Social Influencer with speech bubble standing out in a crowd. Illustration.The recent documentaries on the Fyre Festival have sparked a conversation in the marketing community on influencer marketing: How has it changed and is it a sustainable marketing direction?

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is a marketing strategy that uses a popular figure as the centerpiece of the marketing, rather than the consumer. The idea being that consumers are more likely to listen to a trusted figure than a company, which usually remains true. This trusted figure has the reach you need to get your brand out to a large number of people, and they will have the contextual credibility the consumer needs for them to trust your brand.

Up until recently, most influencer marketing strategies used a popular spokesperson to endorse a product, i.e. Shaquille O’Neal and Buick, David Beckham and H&M, etc. Transformation Marketing has utilized our own local forms of influencer marketing, when we featured Husker legend, Damon Benning, in a commercial for one of our clients. Marketers have utilized this strategy for years because it works.

Who is an influencer?

There is a common misconception that an influencer is someone with a large social media following; this is confusing influence with popularity. Though sometimes the influencer does have a large number of followers, this isn’t always the case. An influencer is anyone who has the power to influence the perception of a brand and, ultimately, gets the consumer to buy your product or service.

How has influencer marketing changed?

Changes in social networking have shifted the strategy of influencer marketing; specifically, the rise of Instagram being the online hotspot for social networkers. Companies, like Vital Pharmaceuticals’s Bang Energy, have had tremendous success with influencer marketing on Instagram. Instagram has created the perfect platform for influencers to showcase their product and brand—the videos are shorter than those on YouTube, but users can post written content similar to Facebook. Users have leveraged Instagram to build their brand and entire livelihood on this app with tremendous amounts of followers who follow them religiously. Yet these users can remain mostly anonymous to the public eye and are only discussed in very niche circles.

Rather than paying a well-known celebrity to endorse a product, businesses can pay multiple “Instagram celebrities” to endorse, promote, and review their products at a much lower cost. This strategy is one of the main reasons Bang energy drinks exploded.

Using Bang’s explosion into popularity as an example, influencers can explain Bang’s drinks in detail, a product which most of the influencer’s followers had never heard of prior to the Instagram endorsement. This showcases how small businesses can benefit from influencer marketing.

What does the Fyre Festival have to do with this?

First, the biggest problem with the Fyre festival was not with influencer marketing, it was rapper Ja Rule and known fraudster Billy McFarland simply engaging in shady and fraudulent behavior. Regardless, influencer marketing was the centerpiece of the their strategy and provided marketers with a case study on the pros and cons of that strategy. The prominence of influencer marketing in the Fyre debacle was enough for Wired and The New York Times to publish pieces on the subject.

In the next blog we’ll dive into Fyre’s failed marketing strategy and what we can learn from it as marketers.

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