The existence of social media “influence” is undeniable. Yet, its effectiveness; debatable. Its transparency (or lack thereof); controversial.

But, we can all agree on one thing: some influencer-driven campaigns have been able to generate impressive revenue and reach.

However, does the current form of this marketing “must have” unlock the highest possible value for brands? The use of influencers to amplify the consumer’s voice, for a change, may offer an exciting path to more. Aiming beyond “likes” may allow brands to better align with consumer preferences and trends of tomorrow versus hoping they picked an influencer that can sell today.

The prospect of reach and engagement with a targeted audience is understandably attractive to brands. Accomplishing this through the independently creative outlets of individual influencers at a lower cost (at times) than traditional agency-driven creative makes it a widely accepted no brainer - Reach more for less.

But are reach and comments the areas of highest return? On the flip side, full conversions can’t be the only metric of success - we do live in reality! That’s why we believe a slight change in how social media influencers are used can access something that still remains an interesting whitespace; the intersection of influencer reach and consumer preference.

Brands employee influencers to access their audiences; the “likes”; perceived engagement; and potential purchases that come with them. In order to have the desired impact, a common request made by influencers is that total creative direction of branded content is left to them. As a result, brands are often portrayed in the reflection of the influencer. This one-way approach delivers on the goals of likes and comments, but what’s the next value-adding step with these metrics? In a world with fake accounts, this can get murky.

Alternatively, this same influencer creativity can be deployed to gather profound consumer insight. Brands that leverage influencer reach to transparently corral feedback may lay a foundation for long term relationships and renewed empathy. With a window into follower preferences, brands can launch a spectrum of initiatives and establish a framework that delivers lasting value.

A consumer led influencer strategy may prove to be the sweet spot that brands have been waiting for. It’s an approach with beauty in its simplicity; give customers the microphone and they’ll let you know where your brand wants to be. The pursuit of insight rather than likes, opens the door to the definitive strategic value and accountability that is so needed in the current form of the space.