NDA Viewpoints: The future of influencer marketing – Talent over influence

NDA is running a series of articles looking at the future of influencer marketing, talking to experts in the market around how the discipline will evolve over the coming year.

By William Soulier, CEO and co-founder of Talent Village,

We recently hosted our first panel event focused on the theme of talent vs influence. We invited over 100 prestigious brands and industry professionals, including All SaintsMicheal KorsBurberry and Jaguar Land Rover to discuss how influencer marketing is moving away from a focus on influence, and instead towards a focus on talent. Here’s what we talked about.

Many marketers have been burnt in their search for effective influence solutions over the last few years, which has meant they have lost trust in the industry. This is almost certainly due to the high demand by companies who have tried to capitalize on this huge revenue channel, without following best practice. As such, it’s getting harder and harder for marketers to separate the wheat from the chaff and this causes the industry negative association. At Talent Village, we aim to prioritise professional talent, raising awareness for how we need to rebuild trust in the industry, before it disappears.

The panel, which I was also part of, consisted of model and fitness influencer Flora Beverly, Dominic Smales the CEO and founder of Gleam Futures and Tereza Vincalek, Agency Engagement Lead of GroupM.

To kick things off the panel was asked what they thought about the term ‘influencer’. The panellists all highlighted the same concern, relaying the fact that this refers to anyone who is paid for content they share on social media, regardless of their talent, credibility or expertise to talk about that brand experience.

Flora Beverly, a renowned influencer in the fitness space, explained: “The term has negative press because it’s a natural term for anyone who has a following on social media and doesn’t define your credibility as a content creator. It also does not give real talent justice to describe who they are and why they should be valued for the quality material they publish and the guidance they share, that’s why I like to pull away from this term and describe myself as a food and fitness blogger, because that’s my expertise.”

Similarly, Dominic Smales, CEO and founder of Gleam Futures agreed, “the term ‘influencer’ is problematic as it lumps everyone labelled as such into a homogenous mass of people.”

He went on to say that the term doesn’t distinguish the ‘talent’; professional creators who have an expertise to share, produce high quality content, form purpose in what they do and maintain a deep connection and dialogue with their trusting community, from those who have no real value and who use the ‘influencer’ label as a means to define their status.

Influencer definition problems

In my opinion, anyone who has a following on social media and is monetising it through sponsored posts can (wrongly) be seen as an influencer. This is damaging to the industry as a whole and at Talent Village, we believe the term should refer primarily to an individual who has professional representation, be it an agency or manager who helps guide their career and image. They benefit from a particular skillset in a creative field which in turn gives them the expertise and authority to talk about a specific topic, thus supplying brands with a credible voice in their space.

To conclude we all agreed that the environment was constantly evolving and growing. Likewise, we also agreed that in order to maintain a positive, cohesive reputation across the market, platforms and agencies alike need to address such conversations and promote the value of professional talent. 

Flora was keen to ensure that the pride she takes in her work was acknowledged in the future. She said, “I want to be taken more seriously and for influencers to be viewed as valued professionals in our respected verticals.”

Tereza noted that the future industry landscape is going to rely on “how the social media platforms themselves will change and how social giants like Instagram will lead the way for the industry to follow.”

Dominic expressed a need for ‘influencer’ marketing to be seen as a key component within the marketing mix and play a more central role in brands’ strategies. He said, “this can only be achieved, however, by everyone working together to deliver the highest quality work, adopting the most innovative approaches and maintaining strong relationships. I think some of the best work is yet to come.”

It is undeniable that the future of influence lies with the brands’ needs for an ongoing library of quality content.

Content is the driving force of marketers today and we will see talent-created content emerge which is co-created between influencers and brands to build this library. We will then see organic engagement and reach grow which should then be repurposed across multiple channels, from display, paid social and out of home to create an integrated ecosystem.

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