We recently had the opportunity to attend a conference about Influencer Marketing and its effect on the Flemish media landscape. The conference was hosted by Arteveldehogeschool Ghent who did extensive research around this subject. Interested in what our main takeaways were?

Is there too much hype around influencers?

The digital marketing world today is a chaotic free-for-all of commercial messages through a wide range of channels. The effectiveness of digital marketing is changing at a rapid pace (raise your hand if you have an adblocker installed – ✋) and as a result, many brands are choosing to work with influencers to break through the clutter and gain more trust and credibility. A good thing you might think, however, there are a few downfalls when working with influencers. 

There are three main questions to keep in mind while selecting an influencer, which could have a negative impact if not considered critically:

  1. Is the influencer authentic?
  2. Is he or she professional enough to get the message across?
  3. Is there a match with your brand? 

If one of these boxes are not checked off, the influencer and potentially your brand itself will lose credibility and authenticity. Brands need to be extra careful when linking themselves to “ambassadors”.

If we look at the data of Flanders, Belgium we see that 50% of young adolescents follow influencers and only 16% show resistance towards it. This means it’s working right? Well, it only works when you have a waterproof campaign plan. Here’s what you need to think about: 


More than 53% of the adolescents interviewed by the Arteveldehogeschool say it’s important to show commercial transparency. You may have already seen these tags on Instagram: #sponsored #ad. This means that users appreciate and expect an honest and transparent approach when influencers tell commercial stories.

Quality over quantity

One global shift we’ve noticed is that the interaction you have with your community is becoming more important than the number of likes a post gains or the number of followers your account has (vanity metrics). So keep quantity as part of your criteria but aim for qualitative content that your followers can relate to and that sparks a conversation.

Influencers and the social media industry have had a mutually-beneficial relationship thus far, which is evident in the fact that feature changes on social networks reveal the future of Influencer Marketing. 

For instance…

  • Instagram tested hiding “Like” counts in a leaked prototype (source), this means that our statement around the focus of content quality is something the platforms are also thinking about. 
  • Facebook wants to focus more on communities rather than broadcasting (source), this means the “real and authentic” connection between influencers and our audience will become a priority and should result in a community strategy being included when building the campaign.

Are influencers toxic attention-seekers?

There many different definitions of influencers, the most extreme ones say they are attention-seekers without expertise. One of the reasons why brands nowadays still have doubts about collaborating with them is the risk that an influencer will harm a brand’s reputation.

What must be understood in this argument is the thin line between influencers and content creators. Influencers have the ability to tell a story and convince their audience to take action, whereas content creators have the creative ability but not necessarily the power of ‘influence’ so to say.

“You often see conflicting things appearing on an influencer’s account. Once they do something for Mac, the next day there’s another makeup brand. They just grab it. We believe more in ambassadorship or longer campaigns, with more exposure. They cost more, but the impact is greater.”

– Simon Smetryns, Tagmag

In our opinion, the key to identifying the right influencers for your brand is to pay attention to their level of expertise in a certain niche. In recent times, ‘Micro Influencers’ are becoming experts in travel, sports, and fashion to name but a few. Their audiences are built around that niche and brands need to be certain that the connection is real.

“If you pull an influencer out of the influencer zone, and you bring it in a brand from which a certain confidence is expected, and which does not comply with that expert role, it’s gonna be punctured.”

– Eva Van Driessche, Flair

It’s really easy to expose non-authentic influencers straight away because of their lack of expertise– the proof is in the pudding. We can conclude that there is a big gap in effectiveness between influencers who would take any collaboration request and more professional influencers who are experts in their niche.

One golden rule: find your expert in the mass flock of influencers.

Experts who can convince their audience and encourage fans in taking action aren’t attention seekers but one-man businesses.

An influencer policy without rules?

From the cases that were presented to us, it was obvious that the majority of brands create a briefing and set general rules that influencers should take into account. We agree on the fact that you should brief influencers, however, teaming up with them also means that you trust them to create content in their own style/tone of voice and therefore you need to create the space for them to do so. A place for creative freedom is needed to create authentic content.

So the answer to whether your influencer policy should include rules is both yes and no… 

No, because the main strength of an influencer is their credibility and authenticity. Whatever content they create, needs to fit their own style and tone of voice. If that doesn’t fit your brand, then that influencer isn’t for you. 

Yes, because Influencer Marketing is still in its infancy where sometimes rules are needed, however, there are no general guidelines defined about it (yet). Every brand needs to set their own objectives, guidelines and agreements. It needs to be clear why you choose to work with an influencer and how you’re going to. 

If you do or don’t, just know that some general guidance is often appreciated by the influencer itself, like some dos and don’ts. The main thing to keep in mind here is not limiting the influencer in telling their story in an authentic way. Let them be who they are and let them tell your story in their own way. It will only benefit your brand!

“Pick an influencer who would buy your products on their own, without a collab.”

– Ludovic Lenaerts, Medialaan

Stats show us that the hype of working with Influencers is there, and we’re convinced that doing Influencer Marketing in the right way works if you do the following:

  • Do extensive research about the potential influencers you want to work with. 
  • Check the credibility, professionality and link with your brand as main criteria.
  • Don’t narrow influencers down to just people that are experts in their field of expertise.

So back to the main question: is the hype over? We think it’s just the beginning of Influencer Marketing and that it’s going to be harder and harder for brands to create an honest perception towards their audience. However, done correctly, it will create extra value for your audience and your brand.