With influencer collaborations and digital marketing a big part of a brand’s ad budget, some recurring questions remain unanswered. Are brands misusing influencers? Or why they keep insisting on referring to these influencers as “content creators”?

With the rise of bloggers, being credible was their main asset. Blogging was still accepted as a new form of journalism as it involved writing the whole “truth” — and nothing but — about a product the blogger had received and tried. This did not last long, when a few among them became well-known and the number of their followers started to exceed 10,000 and more.

That’s when “influencer” became the new cool term to be referred by. It became a full-time job, and still one of the hottest jobs now. Thanks to the growth, many converted this into a profession by charging brands for posts or videos.

Influencers’ popularity, or how persuasive they are, started to be measured by how many followers they have. The number shown at the top of their Instagram account became the measure of whether they are going to be offered to be paid or not.

Brands have started to compete on who is going to “steal” whose fans. Customers started buying a certain brand not because they are loyal to it, but because “X” influencer had posted a picture about it. The day this influencer will post about a competitor, the customer will automatically move towards the new spoken-about brand instantly.

No one can ever deny the power of social media in expressing opinions and creating awareness around a brand. But brands’ misuse of this medium created a huge gap between social and digital media and traditional ones.

Social media tools are no longer the problem, it’s how brands are using these that are a concern. It sowed confusion among followers who failed to differentiate between what is real and what is being paid for. The truth once considered credible about a product became a “fake”, by the money the influencer was getting paid.

Brands need to approach influencers in a way that will create a loyal database of brand lovers. They need to be educated about the impact micro-influencers can have on consumers’ purchase power and avoid overuse of well-known “content creators”.

Thankfully, brands are starting to understand the change in consumer perceptions and realise the importance of keeping it real to achieve the same goals.

Duha Shabib is the founder of Not-A -Cliche.