Unmistakably telling someone to do something, normally means they will do the complete opposite. This is what I see happening with influencer marketing. Even if influencers manage to camouflage their brand endorsement within their “blog post”, “Instagram Photo” or “article”, people are more clued in than most give them credit for. The suspicion of whether an influencer genuinely uses or even likes the product, is what drives people away. Recently, on my Facebook newsfeed, there was a blog post declaring “sneakerhead legend says Insert brand here is a game changer.” One Facebook user who disregarded this claim appropriately commented, “he was clearly paid to say this”. Some marketers believe waving the magic influencer marketing wand is going to improve their brand engagement and reputation; however, there are major repercussions if their content is declared illegitimate by the outspokenly opinionated spectator.

One thing I see happening is brand bias. Now, brand bias occurs when consumers believe influencers, unconditionally, favor one brand over another. Brand bias is a regular occurrence and happens across an enormous range of products and services: from politics (*cough* recent election *cough*) to footwear, brand bias pushes customers away. Even if a product is evidently superior than its competitors’, conspicuous bias rattles people’s cages and it will not only harm the influencer but also the brand.

One of the perks of influencer marketing is that it is places brands within organic content a person finds either informative, entertaining or both; therefore, supposedly, it is not advertisement at all. However, when a person believes a piece of content was created solely to endorse a brand, the marketing has about the same effectiveness as a retired football player promoting a hairdryer – which is very close to zero. This is where influencer marketing no longer becomes fashionable or relevant – it is now on the same level as a poorly planned spokesperson endorsement. As more and more people catch on to this, the tepid downward spiral turns into a plummeting freefall.

Companies HAVE caught onto this (Adidas on redefining influencer marketing through dark social). There is an element of social media, which is currently drawing the attention of marketers and marketing bystanders: dark social. For the last two years or so, marketing enthusiasts, social media bigwigs and journalists alike have been tooting the horn of dark social, and why it could be a valuable tactic in marketing strategy. Dark social is basically the sharing of content behind the scenes, through applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which cannot be measured or recorded by a web analytics program. Utilizing dark social effectively, greatly increases the authenticity of influencer marketing because it creates an environment for genuine word-of-mouth promotion to exist within a digital setting.

As influencer marketing becomes oversaturated and overused, genuine influencers become a whisper in the wind; therefore, it is inevitable influencer marketing must make a drastic transformation to stay relevant and effective. Co-operation between brand and influencer must not become stagnant and forced, it should remain fluid and cooperative, so both parties are develop a win-win relationship. Honesty is the best policy and candid influencers will gain the respect of onlookers. Although it is relatively difficult to measure performance over dark social, it is a novel way to improve the authenticity of the brand. Less control is scary but new, innovative ways to implement influencer marketing are crucial for it to be considered authentic and remain relevant.