The challenges faced by marketers looking to leverage "influencers" to reach consumers are bumping into the same set of challenges as those found in Business to Business.
On the plus side, budgets for marketing through influence are increasing in both camps but to counter that, delivering authenticity at scale remains elusive.
In the consumer arena, the issues are frequently that metrics like a person's number of followers are easily gamed by bots. This means that advertisers who believe that they are influencing a large number of potential buyers, end up paying for an empty basket.
In B2B there are similar challenges with budgets for "social" increasing but ways to effectively deploy being in short supply. This has driven firms to create and distribute content through "purchasable" mechanisms such as ghost writers and advocacy platforms.
In both contexts, the challenge is the same; the article below opens with "Authenticity is a key component of influencer marketing" but the challenge is how an influencer can authentically share something they are paid to promote? Similarly, B2B sales people have a great deal of influence over their clients but how can they "authentically" push content they know to be ghost-written.
In both cases, you may get great stats from a low-value, machine driven network but a community of thoughtful humans will recoil from inauthentic communications.
One potential solution is to row-back from trying to deliver "authenticity at scale" and look to delivering to smaller communities where independent advice is valued and a relationship can be built up between individuals. It may be hard work, but it will deliver results.
But what about virtual influencers like Lil Miquela? Can this brand-creation be classed ‘fake influence’? “Can Lil’ Miquela represent a product?”, Chris ponders, using fictional examples like the Simpsons to suggest that, yes, perhaps they can. With influencer marketing predicted to be worth $5bn by 2020, and agencies like Pulse pushing for tighter regulation, it might well be the next chapter in this continually evolving industry.