Trust In Influencers “Corroding” & Agencies Need To Adapt: Reddit’s VP Business Marketing

Trust In Influencers “Corroding” & Agencies Need To Adapt: Reddit’s VP Business Marketing

Trust in influencers is “corroding across the board” to the benefit of sites such as Reddit, according to Timo Pelz (pictured), the company’s VP of business marketing.

As a result of that eroding trust in influencers — or creators as they have recently become known — Pelz said that influencer agencies need to “evolve and adapt” their business models to “create these win-win situations where you connect brands to communities and audiences that hold true influence.”

Pelz said that internet users had become “more savvy” and that they understood influencers could “game an algorithm” and that there were influencer networks and the “dynamics that drive that economic subset.”

Unable to find genuinely helpful product recommendations from influencers, Pelz said that people are turning to Reddit for advice and inspiration.

“People continue to look for places where they can find honest, authentic and unfiltered opinions,” he said.

“Reddit is one of those places where people aren’t pushing a product on you. People really want to help you. People will not tolerate affiliate links. People just come to ask a question and get an answer from experts who have nothing to gain from it other than just to help each other. That’s becoming increasingly valuable in a world where truth is not as straightforward as it used to be.”

However, TikTok, Meta and Google have all been heavily investing in creator monetisation programs. In fact, TikTok has even launched a talent manager portal to give brands more control over the creators on their payroll.

Of course, the nature of an online influencer or creator is changing somewhat. The halcyon days of the picture-perfect Instagram account spruiking gradual tan lotions, teeth-whitening kits and laxative teas seem to be over. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has even launched a sweep of influencers to find misleading posts and recommendations.

“The number of tip-offs reflects the community concern about the ever-increasing number of manipulative marketing techniques on social media, designed to exploit or pressure consumers into purchasing goods or services,” ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said in January.

“At this point in the influencer economy maturity process, people have understood that this is just another way of getting a testimonial,” added Pelz.

“In the beginning, people really understood that there was someone with authority on a topic and they are making a recommendation. [Now] more often than not, you’ll see influencers recommend similar products from the same category over the course of a very short amount of time and watering down what used to be [their] authority.”

However, Pelz does not think that the music has stopped for influencer agencies and that they have a chance to pivot to a different business model.

“What we’re trying to create is a level playing field and a place like Reddit allows you to reach influencers at scale because the communities are the influencers. That actually fits into a more traditional go-to-market media model than this very bespoke approach to playing a CPM-based influencer post,” he explained.

Reaching those communities is not easy, however. Pelz said that brands need to listen to the users before they start trying to engage or even sell on the platform.

“Don’t start with what you want to do. Start with a challenge they have or a problem they’re trying to solve.

“There’s a place where brands can be a little bit more real and just add value. Just chime in, you can add value and help answer questions. People will be very happy to see that and we know from our own research that people are open to brand participation and brands that participate on Reddit benefit from this halo effect of being seen as more trustworthy.”

Tracking and measuring the effect on your brand is not straightforward, however. Pelz said that brands and agencies would see a “spillover” effect in branded search.

“On average, every second two people ask a Reddit community for a recommendation and they receive an average of seven personalised responses in return,” he said.

“There’s certainly an upper funnel uptick that you can measure in branded search, for example, or see the referral traffic to your website. If you want to start to engage in the mid-to-low funnel, that’s obviously a bit harder to measure when it’s based on organic traffic. But the same thing is true for other platforms, right?”




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