In an era when consumer trust is eroding at a rapid rate, brands are understandably eager to get their message out across as many social media channels as possible. They often end up turning to celebrities and social media influencers, who have accrued a seemingly loyal following, to promote their brand and message to their fans. But are these followers actually listening?

In a recent opinion piece for Ad Age, MS1 CEO Curtis Hougland proves that they, in fact, are not, and here’s why:

“Popularity and persuasion are inherently different. Any politician knows that celebrities and influencers don’t actually persuade voters. Consumers are not actually swayed by the A-list, because A-listers are not actually real to them. Unlike a consumer’s concentric circles of community, celebrities fall outside of their followers’ in-group, because their lives are not actually like ours—they are ‘other.’”

Brands spend time and money trying to capture an influencer’s audience, only to have it deliver less-than-desirable engagement and perhaps fail to move the message forward at all.

The new way to reach consumers is called people-first marketing—using real people to deliver a brand’s message to an audience that already trusts them. The result is a powerful human connection that doesn’t come across as an influence at all:

“Since these real people are genuine members of the community, when they make an endorsement, it is processed as a personal recommendation, not an ad. It’s about old-fashioned word-of-mouth all linking back to the same spot online, all owned by the brand, always-on.”

Read Hougland’s full column here.