How influencer “fails” force influencer marketing to mature

Maybe influencer marketing has reached the peak of inflated expectations - to coin a Gartner hype cycle phrase (spoiler alert: it hasn’t). Only time will tell. What is certain is that influencer marketing became a mainstream marketing play in 2017. And that has both good and bad implications for the discipline.

A rising tide lifts all ships. So, as more influencers and more brands pile into this influencer marketing space there will be more examples of good and bad actors.

In our zeal to be part of the ‘next big thing’ some people rush in without fully understanding what is required to make a success. Others aim to pass themselves off as experts knowing little about the subject matter. This is happening with influencer marketing. But, as the discipline matures there will be a shake up.

We’ve written before about a core tenet of change: we change for a reason. There is always a specific reason or objective for any change.

It is the commercial imperative as much as moral indignation that will force a maturation of the influencer marketing industry.

Yet effective change at an industry level only really happens when individuals within organisations begin working in new ways: displaying new behaviours, using new tools, following new processes and adopting new values - to paraphrase Jeffrey M Hiatt in his book: the People Side of Change.

Recent influencer fails and fake follower scandals throw influencer marketing into mainstream media’s spotlight. By highlighting bad practice they force the industry to try harder to improve.

Elle Darby, Logan Paul: Recent influencer fails

The vast quantity of mainstream media column inches devoted to recent influencer fails shows how much the subject of social media influencers has grabbed our attention.

Elle Darby, with her ill-judged pitch for free accommodation to the owner of a Dublin guest house, shows a lack of professionalism when identifying potential working partnerships.

Far from courting a long-term, mutually-beneficial relationship with the Charleville Lodge Hotel her approach was smash and grab. What I call BANJO influencing (Banging Another iNfluencer Job Out) - more on that later.


Elle Darby: Influencer banned by luxury hotel speaks out in her YouTube video

She was called out by the guest house owner and in the fallout hundreds of articles were written about how Darby should have handled the situation. This helps nudge the discipline in the right direction by educating individual practitioners on best practice.

Logan Paul took a three-week break from posting daily vlogs as the backlash to his suicide forest video bit deep and YouTube removed him from Google Preferred.

Paul returned with a new chastened, sombre persona exhibited in a seven-minute comeback video.

It appears, however, that Paul has a tin ear to anyone beyond his immediate fan base.

This new earnest style of delivery was short-lived. Within a fortnight advertising to his channel was suspended amongst revelations that the young YouTuber tasered dead rats and gave live fish CPR in more recent vlogs.

Though Logan Paul still earns six figures a month from selling merchandise, cutting off his advertising revenue will, no doubt, focus his mind on the type of future content he creates on YouTube.

Fake followers and the New York Times

The recent New York Times (NYT) article: ‘The Follower Factory’ focused on the buying of fake social media followers and fake engagement by people who want to appear more popular or exert influence online. The feature showed faking influence is not confined to social media influencers.

It is an embarrassing read for high-profile celebrities, athletes, pundits and TED speakers. Brits caught buying followers from Devumi, a US-based company, include British Bake Off baker Paul Hollywood; Olympic rower, James Cracknell and Twitter board member Martha Lane Fox.


Social media is supposed to be a medium of authenticity. The NYT article shows the reality that, for many, it is a numbers game. There is an upside to the fake follower fiasco, though. As many celebrated people were called out, the story has encouraged countless others to purge their follower lists of fake profiles.

Death of BANJO influencers

BANJO influencer marketing is where those with a large social media following ‘Bang Another iNfluencer Job Out’ in return for quick money without any affinity for the brand that’s sponsoring the content.

Theirs is a common practice but the Elle Darby fail alongside revelations surfaced in the NYT will go some way to weed them out.

Reach and impression numbers fall into the category of vanity metrics. They aren’t reliable engagement indicators. Neither are they a proxy for click-through rates and conversions. This is especially true when the reach is at best theoretical and at worst faked.

At its core influencer marketing should drive action not only awareness. Being popular isn’t the same as being influential. Gaining large numbers of followers, impressions or visitors doesn’t necessarily translate into greater influence.

The story of Elle Darby and those caught up in the NYT Devumi article illustrate that effective influencer marketing is accretive. It evolves over time. It cannot be bought with a single influencer ad or with a fake following.

Demand for tangible return on investment (ROI)

This year higher demand for social influencers’ creativity will translate into higher tariffs for their services, especially in popular verticals such as fashion and style.

With increased influencer marketing spend comes a greater need to demonstrate valuable return on investment (ROI). Accurate data and robust, independent campaign performance evaluation, along with industry benchmarking, will become a fundamental part of the influencer marketing campaign planning process.

Influencer audiences will increasingly demand higher-quality sponsored content from the creators they follow, too.

Fail to deliver either and the business model collapses for both brand and influencer. This is good news for the industry. Good influencers will continue to earn good money from long-term brand tie-ins. Sub-par ‘influencers’ will find themselves looking elsewhere to earn a living.

Yes, we change for a reason. A need to demonstrate ‘bang for buck’ will be a driving force in the maturation of the influencer marketing industry. These recent influencer fails and fake follower scandals will force this maturation. After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

CampaignDeus is the leading independent provider of influencer marketing campaign data for Instagram and YouTube. Our platform identifies and classifies brand sponsored influencer campaign performance metrics, tracking hundreds of thousands of posts.

We use this data to provide Brands & Agencies with industry insights across verticals, benchmark campaigns against vertical & competitor averages, and equip clients with in-depth reporting and recommendations on how to make campaigns more effective. Get in touch for more details.

Scott Guthrie works with companies to drive business growth in the social age through strategic insight and technical know-how. A former digital director of influencer relations at Ketchum, Scott is now an advisor at CampaignDeus. You can find Scott on LinkedIn and Twitter, or on his blog.