid, but brands being clueless about payments can lead to either massive overpayments or underpayments. When considering what you’ll pay an influencer, think about the potential return on investment you’ll get from the campaign and use that as a gauge to figure out what a fair payment is.

Enforce disclosure

It looks bad when influencers don’t disclose their relationships with brands: The FTC gets annoyed, and the audience loses trust. Make sure all of your influencers are using #ad or otherwise disclosing their relationships with your company.

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