Weekly Thought-Starter #016: Can You Trust Influencers?
Consumers are warier than ever of relationships between brands and social media stars. Does their perceived inauthenticity, and lack of transparency, mark the beginning of the end for influencer marketing?
Quite possibly, considering its early demise is coinciding with the return of ambassador programmes – a way for brands to not only build stronger, more genuine relationships between advocate and brand, but to nurture long-term relationships with consumer fans.
“There’s a growing cynicism about influencer marketing – it can feel manipulative to consumers,” says Christian Ward, our head of Media & Marketing. “What’s different about brand ambassador programs is the relationship is clear from the start, it feels more organic, and can be longer lasting.”
We explore this in more detail in Cultivating Brand Ambassadors, our latest Media & Marketing report. One of the topics it explores is employee advocacy – what happens when staff feel incentivised to share their brand’s message among their networks?
Another is nurturing super-fans, and how many companies are finding success in enrolling their own customers into ambassador programmes – not via third-party channels like Instagram and Facebook, but ‘secret’ apps and bespoke social platforms.
The report also uncovers the value of micro-communities in terms of fostering brand loyalty; ambassador communities do not have to be cultivated on a grand scale to be effective marketing tools.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here, especially in working with micro-communities, where you can really build trust between passionate advocates who’ll be loyal in the long-term,” Christian adds. “The power of a fan-for-life can be stronger than the short-term reach of a one-off influencer campaign.”