Conventional wisdom among marketers states that the more followers someone has, the more effective and efficient they are at persuading their followers to take action. And at one time, this was true. However, things have changed. What matters today is true talent. There are several important factors driving this change.

1) Social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where so many ‘influencers’ have ‘followers,’ limit the influencers’ organic posts to about 10% of their followers. Practically speaking, if a brand does a deal with an influencer with 1M followers, only about 100k of those followers will see the posts mentioning the brand.

2) Savvy brands have come to understand that driving engagement on social platforms is good for the social platform, but not necessarily good for the brand. In order to drive real, tangible value, brands must engage with consumers on their own websites. Driving consistent traffic from influencers is hard.

3) The only sustainable and long-term way to engage consumers on brands' websites is by regularly publishing and promoting authentic content (not branded content) in the same way great publishers do. (See Patagonia, Red Bull, etc.)

What was so appealing about influencers is that they seemed, to the consumer, to be independent advocates for a brand. When brands engaged with influencers, it felt as is if they were driving word-of-mouth, the holy grail for all marketers.  Again, this was true for a time. But consumers see past this. And they crave authenticity, not another form of low-end celebrity endorsement.

The best brands today understand this and they embraced in a new kind of advocate - independent content creators (writers, photographers and filmmakers) with deep expertise in their field of passion, who are professional and have a distinct point-of-view. These creators have published books, written for major publications, have their own blog and understand and embrace the principals of good journalism and storytelling. In short - they have deep seated and proven talent - in the traditional definition of the word.

It is no surprise that creators with talent outperform influencers with followers. Here’s a real world example:

A student loan brand sought to publish content about the college experience reaching prospective college student and more importantly, their parents. Through Props, they found three creators-

a) a recent college grad with a blog, an instagram account with 20k followers and short-form content about dorm room design, the application process and other college-life content

b) a recent empty nester with a blog, a facebook following with about 10k followers and content about kids leaving the house

c) the headmaster of a New England boarding school who published four books on college success, no blog, no social following, not even a Facebook account.

They all wrote blog posts for the student loan brand, who published the posts on the brand’s blog. Props promoted each creators’ post through each creators’ social media account using paid media. With his permission, Props created a Facebook account for the headmaster and promoted his post in the same manner.

Who won?

The headmaster, of course.

He had the most credible content, the most definitive point-of-view, and was the best writer. He had the lowest CPC, the highest relevancy score, the lowest bounce rate and the highest time on site. Readers of his story on the brand’s blog also converted in customers at the highest rate.

Followers don’t matter. Talent does.

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