Did you know, there are people out there, self-employed, being paid thousands of pounds just for a post on Instagram? Being taken on all-expenses-paid trips around the world for money-can’t-buy experiences, in the hopes that they will post something on their social media channels? Receiving ‘blogger-mail’ i.e free gifts/new launches so that they might feature it for a second in one of their twenty Instagram stories that only last 24 hours?
These people are called ‘Influencers’ and they’re probably the smartest/business-savvy/luckiest people on the planet right now.
Either they could sense social media was going to take off and played the game well, racking up followers, or they genuinely had a passion for something and pursued it. Most fall into the latter category.
The main reason these people are influential is because they have quite a significant number of followers on social channels such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Vero never really took off, did it?
A large follower count equals a large number of people seeing their content, making them have an influential impact on their audience. But there are also Influencers that don’t have a large following, but are as equally influential and at times, can be more so.
So what is an influencer and what makes them influential?
After some research and common sense, the general consensus of a definition for an ‘Influencer’ is someone that can alter our purchasing habits due to their level of authority – i.e. follower count.
Macro vs Micro
Down to the technical words now.
Macro Influencers are those with a substantial amount of followers – like 100,000 and above for example. With this kind of following, they’d be able to charge thousands for their posts. They’re speaking to a wider audience. However, because their follower number is so large, they have less of a personal connection with their followers. This is why most large Influencers have a small engagement rate.
Then there are the micro Influencers. These guys have between 10,000 and 80,000 followers. More often than not, they interact more with their followers than the larger Influencers and engage with other smaller Influencers which makes their engagement rate quite high. You’ll notice that their like per follower ratio is much higher than the big-timers.
This is why you’ll see a lot of brands working with micro and macro Influencers, as with the macros, they’re hitting high reach levels but low engagement levels and then with the micro Influencers, they’re getting low reach but high levels of engagement. Smart, isn’t it?
It’s no secret that you can buy literally anything on the internet. So it should be no surprise that you can also buy followers and likes on the internet. I kid you not.
Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there that dabble in this dark part of the web and trick their followers, brands and fellow Influencers into thinking they have grown their follower count organically. You wouldn’t see Elvis Presley having to buy fans back in his day. If they didn’t like his music, they didn’t listen to it. If there are folk out there that don’t like your content, they won’t follow it. Don’t pay £5 for an invisible Instagram bot to sit in you follower box. Plus, you’re only doing your engagement rate more harm at the same time.
I’m sure you’ve also seen those accounts that have around 50,000 followers pop up in your ‘followed you’ notifications. You get a little chip on your shoulder, thinking maybe you’ve hit the big time, this person likes your account. Only for them to unfollow you two days later. It was nice while it lasted.
These accounts usually pay for an Instagram bot that follows around 1,000 accounts per day in the hopes that a large percentage will follow back, but not notice being unfollowed again a few days later. Sneaky, but it actually does seem to work quite well.
Where are all the bloggers?
Before the Instagram Influencers, there were straight-up bloggers. They wrote about what they were passionate about, reviewed products and shared their thoughts with the world wide web.
Some Instagram stars class themselves as ‘bloggers’ but don’t actually have a blog to their name. Other big players that started out on the blogging platforms have since moved solely onto social channels instead, leaving the blogging world behind.
There’s the saying that ‘A picture tells a thousand words’ but I’m sure a lot of people would want to know the story behind the picture. What it was like, what they felt, the experience they had etc.
I much prefer Influencer content when it comes with a blog post. A lot of people can take nice photos, edit them and upload to Instagram, but not many people can write well. Writing is an art form. Keeping your reader engaged, entertained and not put off by your bad spelling or grammar is a hard job.
I’m no professional writer, but I write because I love it and the more I write, the more I can put myself across and the better story-teller I become.
The future for influencers
Working in Influencer Marketing, this is something I think about and ask on a daily occasion. Five years ago, brands weren’t paying everyday people thousands of pounds for a photo on Instagram. They definitely weren’t flying these people around the world for content creation.
So what’s to say that there won’t be something else in the next five years? Something different. Who’s to say that the big Influencers right now won’t be irrelevant in five years? They might say the wrong thing, post the wrong picture and completely ruin their career in less than 140 characters. Then what?
Will we still be on Instagram in our forties? Will we still be obsessed with social media? Still walking around with our heads in our phones, missing out on everything going on around us?
I think there will be a point where social media will come to a stop and we’ll realise how much we’re missing out on in the real world, how much it’s getting us down about ourselves and that there’s surely a much better way to waste our time other than continuously scrolling, wishing we could be the people that we follow.
I probably shouldn’t be wishing away social media since it’s my job, but I would love to be able to step away from my phone for a day, but I know that I physically and mentally wouldn’t be able to do it, which is quite worrying.
So what makes them so influential?
Take a look at your social media. Who do you follow? Why do you follow them? The general reason is because you’re interested in the content they post. You want to see what they’re up to, where they’re jetting off to, the products they receive, what they think of them and who knows, maybe you want to know the way they take their coffee in the morning.
If you follow fashion bloggers, you follow them because you like their style and the clothes they wear. 99% of the time, the bloggers will link to where they got these clothes from. When you see it on them and like how it looks, this can influence you to buy that very same piece of clothing. This is the definition of an Influencer to a T.
This is how the small Influencers started out. Fast forward a few thousand followers and they may get gifted clothing to post on their account. Maybe they get paid to picture themselves in a certain outfit. Then you start to question their authenticity. Are they wearing this because they like it? Or because they’re being paid to wear it?
This is the fine line that we are now at with the world of Influencers and why the micro Influencers work so well. A lot of the bigger Influencers start to lose their authenticity the bigger they become and the more paid-for content they create. We just have to trust that the brands they work with reflect their values and likes, so that we can trust their recommendations are genuine.
Although, thankfully Instagram keep coming up with ways to make it more transparent with paid content and what is sponsored, although you can usually tell a mile off from the look of the image and the caption wording.
So Influencers – can we trust them?