With influencer fatigue rising due to the volume of ads and lack of authenticity, impact.com’s Adam Furness says brands should change focus to create a sense of community by crafting more engaging, raw and authentic content.

Earlier this year, the hashtag #deinfluencing made its rounds across social media. Billed as the antithesis of influencers’ alleged overconsumption, the trend highlighted the fact that today, no social media feed is free from sponsored posts or brand partnerships. Although this trend doesn’t necessarily spell trouble for influencer marketing, it signals a need for marketers to change tack.

For the past decade, marketers in APAC have leveraged popular social media stars to be ambassadors for brands and promote their products or services, not only for e-commerce players but also for retail giants like Target and Walmart. At first, it worked: influencers offered a mass alternative to traditional ads through the trust and relationships they built with their audiences.

Influencer marketing in 2023

Despite this boom over the years, the influencer game has significantly changed. The more consumers swipe through perfectly airbrushed celebrity influencer content, the less they engage. If this continues, the industry risks influencer fatigue, as consumers become worn down by the volume of ads on their feeds and the lack of authenticity.

To prevent this, brands need to sharpen their focus: look beyond just an influencer’s follower numbers and, instead, craft more engaging, raw and authentic content that speaks more deeply to audiences. In fact, a joint report from WARC and impact.com shows that 85% of influencers and 67% of marketers have identified trust and authenticity as the most important strengths of influencer marketing – which creates stronger partnerships in the long run.

Creating a sense of community through raw content

Since TikTok’s explosion in 2020, there has been a significant pivot away from the highly stylised, editorial content that populates Instagram. The world’s fastest-growing social network is known for its original and humorous content, and the unparalleled addictiveness of the “For You” feed.

Its emphasis on community and user-generated content has created a sense of inclusivity and diversity, where users from all walks of life express themselves. Its refreshing sense of authenticity contrasts with the hard-sell product pitches that stipple influencer content on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Moreover, consumers can spot sponsored content a mile away even when it’s not explicitly stated. Therefore, brands should be ready to embrace the rawness and creativity emerging from TikTok creators rather than merely dismiss it as dance videos for teenagers.

Audiences’ thirst for authenticity has also sparked a significant surge in livestreaming videos by creators, with all social media platforms offering a live broadcasting platform. Proof of point is the success of Walmart’s talkshoplive and TikTok Shop, which many other platforms like YouTube (with YT Shorts) are trying to mimic. These platforms redefined the customer journey through “shoppertainment”, marrying video with personalised content that appeals to consumers’ interest – from product discovery led by influencers they trust, to purchase and repurchase moments driven by first-hand testimonials. 

It is evident that the livestreaming market is continuously growing and is on track to reach US$184 billion by 2027. They can create a deeper connection with an influencer’s audience through personalised and immersive experiences, from live Q&As and video gaming, to even fitness classes. These types of content can be highly unifying for a niche community and that’s why they work. 

Niche can be powerful

Speaking of niche, the explosion of TikTok should also serve as an impetus to keep diversifying a brand’s portfolio of influencer partners. Keep the pipeline open for new talent in all the influencer categories from celebrities to small micro-influencers. Track their passion points and distinct interests, and constantly assess which outperforms others.

Influencers with smaller followings are particularly effective for marketers targeting a particular niche. Micro-influencers and nano-influencers (which count around one to five thousand followers) are more likely to have built authentic and genuine relationships with their followers. Although they lack reach, they have audiences that are consistently engaged and connected to them on a personal level.

Those with niches are more likely to provide more targeted and relevant content to their followers, which creates a sense of community among their followers based on trust, transparency and credibility. This enables their endorsements to have a stronger impact on their audience's purchasing decisions, which seals the ongoing evolution of influencer marketing, aligning with the dynamic shifts in customer behaviours and preferences.

Utilising influencer marketing effectively

In building a successful influencer strategy, brands must first understand and determine the role of influencer marketing within their overall marketing mix. Brands need to decide whether it will primarily serve as a top-funnel tool to raise awareness, to drive conversions, or both. From there, it would be easier for brands to create a streamlined plan for their influencer program. And in creating this plan, there are still a lot of steps brands must go through.

For starters, the success of a brand’s influencer strategy depends on partnering with the right influencers – those who create the most resonant social media content on the channels potential customers browse and take action. Brands need to thoroughly evaluate the prospective influencer's position. While you may admire their work, there’s key criteria that brands should consider:

  • Are their followers your potential customers?
  • Do their goals and values mirror those of the brand’s?

If the answer is no, then that is just wasted expenditure.

Diversity also plays a crucial role. An effective influencer strategy relies on carefully selecting a diverse range of influencers who create genuine content that resonates with and motivates their audience. They can include bloggers, industry experts, thought leaders, customers or even non-competing brands. However, regardless of their type, it is imperative that influencers align strategically with the goals and requirements of the brand. Otherwise, it’s just another wasted spend with zero outcomes.

Next would probably be the most important factor to consider: performance tracking.

Brands need to have clearly defined key performance indicators (KPIs) to create partnerships based on transparency and to provide clear payout structures to their influencer partners. More than that, brands can show the true business value of their influencer program and identify what strategies work best for their audiences.

Marketers can make tracking these KPIs easier by consolidating their data into a platform that spans the life cycle of their influencers. Partnership management platforms revolutionise how businesses set up and optimise all their various referral partnerships, including those with influencers. These platforms allow brands to easily identify, engage and pay a wider range of potential influencers, eliminating the need for manual efforts.

For instance, impact.com provides a centralised hub that enables brands to discover, manage, track and optimise their influencer marketing campaigns, including measuring ROI. By automating these processes, brands can save time and resources while maximising the effectiveness of their influencer collaborations.

Retail giants like Walmart have already embraced technology to automate and scale their influencer program. Just recently, the retailer launched a new creator platform powered by impact.com to provide creators with the tools and resources to monetise shoppable products. Through the platform, Walmart can recruit, manage, analyse and engage influencer partners and creators can utilise carefully curated product collections and generate affiliate product links for their next content posts. The Walmart Creator platform establishes the groundwork for retailers and brands to easily collaborate with creators and form valuable referral partnerships that promote mutual growth.

Bottom line is, influencer partnerships are meant to be living, ever-evolving engagements that are able to meet the changing tastes of consumers. The market is now ready for such change: if marketers can embrace these new trends and shift, they will be influencing, not de-influencing, for good.