Is social media influencer marketing too much of a good thing? According to findings published today by Bazaarvoice, the repetitive nature of content (47%) and dipping quality (23%) are now top customer concerns around influencer marketing, spurring moves by the likes of Snapchat to create more informal relationships between brand and influencer ahead of Q2 earnings next week.
More than 4,000 consumers from across Europe took part in the survey, with half interviewed in the UK. Among the top findings, 49% of UK consumers and 68% of French consumers now expect new content on a daily basis from the influencers they follow.
Across the region, more than half (52%) are watching more influencer content than a year ago, the most popular category being entertainers (62%) – comedians, gamers and sports personalities – putting enormous pressure on production to remain authentic and high quality.
Reach at the cost of trust
Despite its popularity, 62% of consumers now feel that influencer content takes advantage of impressionable audiences by being too materialistic (55%) and misrepresenting real life (54%). Condemnation is harshest in Germany, where 32% of respondent stated influencers do not promote ethical behaviour.
Not only is content suffering, but with advertiser pressure to create more content, reach more people and at a higher frequency, there are an increasing number of headlines uncovering the extent of the ‘fake followers’ phenomenon – something Keith Weed, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Unilever, called for “urgent action” to clean up.
Bazaaarvoice finds such practices have run their course among audiences, with 49% of consumers feeling it is time for an influencer marketing association to embed stricter rules for content that social media personalities produce.
The challenge in rectifying this? While 40% of millennials class the role of a social media influencer as a full-time job, having grown up accustomed to using social media as a content hub, consumers over the age of 35 don’t seem to agree (24%). While the industry is on an accelerating curve towards maturity, effective regulation is dependent on clearly defined professions and best practices.
Customers imbue confidence
For brands, finding a more immediate solution to the content crisis is of paramount importance. 92% of European consumers now interact with influencers, however nearly half of these (43%) have yet to make a purchase based on such a recommendation. Consumers want authenticity and trust comes from real people.
More than a third (34%) of UK respondents identify a greater use of consumer generated content, such as customer reviews as the most effective solution for the drop in the quality of influencer content – 78% state customer content helps verify what the influencer is saying and remove bias.
“At the core, Influencer Marketing is really intended to be about word-of-mouth, a timeless tradition of sharing our latest discoveries and preferences,” Joe Rohrlich, General Manager of EMEA at Bazaarvoice, comments. “However, it is clear that the current use of Influencers can stray from that value of authenticity, as monetary rewards and consumer savviness bring the believability of Influencers into question. It is clear that influencers need to work towards improving the quality and authenticity of the content they produce. There is a balance to be struck with advertisers and audiences, promotional content and the results than can reasonably be expected and achieved.”
Rohrlich concludes: “At the same time, four out of every five UK respondents is more likely to trust a customer product review over a well-known influencer or even an independent critic. For social media stars and brands, sharing the workload with real customers is a win-win.”