Social Media Influencers, Once Mocked, Now ‘A Core Strategy’ for Brands


Social media has taken over much of the way people interact with the world, as demonstrated by the panic induced by Facebook’s recent hours-long outage, and shopping is no different. Consumers look to social media to figure out the latest trends, what to buy and where to buy it.

Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence Central, said as social commerce continues to grow, influencer marketing “has become more and more a core strategy as part of brands’ integrated marketing mix,” especially with Apple, Google and other companies moving away from tracking users and consumers blocking ads.

“It’s a space that you can see all the different trends in the market are all converging to create this moment in time where the very fundamental marketing paradigms for brands are shifting,” DeBroff said. “And influencers happen to be in the whirlpool and centerpiece — that one key component.”

Social commerce sales have grown by nearly 36% this year to $36.6 billion, according to eMarketer. By 2025, social commerce is expected to make up nearly $80 billion of sales. eCommerce company Shopify has said its social commerce channels grew by 76% between February 2020 and February 2021, with 54% of consumers between 18 and 34 years old finding brands on social media; 28% made purchases there.

Related: Commerce Is Fast Becoming The New Battleground For Social Media Giants

As brands ask influencers to do more and influencers see stock market gains as evidence that companies are flush with cash, though, there’s a growing disconnect between the two sides about what influencers should be paid. Influencers also often share the top fees that they earn, which inspires others to ask for more.

“The influencers feel undervalued, underappreciated, underpaid and undermined by the brands,” DeBroff said.

Many brands, however, are still holding tightly to their marketing spend, especially with other parts of the business — namely, logistics and staffing — requiring more capital as the effects of COVID-19 continue to ripple across the retail industry.

In the coming years, DeBroff said she expects to see “dramatic leaps in social commerce,” which will create better ways to track how influencers impact sales and consumer preferences, which will likely help brands and influencers alike determine the right price for content.

Until then, she said, brands need to set clear campaign expectations for influencers while still allowing them to have their own authentic voice, while influencers should advocate for fees that are “attractive and market appropriate.

“We want to make sure that we’re engaging the right influencers who map to their (brands’) target consumer demographics, who are delivering creative that’s going to really move the dial for whatever that brand’s primary goal is,” DeBroff said.

Everybody Wants In

Influencers are also contending with increased competition, DeBroff noted, as everyday people start trying to build their own brands and become social media influencers.

“There are hundreds of people — your next-door neighbor, your sibling — who are just willing to do reviews for free,” she said. As a result, some of the influencers who are used to commanding higher fees are finding that brands instead have turned to “a whole bunch of people to do it for free.”

“And so what’s happening is that there’s a lot of tumult and turmoil in the brand-influencer space,” DeBroff added.

Keith Nealon, CEO of Bazaarvoice, told PYMNTS in a recent interview, though, that he doesn’t see an issue with brands relying on everyday social media users, since 36% of consumers say they’re the most trustworthy and 56% say they’re the preferred influencer to follow.

“This presents brands with a huge opportunity to utilize UGC (user-generated content) throughout their marketing efforts, giving them access to unofficial ambassadors that are authentic and trusted by their followers and customers,” Nealon said.

Read more: Behold The ‘Micro-Influencer’ — The Trusted, Unsung Work Horse Of Social Commerce