Influencer marketing has become one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s tool belt, but for many, it’s still misunderstood. Some think that it’s a passing trend that will become oversaturated, while others believe that it’s a free-for-all that doesn’t work well enough for audiences above a certain age or in a non-consumer category. The truth is that influencer marketing is here to stay, and if you know how to use it properly, you’ll find that it’s effective in reaching a variety of audiences and can be applied to essentially any business.
If you dismiss influencer marketing, you risk missing out on swaths of new customers, more reach and sales opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have had. To truly unlock the power of influencer marketing, brands must be willing to invest in it like they would paid media. If you’re only partially committed, but ready to yank the budget at any sign of falter, you’re not going to see the results you want. As major platforms like Meta and TikTok consider adding ad-free subscription tiers, influencer marketing could only become more important as paid creator content takes the place of traditional advertising.
Still skeptical? We broke down the biggest myths about influencer marketing to help you sort through misconceptions and learn about why influencer marketing isn’t just for Instagram brands and Gen Zs.
Myth #1: Influencer marketing is a fad.
Influencer marketing, which has been on an upward trajectory for the past five years, is now a $21.1 billion industry as of 2023. That’s an increase of 29% over the year prior, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. This isn’t something that’s going to disappear, even if it seems customers are growing tired of their favorite creators posting sponsored content.
In reality, influencers are needed to cut through the noise on social media. Platforms are inundated with ads, the age of arbitrage is over, and it’s more expensive than ever to get seen across the biggest sites. Brand accounts get less organic traction than they used to. Remember when everyone fawned over the Wendy’s Twitter account and savvy approach to social media marketing? It was groundbreaking at the time; now it’s the norm.
So, brands need advocates to post on their behalf, and they need to work with influencers to make that happen. Word of mouth is a blessing, but not a reliable source of marketing. Influencer partnerships can make word of mouth spread. It’s here to stay.
Myth #2: Influencer marketing is only relevant to younger generations.
Influencer marketing calls to mind a specific influencer profile, a specific audience. Put simply, it seems like a young person’s game. Only digital natives, highly online customers follow enough creators and trust their opinions. For anyone else, influencer marketing will be lost on them.
While it’s true that it’s most impactful for people who have grown up on social media – the mobile-first generations – that encompasses Gen Z and millennials, and the oldest millennials are now older than 42. Millennials now have the most spending power of any generation, and many of them have families. Combined with Gen Z, these are highly desirable demographics that any brand should be targeting, and they alone justify the cost of investment in influencer marketing.
That said, it’s not merely a millennial or Gen Z customer strategy. There’s no escaping technology among Gen X and Boomer generations, and what goes viral on TikTok is reported elsewhere. TikTok’s influence can be seen beyond the walls of the app, on the news and in daily life – that’s a new development that’s not likely to go away anytime soon. Regardless of your age, you’re impacted by influencer marketing, whether you realize it or not.
Myth #3: Influencers have to have large followings to be effective.
Big followings carry big appeal, and when brands think about what influencers they want to work with, the first thing they’re likely to look at is how big of an audience someone has. But there’s more to influencer marketing than pulling a big following. The most savvy brands take a tiered approach in order to expand their reach and maximize their investment.
Every influencer tier by follower size has its own role to play within the landscape. Those with large followings – 500,000 and more on Instagram – grant instant credibility for the brands they choose to partner with. These are celebrities, who are likely to be well known outside of the platform they post on. The audience trusts that any product this influencer promotes is heavily vetted, because they’re very careful about what they attach their name to. Working with these influencers means mass scale.
Then there’s tier 2 influencers. These creators count followers around 100,000 to 250,000, and while they’re not well-known celebrities, they are consistent and pull weight with their audience. They have a strong foundation of followers that trust their recommendations.
Tier 3 influencers are more niche. These are likely people with a specific area of expertise, who can turn content around quickly and are adaptable. But they’re not going to get the same reach as tier 1 and 2 influencers, but they will get ROI. Their follower count is more engaged than mega influencers.
What’s key is that brands are tapping tier 1, 2 and 3 influencers at the same time in order to garner each group’s strengths at once. It’s not enough to work with dozens of tier 3 influencers, as they don’t have the same credibility factor as the tier 1s, and the top influencers also influence the lower tiers. It’s a mixed strategy that works best across all sizes.
Myth #4: Influencer marketing doesn't work for B2B companies.
Influencer marketing is nearly synonymous with beauty, fashion and lifestyle brands. Many in the B2B space may feel like it’s not the right space for them, their product or their audiences. How would an Instagram influencer authentically promote a SaaS platform?
Think outside of Instagram, and you’ll find there are plenty of spaces for B2B companies to work with creators. LinkedIn, Reddit, YouTube and even employee advocacy programs all have robust influencer marketing ecosystems. There’s a social component to every part of our lives these days, and B2B companies can utilize influencer marketing – it just won’t look like your traditional Instagram or TikTok influencers.
Myth #5: Influencer marketing has no rules.
It’s an outdated perception that influencer marketing is still so nascent that there are no rules to follow. The FTC’s guidelines for this space are only getting more strict – which signals that even the government recognizes that this isn’t going away any time soon. Every brand and influencer operates under the awareness that you have to be transparent around sponsored content, as the FTC requires you to be clear without a doubt. Hashtags like #ad or #brandpartner are often utilized to ensure compliance.
Beyond compliance, brands have evolved their contract strategies to ensure they get the content they want from their influencer partners. Influencers are briefed to understand their clients’ goals, while also given freedom to message about the brand in their own way. A thorough, properly executed brief gives the influencer guidelines, but not such strict direction that they lose the impact of the voice they were hired for. It’s meant to be a personal form of marketing, and that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of rules. It means that from the audience’s POV, it feels clear and natural.
Myth #6: Influencer marketing is only a top-of-funnel tactic
It’s hard to overemphasize just how effective TikTok has become in selling out products. Stanley cups, viral hair brushes and beauty products have all gained mass eyeballs on the platform that then converted into mass sales. But that’s all we know – that TikTok is driving sales. It’s hard to directly measure when something is going viral.
Influencers are removed from the point of purchase, so to actually track what’s happening after a post goes live, there are some tools brands can use. Affiliate links, allow listing and promoting influencer content as paid social with a call to action can help track what’s happening. At Acadia, we’re seeing influencer content that’s promoted as paid social driving a 135% higher ROAS than paid content that’s not influencer created.
To see results from influencer marketing, it’s important to stay consistent. A one-off partnership is not going to return bottom funnel results – you need a long-term, multi-touchpoint approach to influencers to test, learn and optimize what’s working, learn who’s the best fit for your brand, grow your relationships and curate a community.
Rebecca Yi is the Head of Influencer Marketing at Acadia.