As chair of the ‘Influencer Marketing & Influencer Relations’ LinkedIn Group I’ve just spent an hour or so this morning going through approving or declining those who have recently applied for membership of the group. Our group is quite specific – it’s a vendor-side group only, we’re not for contractors or those from agencies. And with that in mind I’m seeing an undoubted trend.
Our group was founded five years ago and we now have nearly 1000 members – all vendor-side. Throughout those five years we’ve had many contractors and agency staff apply – no surprises there. But the ratio of applicants is definitely moving towards those on the agency side.
In 2010 the ratio was 69% from vendors, 31% from agencies. In 2012 it was 57% vendors, 43% agencies. With nine months of 2014 gone this year it’s currently 44% vendors, 56% agencies. For the first time we’re having to decline significantly more applicants than we’re accepting. But that’s not the important fact.
I think we’re seeing evidence of our long-held belief that vendors have largely outsourced their interest in, and staffing of, influencer marketing. It’s just not being done in-house. Whether it’s the PR agency, the ad agency or the social outreach agency, influencer marketing activity is being outsourced. That would certainly explain why there’s no universally accepted understanding of what it means – because the ad agency shapes it to mean one thing and the PR agency twists it to mean another. More often than not these agencies then pass responsibility for it either to another division in their own firm or outsource it further along the line to their SEO partner, blogger relations team or whoever.
Influencer Marketing has been jumped on by every type of marketing services firm – because of the revenue opportunity they see in any new trend. And in doing so in-house marketing depts. have been left blinded as to what initially drew them to Influencer Marketing – the chance to directly reach individuals who actually make a difference to their sales.
Of course it could be simply that there are more agency staff and contractors than in-house staff these days, or that they’re just more disposed to joining LinkedIn groups than in-house staff. But I think the whole current direction of influencer marketing is being driven by the agency agenda – an agenda to deliver impressive sounding numbers back to their in-house bosses.
But if those bosses really thought about it, they’d want something very different from influencer marketing than they’re getting. They’d want it to be helping them with their sales.