Surprise! Influencers Are Lying About Their Numbers

Turns out the Influencer Marketing bubble will burst soon, as their posts, for what they cost, perform terribly. Now I wonder why…

Conducted by Kaizen, it breaks down 2000 pieces of content in the travel sector, ranging from articles, videos and influencer social posts (think Instagram pictures of people doing “holiday things” that just get in the way of normal tourists).

And the results? Surprise surprise, they’re not good. Influencer content saw an average of 90% less of a benefit to key marketer stats like social shares, URL rating and the such, than the other categories.


The study doesn’t ask why, which is fair enough of them to do. Numbers can only go so far, but I’d like to take a stab in the dark about why influencer work is performing terribly.

They were lying about their numbers for the money!

It’s easy enough to do and I’ve seen it happen plenty of times, to not immediately reach this conclusion.

You already know my position on influencers, which has been understandably viewed by some readers through a lens of jealousy - given I am trying to be influential through posting blog content. 

Quick Side Note

But to hopefully justify my position, it is not one of envy. I have seen both sides of this relationship between company and influencer - both as a blogger and working in PR & marketing. The power of social media recommendations is clear at times, given the lift in product sales once someone of actual influencer posts it. But the manufactured life being portrayed by this certain group of influencers is just that… Manufactured. It could be artificial in many ways - be it through the creation of engagement  with bots, the highly edited shots masking realism, or the post text itself architecting the “correct” lifestyle.

Not only is it disingenuous, it’s potentially harmful. Many people look up to these influencers, and bleaching the real (see also: bad) elements of life cultivates this dangerous assumption that life should not have a single negative moment. 

I appreciate it’s a business, but when that business is just a person, I believe that person should have a responsibility to be real with their audience. As I said, you have to learn to live with life at its messiest, and the subconscious belief that life should be 100% tidy at all times, perpetrated by many influencers is, quite frankly, bollocks.

And as to people asking what an influencer should be called. Unfortunately, I’m not that intelligent to come up with a new label for people with supposed social media influence. The furthest I got while writing the original thing was to either just call them what they are - celebrities - or to democratise and just call everyone a “user.” Some people are high-profile users, while the rest of us are not.

But I digress

You may have also seen I signed off that blog with the following:

“It’s all a lie. A not-so-elaborate rouse to pull the wool over the eyes of unsuspecting companies, and get paid for sponsored content that will do nothing of note for the brand.”

All I had was my opinion and the thoughts of several people in the industry behind me. But now, pairing this with the numbers of this study, you can really start to create a bit of a link.

A quick critique of the study

There is no doubt this has been created for the purpose of PR. This study wasn’t discovered, it was emailed to me, as the first full disclosure.

Also their conclusion seems to be that if you want to improve your search rankings, influencer marketing is the worst way to do so. This is done while focussing on the social content they share, which doesn’t impact your search ranking (SEO) anywhere near as much as the interactive content, infographics or general pieces that encourage high quality link backs do - which makes the whole thing a little skewed. 

That being said, though, I do 100% agree with the point being made.

Influencer marketing is just too much of a wild west at the moment to actually warrant any serious investment. Unless its an actual celebrity you’re dealing with, make sure you do your due diligence first before dropping money on someone that is going to do sweet FA to your bottom line.