Although all the headlines have been about cutting out fake "bot" accounts, there is a more profound change happening to influencers. It is moving beyond organic reach to enter the realms of paid-for media.
Straight away, however, it's worth flagging up that the deletion of 745m fake accounts at Instagram is a huge step in the right direction, as is warning account holders that actions could be taken against them if they buy likes or pass their password to third parties. The latter will generally go around following lots of accounts for the account holder, and then unfollowing them, in the hope that in the meantime a "followed" account returns the favour and follows them back.
So this is a massive step in the right direction, but I would argue that something equally as interesting is happening among marketers using influencers, although they will of course be very focussed on deletions of fake accounts that can be used to make some influencers look more influential than they really are.
Here's the new direction. Only a fraction of an influencer's total number of followers will ever see a post. That's the nature of the beast -- timelines fill up with other content and algorithms are designed to ensure users get relevant information, not only those from a celeb with a massive following.
I've been talking with my "go to" guy about influencers, Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential. His take is interesting. The majority of influencer campaigns he now runs for blue-chip clients will have at least as much budget going on paid-for boosts to posts as they do on signing up the influencer. With organic only going so far, brands are realising the power of a sponsored, boosted post to reach target audiences.
His generic example is if a yoga brand has signed up some influential yoga experts, their content will be authentic and powerful, but it will only go so far. Tap into a social media platform's targeting back-end, however, and that content can be sent out to a huge audience -- say, millennial mothers who love yoga, or whatever the niche is.
Our talk was interesting because it threw up a new breed of influencer who is rising to the top. The "micro" or "macro" influencers will have followings below a "mega" celebrity, but can still have several thousands or even hundreds of thousands of fans.
They will generally have a speciality and can create authentic mobile video footage that sits perfectly well among other footage shot on mobile phones. If the quality is too high, and it looks like a Netflix drama, people instantly realise there is a big-budget celebrity endorsement coming up.
Celebrities are still incredibly useful for reach and PR, but if a brand wants to get a regular stream of content to share with targeted social media users, these micro and macro influencers are now looking like the best option to open up their followers and then to go further and also have content boosted to a wider, targeted audience.
The best bit for me is that while I have a lot of time for some celebrities who are insanely talented, I do find the whole "hold this bottle and say it smells great" kind of influencer marketing rather boring. However, if you get down to the level of someone who is truly passionate and knowledgeable about a niche, you can only end up being able to share compelling, authentic content that goes way beyond a picture of a pop star sipping a carbonated beverage.