Gartner’s Hype Cycle graph plots technology from early breakthrough, to mainstream adoption. On this journey, our reactions to technology include inflated expectations, to disillusionment as expectations aren’t delivered, to a more mature understanding of how technology helps. As explained on Wikipedia.
Now there is an adaptation of this, The Digital Communications Hype Cycle by Ste Davies. Mapped onto the graph is a mixture of technologies, tools and platforms, used as part of the integrated communications mix.
It’s pure clickbait and stirs plenty of questions. Why have some platforms been placed where they are? Based on my own experience, where would my ideal plots be? It must have been around 2014 when there were training sessions on Google+ and Google Author Rank, but today that’s firmly in the social media past.
Perhaps one of the biggest shocks of the graph is the slope of influencer engagement as it reaches the trough of disillusionment. There is no question about the value of influencer engagement. If done well, it reaps rewards, raising awareness of brands and providing positive business impact. Yes, If. Done. Well.
But 2018 has been a tough year for influencers. Some may say trust is generally at a knife-edge; for online personalities and the platforms themselves. There are many reasons why, including:
#1 YouTube and responsible content
Creating original content, particularly photography and videography, is expensive. It requires time, equipment, and experience. Ultimately, money. Companies who advertise on YouTube have become savvier, and YouTube is under pressure to not accidentally place trusted brands next to content that they wouldn’t approve of. This has left many content creators, such as clown scarers DM Pranks (here is their fundraising page), without enough revenue to continue.
Then YouTube hammered the last nail into the coffin of small content creators. Earlier this month Vloggers, including myself (albeit part-time), received an email saying that our ability to use YouTube advertising to generate revenue would be taken away. Despite having 100,000+ views, I don’t meet the new threshold of 4,000 hours watch time within the last year or 1000 subscribers. These are tough figures.
But the uproar wasn’t just about the threshold, it was the fact that the change appeared to come off the back of the Logan Paul controversy. The 16 million subscriber strong US YouTube star, who reportedly made $12.5 million last year, is no longer part of YouTube Partner Programme. At the surface, all the small content creators got punished off the back of a big boy’s mistake.
As YouTube relies on original content to survive, this hasn’t been a good way for the platform to start in 2018.
#2 Ethics of influencer marketing
YouTuber Elle Darby wasn’t expecting her message to The White Moose Café, on which she proposed a free stay in return for coverage on her YouTube and Instagram channel, to be made public. The hotel stood up for itself and said no. Quickly a very warped part of the blogosphere hit back, criticising the hotel.
As the pressure built, the hotel posted on their Facebook page saying that all bloggers were banned from their business. Arguably this was a response designed to push for more publicity.
As a result, mainstream media picked up the debacle and the hotel got free coverage. The hotel responded,
“The publicity you’ve given us is absolutely priceless. But don’t worry bloggers, your work won’t going unnoticed. It will be featured in my book ‘How To Get Worldwide Publicity Without Spending A Cent’…. I’m even thinking of dedicating a full chapter to you guys, including screenshots of some of your most entertaining public tweets, Facebook posts and negative reviews. It will be some chapter!”
Is all publicity good publicity? I doubt Harvey Weinstein would agree.
In the immortal words of Uncle Ben in Spiderman, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. Influencers, who generally haven’t gone through journalistic training, must manage their businesses with more maturity. Those who do, will have the best working relationships with companies.
#3 Measure what matters
The real test for any influencer is their ability to drive measurable results for a business. The closest this gets to sales is often by click throughs to a website, but of course reach and engagement are still critical indicators.
Established influencers, with dedicated genuine audiences and marketing prowess, will be the true influencers. All markets go through a maturing process, where names rise and fall, and this natural process will happen with the social media stars of today.
Influencer marketing is now a staple part of digital marketing and public relations programmes. With this, the social media stars of today will find themselves committed to producing more content, but in turn challenged to act responsibly towards their audience and brands. Firmly in the public eye, one mistake could harm their ability to make money in the long-term.