By Rex Hammock, CEO

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal explored the current state of internet influencers. Spoiler alert: The article isn’t gung-ho about the “influencer economy” in which they say, “billions are being paid to social media personalities to pitch products riddled with deceit.” However, the article accepts the reality that, at least for the near future, influence marketing is going to be a part of the digital and social media marketing pallet.

It’s hard to describe precisely what internet influencers are and what their role has become, but here’s my attempt: Influencers range from local user-generated gossip to multimillion-dollar endorsement deals with LeBron James or Serena Williams.

According to the Journal, “What began as friends and family sharing their favorite products has become a lucrative advertising industry of celebrity endorsers, influencers and meme creators. Such paid endorsements, known as sponsored content, are the online equivalent of a 30-second TV spot,” according to the article. “Big-name stars can command $100,000 or more for a single YouTube video or Instagram photo.”

Of course, influencers predate the internet. They are the “experts” and “thought leaders” who appear on panels at trade shows. They’re also the go-to cool kids whom reporters seek.

Sometimes, they are people who are famous just for being famous. Others are experts in a field or profession who have a gift of sharing their expertise in entertaining or insightful ways. Some are funny, inspiring or have the rare ability to influence fashion, pop culture or politics. Or at least that’s what influencers are trying to convince us.

One thing is certain: Influencers have influenced marketers to spend more of their marketing and advertising budgets on influencer marketing.

Ironically, in a digital medium that is supposed to provide marketers with an extraordinary analysis of engagement data, there is currently no definitive way to estimate how much is being spent on influencer marketing. The best estimate is somewhere between $4.1 billion and $8.2 billion globally in 2019, according to Mediakix, an influencer marketing agency.

Take-away for marketers | Influencer marketing is, in many ways, just a different term to describe endorsement marketing. It is even covered by laws and regulations of the Federal Trade Commission. (See’s Guide to Influencer Marketing.)

Like any form of advertising or marketing, nothing is inherently wrong with influencer marketing. It’s how you use it that determines its effectiveness and whether or not it’s a waste of time and money. At Hammock, we’ve worked with clients to ensure their influencer marketing is conducted in a transparent, legal way that is focused on helping build long-term relationships. And, as we always say, the best forms of marketing with content (or influence) is to focus your efforts on marketing that helps, not hypes.

Image: Getty Images