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Has the influencer marketing ship sailed?

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The brick and mortar business interests of two prominent social media-ites have hit very rocky times, leading to bankruptcy and closures. You might wonder how, if they can’t get people through the doors of their own stores, any brand could consider investing in influencer marketing,

Let’s face it, we all understand that getting a prominent public figure to talk about your brand, services, or product is a good idea. In principle. Sadly, though, it does seem to have a habit of not going quite to plan.
There have been countless examples of influencer marketing campaigns going awry. Fyre Festival saw models and socialites promote the luxury music event, held on a private island. What happened in reality was quite the opposite, almost— no music due to the event being cancelled, and an island that was private, but looked like the aftermath of a natural disaster as oppose to some stunning sanctuary.
Hardly a good ad for the legitimacy of celebrity spokespeople.
Katie Price fell foul of the public after her series of sponsored tweets on behalf of Snickers were not considered to have been clearly labelled as paid-for posts. The Advertising Standards Agency sided with the woman also known as Jordan, but this marked the first UK investigation into influencer marketing of many that have followed for similar reasons; basically transparency.
And there was PewDiePie, who was one of the most prominent YouTube stars, boasting an audience of 19million before deviating from his standard video game reports and, eventually, being held up for apparent anti-Semitism. Imagine having a contract with that kind of reputation.
None of which is to say that influencer marketing can’t work— here at Smoking Gun we have a great track record for this kind of work, and every day countless brands enjoy a happy partnership with people who have the public’s ear. Instead, the point is the industry is being more cautious about rushing into what was, for a while, a sector growing at light speed.
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How influential can influencer marketing really be?

Deliciously Ella— Ella Mills— is known for her writing on healthy food and yoga, a huge Instagram following to boot, and three London delis. This month she announced two were closing, with reports suggesting losses were in excess of £700,000.
Then you have Millie Mackintosh, whose fashion business has gone under with debts of more than half a million. A close friend of Meghan Markle, her lines for Asos were an instant hit when they arrived in 2014, pushed by her massive social media following, but that doesn’t appear to have been enough to sustain a business in the long run.
In both these cases the bankrupt interests reflected sectors the two influencers were supposed to be influencers about. So what does this mean— is influencer marketing a folly, or should people just stick to recommending other brands, rather than developing and pushing their own products?
We shouldn’t need to even reference poor Elle Darby, the YouTuber who was publicly exposed for trying to get five nights in a five star Dublin hotel for her and her boyfriend. The manager’s message back to her was proof enough that for some people influencers really aren’t very influential at all.
The truth is they are, and they are not, all at the same time. What works for one brand may not for another because of varying target audiences, business sectors, and pretty much anything else you can think of that could differentiate one company from another.
As with everything, making the most of social media measurement metrics is essential in order to ascertain the benefits influencer marketing may be offering your company. You also need to avoid jumping in blind, getting into bed with the wrong influencers, and falling foul of laws relating to influencer marketing. Although those not-so-small points should go without saying, really.
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