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The Role of Influencers in Digital Marketing in 2020

January 11, 2020

A recent article at Forbes posed a worthwhile question about digital marketing in 2020: Is influencer marketing worth the investment. The author concluded that the answer is a resounding yes, but I would say that there might be more reason for skepticism than he was ready to admit.

This isn’t to say that I’m coming down on the opposite side of the issue and advising that digital marketing in 2020 should steer clear of influencer marketing. I’m just saying that this area of the industry is more volatile than many others. The bottom line, as I see it, is that marketers should proceed with caution when making that investment.

The conclusion in the Forbes article seems to be the result of straight, by-the-numbers analysis. It notes that influencer marketing is already is already part of 86 percent of professional strategies for digital marketing in 2020. But prevalence does not necessarily signify effectiveness. And even if a certain industry or practice is growing, the value of that investment is likely to level off or even decline at some point.

Again, I’m not saying that we’ll definitely see the decline of this aspect of digital marketing in 2020. But I am saying that it’s worth looking at some of the reasons why we might. Among those reasons is the growing awareness of influencer marketing among consumers, marketers, and would-be influencers themselves.

Recent years have seen a number of news stories highlighting merchants’ frustration with the perceived entitlement of some social media influencers. Some of these stories even entailed bans on doing business with such people. And although it may be counterintuitive, this seems to have led to far more publicity for those frustrated business owners than an influencer partnership would have.

That publicity, in turn, suggests that consumers are experiencing similar feelings of frustration, resentment, or annoyance with the entire industry of influencer marketing. It’s not crazy to conclude that there may be more backlash – or at least more skepticism – toward this aspect of digital marketing in 2020.

Studies involving other marketing strategies have shown that once people become aware of the tactics being used to subtly sell them on a product, they become less sensitive to them. For instance, many web users have gotten particularly good at ignoring the portion of the screen where banner ads usually go. It would be a shame to blindly invest in a marketing partnership with social media influencers, only to find that consumers aren’t falling for it anymore.

This still doesn’t mean that influencer marketing is necessarily a bad investment. It just means that when a site owner or their local web marketing firm set their sights on that strategy, they should be absolutely sure that their partners are trustworthy and convincing, with an established audience that is undeniably relevant to the product or service being marketed.

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