William Soulier
William Soulier 2 October 2019

The Big Lie; Talent over influence

We recently hosted our first panel event focused on the theme of talent vs influence. We invited over 100 prestigious brands and industry professionals, including All Saints, Micheal Kors, Burberry and Jaguar Land Rover to discuss how influencer marketing is moving away from a focus on influence, and instead towards a focus on talent. Here's what we talked about.

Many marketers have been burnt in their search for effective influence solutions over the last few years, which has meant they have lost trust in the industry. This is almost certainly due to the high demand by companies who have tried to capitalize on this huge revenue channel, without following best practice. As such, it’s getting harder and harder for marketers to separate the wheat from the chaff and this causes the industry negative association. Here at Talent Village, we aim to prioritise professional talent, raising awareness for how we need to rebuild trust in the industry, before it disappears.

The panel, which I was also part of, consisted of model and fitness influencer Flora Beverly, Dominic Smales the CEO and founder of Gleam Futures and Tereza Vincalek, Agency Engagement Lead of GroupM. It was moderated by Sophie Elmhirst, a freelance journalist who often writes for The Guardian.

To kick things off Sophie asked the panel what they thought about the term ‘influencer’. The panellists all highlighted the same concern, relaying the fact that this refers to anyone who is paid for content they share on social media, regardless of their talent, credibility or expertise to talk about that brand experience.

Flora Beverly, a renowned influencer in the fitness space, explained: “The term has negative press because it’s a natural term for anyone who has a following on social media and doesn’t define your credibility as a content creator. It also does not give real talent justice to describe who they are and why they should be valued for the quality material they publish and the guidance they share, that’s why I like to pull away from this term personally and describe myself as a food and fitness blogger, because that’s my expertise.”

Similarly, Dominic Smales, CEO and founder of Gleam Futures agreed, “the term ‘influencer’ is problematic as it lumps everyone labelled as such into a homogenous mass of people.” He went on to say that the term doesn’t distinguish the ‘talent’; professional creators who have an expertise to share, produce high quality content, form purpose in what they do and maintain a deep connection and dialogue with their trusting community, from those who have no real value and who use the ‘influencer’ label as a means to define their status.

In my opinion, anyone who has a following on social media and is monetising it through sponsored posts can (wrongly) be seen as an influencer. I talked about how this is damaging to the industry as a whole and explained that at Talent Village, we believe the term should refer primarily to an individual who has professional representation, be it an agency or manager who helps guide their career and image, "they benefit from a particular skillset in a creative field which in turn gives them the expertise and authority to talk about a specific topic, thus supplying brands with a credible voice in their space.”

Sophie then went on to enquire how, given talent now has a sophisticated understanding of the industry, how platforms and agencies alike work with them. Dominic replied, “at Gleam Features, we support talent in empowering them to learn, develop and grow as creators, entertainers and entrepreneurs. We are strategic in our approach to management and work with high quality talent to shape and maintain long-term careers. We have and always will come at everything with a talent-first lens. By putting ourselves in talents’ shoes, we ensure authenticity and creativity come first. We do so in a way that focuses on strategic, quality partnerships, delivering great collaborations that engage people and deliver results that matter. Our approach is rooted both in rigour and expertise to provide support not just for now, but for the future too.”

To conclude we all discussed what they thought the industry landscape might look like moving forward. All agreed that the environment was constantly evolving and growing. Likewise, we also agreed that in order to maintain a positive, cohesive reputation across the market, platforms and agencies alike need to address such conversations and promote the value of professional talent. 

Flora was keen to ensure that the pride she takes in her work was acknowledged in the future. She said, “I want to be taken more seriously and for influencers to be viewed as valued professionals in our respected verticals.”

Tereza noted that the future industry landscape is going to rely on “how the social media platforms themselves will change and how social giants like Instagram will lead the way for the industry to follow.”

Dominic expressed a need for ‘influencer’ marketing to be seen as a key component within the marketing mix and play a more central role in brands’ strategies. He said, “this can only be achieved, however, by everyone working together to deliver the highest quality work, adopting the most innovative approaches and maintaining strong relationships. I think some of the best work is yet to come.”

I agreed with Dominic and concluded that the future of influence lies with the brands needs for an ongoing library of quality content. "What we know for sure is that content is the driving force of marketers today and we need quicker turn arounds and we will see talent created content emerge which is co-created between influencers and brands to build this library. We will then see this organic engagement and reach grow which should then be repurposed across multiple channels, from display, paid social and out of home to create an integrated ecosystem”.

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