Live Streaming As The Future Of Influencer Marketing
As almost half of online consumers now use ad blockers to avoid traditional online advertising, companies have turned to new methods for sharing their products. One of these methods is ‘influencer marketing’, a tactic where brands work with individuals who have social media followings in order to reach their fans. Influencers can be on any type of platform (vlogs/blogs/Instagram/etc) that allows them to reach fans. Through their content influencers are able to establish themselves as experts in niche interests and build a trusted relationship with their fans, so that when an influencer recommends a brand, fans are likely to take them at their word.
This trust has started to be tested as influencers’ content is more frequently sponsored, and the highly produced and edited nature of social media becomes more obvious. Conversely, live streaming’s raw, unedited nature brings a level of trust to influencer content in a way that can’t be replicated in more traditional forms of media, and often leads viewers to trust the words and actions of the live streamer more than they would a tweet or Instagram photo.
Influencer Marketing Relies On Trust
As 84% of millenials don’t trust traditional advertising, and only 1% of millennials surveyed said that a compelling advertisement could increase their trust in a brand, influencers have become key part of acting as the bridge between brands and consumers. In the same way people would not expect friends to recommend a new restaurant simply because the restaurant paid them, fans don’t expect influencers to advocate a product simply to help pay their bills. Fans assume the influencers only recommend brands the influencer themselves trust, but as sponsored content becomes more mainstream, fans have started becoming more wary about whether influencers truly like brands, or simply want payment.
As of 2017, 43% of consumers feel that many current social media influencers are inauthentic and work with brands they don’t believe in, and as the FTC enforces labeling sponsored posts, content about the fakeness of social media lives becomes more common, and some influencers literally post the instructions from the company instead of original content, it’s no surprise as to why. Influencers must maintain a certain level of trust from their fans in order to capitalize on the higher rates of engagement, but as the edited nature of their content becomes more blatant, fans’ belief in the authenticity of the influencer to brand relationship wanes.
The Future Is Imperfection
Rather than the #flawless selfies and perfectly lit vlogs of the past, fans now gravitate towards imperfect marketing. As cynicism around any type of edited social media grows, it becomes much more difficult for influencers to show they genuinely believe in the product they are sharing, and fans become less likely to buy based on their recommendations. If a fan thinks an influencer is secretly spitting out the drink they just posed for their instagram selfie with, or is editing out the takes for their vlog where the new gadget they just bought fails to work, they aren’t going to believe in any of the brands the influencer affiliates themselves with.
Thus comes the boom in live streaming’s popularity. The very nature of live streaming does not allow for editing, so fans tend to view it as more real. Fans trust that they are able to tell when an influencer truly believes in a product while live streaming, and a recent poll by iateyourpie, a Twitch live streamer, found that 79% of his fans were fine with brand sponsorships, as long has he ‘genuinely believes in the product and incorporate[s] the sponsorship in a creative way’, and that ‘it only takes away if it’s something the streamer doesn’t like…[since] chat intuition will quickly turn it into a negative environment’.
Although fans have accepted sponsorships as a necessity for funding influencer content, brands will need to make sure campaigns come off as a natural part of the content created, and not just a mouthpiece for the sponsor’s message. Live streaming allows influencers to prove their relationship with the brand is authentic, but it also means that fans will be able to tell much more quickly if an influencer doesn’t believe in a brand.
The future of authenticity will require companies to truly understand the communities they are trying to sell to, and the type of content they consume. As live streaming popularity continues to explode with every major social media platform jumping on the bandwagon (Facebook Live, Twitter’s Periscope, YouTube Live, Twitch), brands will need to move towards a model where they build relationships with influencers who genuinely love their product, and help produce material that meshes naturally with the influencer’s usual content.