Are Influencers Seriously Overpaid?

This week we have had two stories that tell us very different stories. According to one piece of research, the cost of the average influencer post shared on Instagram has gone up by a factor of twelve in the past five years, from GBP104 to GBP1,276.

There are a bunch of statistics to go along with the report -- but effectively, text, picture and video posts and updates have shot up by similar proportions across different platforms over the past five years.

Then we have some challenging research from Mindshare. It has been looking at public attitudes around trust. It's the buzzword in advertising and marketing right now. The theory being we buy from people and brands we trust and we take advice from people whose values we agree with and whom we know will give good advice. 

The difficulty here is that as the average cost of influencer posts has shot up twelve times over the past five years, influencers find themselves at the bottom of the table of trust Mindshare has constructed.

It will come as little surprise to most that consumers are human beings who have close relationships with other people and that means, no matter what a celebrity tells us we should be wearing on Instagram, family is our most trusted source of advice. Next we have "people like me" and then we have friends.

These three categories are way out ahead of the rest of the pack on trust.

At the bottom we have influencers who are the least trusted sources of information, alongside politicians and social media platforms. Perhaps worryingly for the industry, advertising is the next category up from the bottom. In fact, it's a surprise to see that the treasured BBC is roughly as trusted as it is not trusted, and so sits in the middle of the league table just above Google and Amazon.

The takeaway is simple. We can extol the virtues of digital channels, but the most influential advice any consumer gets is what friend and family think, as well as those people they consider to be like themselves. Experts are also looked upon favourably.

So that means it's great news for review sites. Clearly, marketers can do what they can to influence people who will then hopefully influence their friends and family but where huge efforts can be made is in providing a great customer experience which the public is asked to rate.

It is worth noting that "people like me" was second only to family members, and rated above friends, and so the public are highly open to read about the experiences of fellow consumers.

It chimes perfectly with how we all shop online. Picking out items on Amazon or looking for a local plumber, we instantly gravitate toward star ratings and read about fellow customer reviews. 

This is not to say that influencers don't have a role. People who know what is fashionable to wear, how to be great at yoga, take superb photographs and drink in the best bars are obviously worth working with, if you are in an apt industry.

What is likely, however, is that the huge growth of money coming into the channel has led to inflation as influencers can demand higher fees, which perhaps do not always match the level of trust the public places in what they have to say.

I wasn't surprised to see family and friends being trusted above influencers, but I have to be honest, seeing social media stars at the bottom of the league table --even below politicians -- was quite a shock.

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