Once upon a time there was this new thing called the Internet, where people could settle arguments about 70's TV programmes or look up the nearest pizza place. At first the people were wary of this 'new thing', but gradually came to see it as, first useful, then important, and then vital as a source of information and entertainment.
Then the Internet got smart and the pizza place started to spam you with special offers while the programme makers sussed that they could make online quizzes about 70's TV programmes and then annoy you with loud flashy banner ads or pop ups while you clicked multiple choice answers in the remote hope of winning an iPod. Over time, more and more brands jumped onto the bandwagon, disrupting the browsing experience and getting in the way of people just trying to get information or entertainment.
To capture people's attention, some brands turned to celebrity endorsement, paying actors, musicians or other familiar faces to convince the public to buy this brand of coffee or that type of car. And the louder and more attention grabbing advertising got, the more the consumer tuned out and turned off.
Suddenly the lure of celebrity started to pale and a new crop of faces started to pop up online and start to build a fan base. Names like Zoella, Tanya Burr and Jim Chapman became the new household names. And brands flocked to put their goods in front of their huge audiences.
Today, these super-influencers are also starting to lose their lustre. While their follower numbers are still undeniably huge and they have the pull to launch their own perfumes, books and product ranges, it is the small "power users" with between 1,000 to 20,000 followers that are proving to be the Holy Grail for advertisers. Engagement rates for these mid-tier influencers vastly outperform their top tier counterparts.
However, unlike celebrity bloggers, these influencers are harder for brands to reach efficiently in the traditional way. And with the sheer numbers of influencers out there it is becoming increasingly common for influencers to approach brands rather than the other way round either expressing a desire to work with them or coming with pre-prepared content they have already created.
At a micro-level - a quick scroll of the the #journorequest Twitter feed is generally peppered with regular call outs from bloggers seeking brand tie-ups/freebies. On the other, more sophisticated influencers are creating tailored creative pitches for brands to "buy". Polish You-Tubers "Red Lipstick Monster" and "Radzka" did exactly that - approaching a number of female-oriented brands with a 360 proposal pitched around the International Make-Up Artist Trade Show in London. The resulting campaigns - for Remington reached around 700k people on a modest budget, without the need for huge creative agency resource and hit the exact customer segment the brand wanted to reach with the higher engagement rates that power users bring to bear.
To close the gap between an influencer free-for-all and the labour-intensive traditional talent management approach a cluster of new technologies are emerging that promise to make the process of working with power users more cost-effective, efficient and effective. Technology companies such as start-up indahash offer a SAAS platform for brands and agencies to manage influencer campaigns with authentic branded content at speed and scale.
Corralling creativity may seem counter-intuitive but if without creating appropriate filters and moderation the new trend for influencer marketing is in danger of becoming as disruptive and irrelevant as any pop-up or rollover ad ever was.