The Evolution of the Social Media Influencer
Nothing quite encapsulates the death of the social media influencer like the Fyre Festival scandal. Influencers posting about the festival not only neglected to disclose they were being paid, but ultimately misled their followers to believe the experience would be a celebrity infested, luxury drenched paradise. This widely-documented debacle is emblematic of everything that is wrong with this untenable facet of the social media marketing industry.
The actions of these influencers serve to reveal even deeper issues: our incredulity that so many Instagram users bought into this scheme, and their own outrage that they had been duped. While the Fyre Festival serves as a poster boy for social media gone wrong, this type of influencer activity is widespread and incredibly difficult to regulate. The good thing is that social media users are now more savvy, and many influencers have realized that relying on a perfectly curated, manufactured existence to sell product doesn’t work as well as it once did.
The evolution of influencer culture can’t simply be a splinter culture that attempts to be “more real” but essentially functions the same way. Instead, Instagram users need to be able to position themselves within a brand narrative instead of passively observing influencer-produced content. Now that Instagram and Facebook have joined Snapchat in opening up their AR capabilities to outside developers, AR lenses and filters are now accessible to all. Brands now have an alternative toolkit that empowers them remove the influencer altogether and allow a decentralized audience to take its place.
There are two main components that show how effective AR lenses and branding can be: Qualitative metrics and the elimination of the influencer as brand proxy.
AR filters are qualitative because brands can see how the filter is being shared, and how users are interacting with it. “Likes” or “vanity metrics” are being shown the door because as much as they are quantitative, they simply are not qualitative. There is nothing to show how users are actually engaged with the content when they tap “like”, but with filters, brands can see authentic engagement. When you pair an interactive filter with a sharing incentive such as a brand discount, you can help track the sales process just as you would with an influencer promo code but capture richer data.
With the elimination of the brand proxy, there are fewer layers to impede the brand connecting with the consumer. Marketers have to remember that the influencer model doesn’t convert customers based on the product—it’s based on the influencer. That is not authentic interaction, that’s influencer fan engagement, which is frighteningly hollow, ephemeral and does very little for the brand long-term.
With strategic creative design, an AR filter has the ability to light up our desire for digital interaction. The emotionless double-tap to “like” must now evolve into a tool for self-expression, and this can still be achieved in conjunction with the brand narrative.
Brands must find a way to give voice to their audience without relying on the anxiety-inducing marketing tactics proffered by influencers. It’s not sustainable, interesting or good for our mental health. AR lenses and filters are challenging the influencer paradigm, and ushering in an era of digital interaction that will evolve without the toxicity of influencer culture.
Social media AR is still in its infancy, but the potential for AR technology to disrupt the influencer model is monumental and, quite frankly, well overdue. To all you marketers and brands out there, it’s time. Time to move on and take a risk on innovation that actually connects your brand to the consumer. Collaboration with AR creators is the next step to devaluing the false power of the influencer and decentralizing the social media marketing apparatus.