Is Influencer Marketing Really Worth It?

By: Kathy Chen, Account Supervisor at PRLab

“Are you good with social media?” That is the first question I’m asked on job interviews these days. Companies make it seem like a prerequisite when hiring a PR person. Indeed, many companies are using social media and online influencers to promote brands or products. For those who do not know much about it, influencer marketing by definition, “identifies the individuals who have influence over potential customers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.” Companies who do not have a large budget to do traditional marketing are now using this strategy to gain traction and build awareness. And it works!

Recently, I watched FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (I strongly recommend watching this if you are in the PR or marketing business). It is a documentary of how Billy McFarland, CEO of Fyre Media, attempted to build a luxurious musical festival on an island, but ended up creating a horror show. For those who do not know, Fyre festival was originally created to promote the Fyre music-booking app.

Although Billy McFarland is a fraudster who had no prior experience in hosting an event like this, he did know how to run a good promotional campaign. In order to create buzz and awareness, Fyre paid a bunch of influencers to simultaneously post an orange tile onto their feeds and tag Fyre Festival in caption. Billy and his team even managed to get Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, and Bella Hadid to post for them. The campaign immediately went viral, gaining the traction they wanted. Needless to say, Fyre Festival had successfully revealed the true power of influencer marketing.

Seeing how effective influencer marketing can be, companies are quickly drawn to it. However, nothing is perfect; influencer marketing has it flaws, too. In the case of the Fyre Festival, influencers were the reason why so many people had signed up for the event in such a short period. So after the event had failed, many influencers who were involved were sued for “recklessly and blindly promoted the festival.”

Issues with influencer marketing can go beyond that. Here are a few issues companies should be aware of:

  1. Random people are claiming to be influencers, and asking for hundreds of dollars in sponsorship. In this case, sponsoring them is just a waste of money.
  2. The number of followers and likes should not be the only thing to look at when finding influencers to collaborate with, as some of them may be buying fake followers and boosting likes to make themselves look more popular, so that more companies are willing to sponsor them.
  3. Audiences are smart these days! When they see an influencer or celebrity together with a product, they know right away it is an advertisement.


Despite having those issues, influencer marketing has become such a big part of public relations now. It can be a powerful tool for PR practitioners or marketing people in general. So here are some tips that can help brands to better utilize this strategy and to explore its full potential:

Identify your audience. Before you start working with an influencer, it is best to identify your audience first. By doing that, you will then know which influencers are good for your brands and it helps you to know when and how to target those people.

Identify the right person. Finding influencers is not hard, but finding the right one can be a little bit tricky. When collaborating with influencers, companies are essentially finding a “face” for their brands or products. Therefore, you would definitely not want someone that goes against your company image and value, creating an inconsistency. Also, make sure you are working with influencers who can actually speak to your target audience. (Don’t try to get Tom Brady when you are selling hockey sticks!)=

Not to expect overnight results. Do not expect a drastic increase in followers or social media engagement overnight, as changes usually do not happen that quickly. Give it some time. Try to build a long-term relationship with the influencers you work with. So, patience, patience, patience.

Give samples to your influencers. Content is the key. If your influencer does not understand your product, it is very likely that he or she is not going to promote your product in the way you want. So make sure you let the influencers know what he or she is really promoting before the campaign starts. If they like your products, chances are you will get sincere feedback and genuine content from them.