Followers Don't Matter. Talent Does.
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.
At one time, this was true, but things have changed. What matters today is talent.
Several important factors are driving this shift:
- Social platforms like Facebook and Instagram limit the reach of influencers' organic posts to about 10% of their followers. Influencers with 1M followers don't reach 1M people organically.
- Savvy marketers understand that driving social engagement is good for the social platform but not necessarily good for the brand. To drive tangible value, marketers must cause consumers to engage on their brands' websites, where commerce happens.
- The only sustainable way to engage consumers on brands’ websites is by regularly publishing and promoting authentic content. (See how Patagonia and Red Bull do it.)
Audiences are Craving Authenticity
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 if they were driving word-of-mouth, the holy grail for all marketers. Again, this was true at one time, but consumers see past this. They crave authenticity, not another form of low-end celebrity endorsement.
The best brands today embrace a new kind of advocate: independent, professional content creators (writers, photographers, and filmmakers) with deep expertise in their field of passion and a distinct point-of-view.
These creators have published books, written for major publications, and apply the principles of good journalism. They have deep-seated and proven talent in the traditional definition of the word. Creators with expertise outperform influencers with followers.
A Real-World Example
A financial services brand sought to publish content about the college experience to reach prospective college students and their parents.
Through Props, they found three writers:
- A recent college grad with a blog, an Instagram account with about 20k followers and short-form content about dorm room design, the application process and other college-life content;
- A recent empty nester with a blog, a Facebook following with about 10k followers and content about kids leaving the house;
- The headmaster of a New England boarding school who published four books on college success, no social following, not even a Facebook account.
They all wrote real stories relevant to their expertise. They did not endorse the brand, they did not sell or promote the brand, and they did not make 'branded content' (advertising disguised as content.) Their stories were published on the brand’s blog and promoted by Props.
All of the creators performed well, but the headmaster outperformed them all. 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 converted into consumers at the highest rate.
If creators are prima ballerinas, what would that make influencers?
Joseph Perello is the founder and CEO of Props, an AI-based content publishing and promotional platform for brands and independent content creators. He was the first CMO of the City of New York, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-founder of NYC-based digital agency and VP of the New York Yankees.