Influence Feature - Kyle Hjelmeseth
The Changing Influencer Landscape
By Kyle Hjelmeseth
Some days I wake up, open my emails, and think to myself that if I get one more email asking me to trade an Instagram post for a sweater I will drown…my Macbook. This is the world we live in, as influence peddlers and Instagram marketers, where the standard was set long ago to seed without pay. There is a shift ahead in ideology, and while it may not be felt influencer wide at first, sponsored content is coming.
Yes, sponsored content is already here, but the proliferation of the idea has been actually been a bit slow, as brands are (understandably) reluctant to pay for the ethereal idea of influence. As a business manager for the roster at God & Beauty the nature of my daily conversations is one of educating brands on how their investment of dollars pans out in not just influence over a specific demographic, but also in beautifully illustrated marketing content that takes time and resources to procure. On the flip side, I also understand that influence is fleeting, and my role at the agency involves educated and continually refining the brand of each influencer themselves. The goal is creating a trade that is mutually beneficial to both parties, whereas the brand receives content and promotion that help build sales and a relationship to the consumer, and our influencers build their paychecks through their talent and effort. While the world of seeding for trade is still relevant, the conversation is changing, and for three key reasons:
1. Throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks is Over – or at least it should be. Influencers were created by PR firms that thought to themselves, “hey, let’s give this person with a blog and a little street cred a free t-shirt and see what happens.” While I don’t see seeding free products for trade stopping anytime soon, the economics of throwing everything against the wall aren’t good business, and certainly doesn’t show ROI. And as micro-influencers continue to gain confidence in asking for rates, the time of giving everyone everything for a post will come to an end, as business strategy will dictate who a brand works with, and more importantly why they work with a particular personality.
I must say that I am being pleasantly surprised each day by brands that want to work with a specific person on my team, for a specific reason. They have a thought-out budget, expectations for deliverables, and an idea of how to measure success. This approach is how we can building lasting impact, together.
2. The Real Will Rise to the Top – Fake likes, fake comments, fake followers – there is an impressive list of ‘top’ influencers who pull in multi-figure deals, and yet have engagement that’s less than a percent. We see you, brands see you…your time is coming.
With brand + influencer success stories like La Croix, Iris + West, and many others, it’s not about the mega-influencer bringing in success anymore. Half of their followers could have been bought anyway. Now that the FCC is forcing the hand of this industry, savvy brands are turning to advocacy to draw love…not likes. Knowing whose influence is real is going to bring you so many more sales than bought bots. Not to call anyone out and take a check out of your hands, but if a brand is reading this I urge you to refocus on the real. While millions of followers can blind even seasoned markets to the truth, real engagement leads to real results, and the real will rise to the top.
3. Talent Matters – The content that made an influencer influential should matter. My favorite part of being a manager is my commitment to educating brands and PR folk on how they shouldn’t want to buy a spot in our Instagram feeds, they want to buy the image…and getting placed on the feed just happens to be an awesome secondary byproduct of a focus on creating a great story together, stunning visuals or fantastic video.
More and more brands are coming to God & Beauty because they have bought into the fact that influence only matters because the talent matters. When Instagram is over and people’s thumbs have moved on, only those influencers with real skills will survive.
So, before I receive one more t-shirt for trade email and throw my laptop in the river, let’s agree on the future of Influencer marketing. Savvy brands will shore up their seeding processes, we will see a move toward quality engagement over quantity of followers, and actual talent will create a new marketplace for services. Agencies will (as many are now) partner with influencers to create something meaningful, with goals that are established together. Meaningful content is work, and ultimately we will see both the brand and influencer respected for creating that work together.