Last week, WIRED published an article, “Inside The Weird, And Booming, Industry of Online Influence,” in which the author took a minute snapshot of the industry of influencer marketing (which they dub as “sponcon”) and blew it up to magnify, well, the industry’s flaws. There is a lot of truth to this piece. The amount of sponsored posts in your social media feed is growing. Companies are spending more ad dollars on influencers. And, there is a ton of money to be made as an influencer.


The problem is this: examining only the highly visible tip of the iceberg is dubious in that it views the industry from a limited lens, dismissing the true credibility of influencer marketing, the very reasons why companies are pouring billions of ad dollars into sponsored content. The perception that influencer marketing is scammy, annoying, dishonest, expensive, and outright uncontrollable, is a far cry from the truth. While the article did speak to the fact that influencer marketing is growing, it was hardly a look, if at all, inside the business as a whole.


What kind of people are actually driving influence without skating by on FTC guidelines? For every one Hailey Baldwin Fyre Festival Instagram teaser or flaky Luka Sabbat contract breach, there are hundreds of thousands of honest influencers who connect, often on a very personal level, with their audiences that they’ve built authentically from zero.


There’s the single mom of 6 who posts about installing a brand new security camera in her home. She shares her experience of how the new camera eases her mind and ensures she can keep an eye on the safety of her children with her thousands of followers, many of whom are also single moms. There’s the family with newborn twins who tell their followers about a scary carbon monoxide leak they had in an old home, and that they don’t have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning now thanks to this combination CO and smoke alarm. There are hundreds of nonprofits benefiting marginalized communities that receive donations thanks to influencers who post about causes that matter to them to their various niche audiences. These are all real campaigns examples with everyday people and brands who defy the flawed perception of influencer marketing as a scam.


What about “sponcon”? With the growth and popularity of influencer marketing, some devious practices slip by. No one wants to get scammed, and for that very reason, we have ways to combat the small portion of influencer marketing that may be deemed dishonest. Think of it this way: you just moved into a new city and signed up for a gym membership. You become overwhelmed with all the classes and programs the gym has to offer. Should you do racquetball? Zumba? Focus on calisthenics with a trainer? You tried one class and it was awful — you felt like you wasted an hour and hardly got in a workout.

However, there are tons of classes at this gym and everyone in your neighborhood goes there. Wondering what the big deal is, you decide to give it another shot, but this time seek a bit of direction. Instead of canceling your gym membership, you ask a trusted co-worker, who regularly goes to the gym and leads an active lifestyle, which classes they recommend. Like the endless gym class options, there are thousands of influencers of various reach and niches. Just because you took one crappy class doesn’t mean your gym membership is useless. You just have to get advice from the right person, someone who you feel gets you, someone you trust, to lead you in the right direction to make the most of your membership.


That’s where we step in. This year, CLEVER will be celebrating a decade in the influencer marketing space, so we’ll be the first to say that Influencer marketing is not a new frontier. There are literally hundreds of platforms and agencies representing millions of influencers of all shapes and sizes, and those numbers are growing by the day. With a forecast of $10 billion dollars to spend on influencer marketing in 2020, we’re looking to break through new and innovative ways to connect the right influencers with the right brands, and do it all in full transparency.

We work closely with influencers every single day, using a combination of thoughtful data from reliable sources, and real people (with critical thinking skills and years of experience in this very industry!), to assess each and every influencer who will be promoting a brand’s product or message. We look at everything (yes, everything), from an influencer’s content, to how their followers engage with their posts, to how often they post about their dogs and ice cream. We’ve monitored our influencers before their first sponsored post goes live because we know that the success and impact of influencer marketing lie in authenticity. The real look inside the industry is simply that: it’s real, and those billions of ad dollars projected to be spent in this space will go far if companies wisely approach the iceberg from every angle rather than looking at a microscopic snapshot blown out of proportion.