The 'traditional' influencers, in the style of Zoella, are now more famous than celebrities, writes Felix Morgan, senior strategist and innovation lead at Livity, in How to work with influencers, a new WARC Best Practice paper.
Any new model must de-prioritise reach, Morgan suggests, as many influencers have become far less accessible to their audience.
"Ordinary people used to watch them and think 'they're just like me'," but now that they're on magazine covers, "they're a lot harder for an average Joe to relate to".
Influencer marketing can, Morgan admits, "be a highly effective way to speak to an audience authentically by leveraging their most trusted voices, and to reach mass audiences, considering that 3% of people online create 90% of the impact".
But this, Morgan contends, misses the point.
"For lots of audiences the key influences in their life happen in the playground, in the pub, or in the workplace, and existing social tools do very little to understand those dynamics."
This is the core irony of influencer marketing: reach and accessibility have an inverse relationship. Therefore, any new model must move beyond social data and seek to understand what drives influence.
The solution, Morgan believes, is to combine qualitative data for insight and determining a plan of action, with quantitative research data for exploration and validation at scale.
Depending on the aim of the campaign, working with both macro and micro-influencers will bring reach and engagement respectively. The key, he notes, is to "achieve a 360 understanding" of both the influencer's and audience's agenda.
Rather than focusing on budget or reach metrics, Morgan says, marketers should find the "overlap between the audience's needs, the characteristics of the influencer's content, and the characteristics of [the] brand.
"There will be an infinite amount of options available to hit reach and budget metrics, but starting with relationships first will lead to a much more impactful campaign."
Data sourced from WARC