If you thought the Fyre Festival disaster, the pulled Pepsi "Live for Now" commercial, the whitewashed 10th anniversary Vogue India cover—or any other Kendall Jenner-related debacle, really—signaled the end of influencers, you were gravely mistaken. Industry leaders say the data is in, and the Instagram celebs aren't going anywhere.
"These are still trusted voices," Justin Rezvani, the Forbes "30 under 30" founder of influencer marketing platform TheAmplify, told Motherboard. "I think there's going to be a heightened sense of awareness, people are going to do more research, but I don't think [Fyre] is going to destroy the validity of an entire industry."
The failed luxury music festival put a spotlight on the disingenuous or fraudulent practices occasionally found in influencer marketing, which relies on celebrities' extensive social media reach to drum up excitement for brands and their products. Stars such as Jenner and Selena Gomez, who command small armies of followers (80.3 million and 120 million, respectively), have been called out for a "lack of authenticity" by serving as influencers for too many brands. In Fyre's case, the personalities advertising the event failed to disclose the fact they were being paid to do so on their personal social media channels and—moreover—wouldn't even be in attendance.
"There will be mistakes along the way, but influencer marketing is here to stay," Rezvani said. "If you look at the data, the industry's just starting off."
He claims the future of the industry is "more embedded relationships with brands. Long-term executions, multiple years at a time, not just a one-off Instagram post and then it's over."
Ryan Detert, CEO of influencer platform Influential, suggested we'll probably start seeing less of the likes of Jenner and co.
"People don't want a 3 or 4 million follower account person that has 10 brand deals in a month," he told Motherboard.
"It's very Darwinian in the sense that if [influencers] get to a certain size, and [they] start taking these bigger deals, brands will start to opt away from those top web celebrities because they have a large reach but they don't have a niche following," he explained.
Another advantage of partnering up with smaller celebs, Detert claims, is that they probably won't "go against their morals or their audience because they're still in a fragile state where they can't sell out too early," he says.
That's vital in a digital age in which "authenticity"—or at least, perceived authenticity—is key.
"The influencers who will continue to thrive will be those who remain transparent with their followers," social media consultant and strategist Ravi Shuckle told Motherboard.
"Consumers don't just want to see the shiny new cars, big houses or expensive products," he added. "They realize that there is no such thing as perfect and want to see this in the way you market online. Especially on social media they also want to see the lows and the times things may not have worked out."
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