Instagram "influencers" have become masters in the art of quid pro quo, and generally know how to get free goods and services in exchange for featuring a brand on their Instagram page.
But is it worth it for the brand or business owner?
Joe Nicchi doesn't think so.
In fact, the Los Angeles-based owner of CVT Soft Serve, a vintage ice cream truck, has had enough of supposed influencers asking for freebies in exchange for a snap.
After endless (denied) requests for free ice cream in exchange for "exposure," he figured it was time to clarify his company's stance - Nicchi took to CVT's Instagram profile to post the following announcement:
View this post on Instagram
We’ve decided to make this thing official with signage. We truly don’t care if you’re an Influencer, or how many followers you have. We will never give you a free ice cream in exchange for a post on your social media page. It’s literally a $4 item...well now it’s $8 for you. #InfluencersAreGross
Is Influencer Marketing Worth It?
Nicchi isn't alone in questioning the value of so-called influencers.
The value of influencer marketing can be difficult to quantify, especially with a physical product in the real world. Online products and services can be tracked with UTM codes, but it's much harder to measure the value of exposure for a physical item.
Furthermore, any likes, reach and/or "exposure" (a word Nicchi has come to hate) generated by a post might not even translate into a single sale if that influencers' audience isn't local.
Given these points, Nicchi's skepticism makes sense - but then again, the right influencer, particularly a big name celebrity with significant reach, or a micro-niche expert with just the right, dedicated following, can skyrocket a brand to the next level with a single mention.
The fact that influencers are backed by thousands of followers provides social proof that's compelling, and then there's the fact that people are more likely to make a purchase based on a recommendation from a connection rather than a brand.
With all this in mind, it's no wonder influencer marketing is expected to become a $6.5 billion industry by year's end.
Influencer marketing can, most definitely boost your digital marketing efforts - but if you are thinking about working with an influencer, make sure to do the following:
- Verify the legitimacy of their following with a tool like this free Instagram Audit Tool
- Evaluate whether their following matches your ideal clients
- Check out their previous work with other brands (and make sure they follow FTC guideline by disclosing the post is an #ad or #partnership)
- Ask for data on some of the ROI they've been able to deliver thanks to their social posts
As for Joe Nicchi and CVT Soft Serve? They're doing just fine.
CVT has been featured in Vanity Fair, Times Magazine, Newsweek, People Magazine, TimeOut, The Los Angeles Times and many other publications - all without the assistance of influencer marketing.
In fact, since his anti-influencer campaign went viral, he's got more Instagram followers than ever.
A version of this post was first published on the Inc.com.