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The Influencers

Manchester City’s Own Goal: Is it Time to Bench Influencer Marketing Platforms?

INFLUENCERS: Written from their studio in the shadow of the Etihad, Commit strategist Jim Meadows explores the future of influencer marketing platforms

Manchester City’s Own Goal: Is it Time to Bench Influencer Marketing Platforms?

It’s the time of year for 2020 marketing predictions, with many agencies pointing towards going even more granular with influencer marketing – brands will be seeking micro/nano influencers (500-10,000 followers) they cry.

Why? It's argued because marketers are seeking more authenticity. And this because the hard truth of it is that influencer marketing is not driving results. In fact, while the fees of macro-influencers are rising, their performance is dipping due to consumer fatigue, saturation and general lack of authenticity. It is in the quest for “real-ness” that suggests looking more at more granular entities through which to syndicate – the nano influencer.

This methodology is sincerely flawed.

Putting regular people under the ‘influencer’ umbrella does very little to address influencer marketing’s failures, instead applies a time-sensitive label of authenticity to everyday online communication.

Are we that reliant on influencer marketing that we measure everyone (consumers included) on their ability to put your brand in front of their social media contacts?

The goal of marketing remains the same. We all want content that resonates to be syndicated continuously to our consumers. But why are brands and agencies passing the buck on a) the creative idea and b) owning syndication of their own audiences?

Manchester City has dropped agency PHD following an embarrassing brief published to influencer platform TRIBE.

TRIBE’s platform, and many others like it, are designed for frenzied, decision-fatigued brand-managers to earn a quick tactical win, without the risk of having to overthink or, god-forbid, have to figure out an original campaign idea.

Instead, they can rent ‘influence’ from large groups of people who will pretend to be their fans and produce content in line with a brief. The brand pays to proceed with content ideas they like and discard the ones they don’t (unfortunate for those who are unsuccessful).

Manchester City’s brief did this soul-crushingly literally, as they sought influencers to act as fans at games, they knew they would have poor attendance.

One of the world’s biggest fan clubs, seeking fake fans. It’s really, very sad.

Under the influencer-tinted lens, there is a misalignment between the way marketers view the human relationships they need to facilitate growth.

Yes, the creative economy is changing, and yes, it’s cheaper and potentially much more exciting to diversify creativity through extended networks – but these platforms are not the answer.

TRIBE (which is backed by Keith Weed) and its cohorts promise to solve the problem of delivering increasing volumes of content, quickly in an effective way. To survive and fulfil this mission, they must focus on attracting those capable of creativity first – and shift away from selling on ‘influence’ or syndication.

And they might yet. But before TRIBE et al. exercise total monopoly, and erect a Trump-like wall between your brand and your creative audience, there’s time to prepare.

Focus on how to leverage participation from ever savvier and more creative audiences through your own participatory activity and work out how to leverage consumer-led UGC (user-generated content) at scale.

At least in taking this strategic approach, your audience and fans can create affordable, creative and authentic content without you having to pay for pretenders.

Jim Meadows is a strategist at the Manchester-based marketing agency Commit

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