When I worked in Influencer Marketing during my placement year, I started to get a grasp of just how big the Influencer world is. I started to see the money that was invested in these Influencers, the work that they were doing with other brands and how they were able to make it their full-time job. It baffled me. How these ‘ordinary’ people were making money from having so many followers on a social media app.
The biggest concern I had, was for the full-time Influencer/Creator/Freelancer/YouTuber. Influencer Marketing is relatively new and none of us know what’s to come in the next few years. Will the trends be the same? Will we still be flocking to our favourite Influencers to know what to buy or for general advice and inspiration? Will Instagram still be here? What if there’s a new social app that takes over? What happens if someone hacks YouTube or Instagram and accounts are deleted, losing all followers and content? So. Many. Concerns.
All of these social media platforms that we have accounts on, are only rented spaces of the internet. We don’t own them; the platform owns them. This means you could be locked out of your Instagram account at any moment and never be able to return. Twitter could remove your account for any reason. YouTube could shut you down in a second. This is the risk with huge Influencers on social platforms, especially those that only use social media for their content.
This is one of the benefits of having a blog. It’s your own space, you have the rights to it and as long as you keep up with your invoices to your hosts, you’ll be fine. And if there was to be a social media type fire-sale (I’m a big Die Hard 4.0 fan) then at least you’d have your blog to keep going.
What’s the future for Influencers? Who on earth knows? Is it a secure job? Absolutely not. Money fluctuates month to month and most companies never actually pay their Influencers when they say they will. I admire Influencers and freelancers that make it their full-time job. There is absolutely no security in it, and they have to hope for brand collaborations to keep pouring in, or if not, go out and pitch for them themselves.
But when you see just how much Influencers are getting paid for single Instagram posts, sponsored YouTube videos and blog posts and not to mention their own merchandise, one payment can go a very long way (if they’re smart with their money of course). This is what really got me with YouTube stars – the merchandise. With most YouTube fanatics being young kids between 12 and 17, they are more gullible than the rest to buy into wanting the merchandise their favourite YouTubers are pushing. “Here’s a t-shirt with my name on it and there’s only 50 left (I can easily make more but I’m not telling you that) so BUY THEM.”
If I was to assume where the money was in the Influencer world, I would have to guess YouTube. I’ve heard the amounts YouTubers are paid just to mention or feature a product. I’ve watched Shane Dawson’s series on Jake Paul and witnessed the mansions that these YouTubers live in, all paid for by investors. They travel the world in private jets, own ten cars each, live in Beverly Hills and spend their entire time thinking of new ideas and recording new videos. Where do I sign up?
Fast forward ten years
The longevity of the Influencer was always what I found myself thinking of the most. How long are they going to be around? What apps will I be using in ten years’ time? Will apps even still be a thing? When we think of now, most of the jobs we’re doing weren’t even around ten years ago. Paying ordinary people tens of thousands of pounds to post something on a social platform wasn’t around either. So who’s to say it will be here in another ten years’ time?
When I discussed this with my team, they made some really good points. Most Influencers’ followers will grow with them, and as their content changes, so will the interests of their followers. For example, most of the Influencers I follow are around the same age as myself, so perhaps when they start to mature and post about getting married and the process, I’ll be thinking of similar things. When they have kids, maybe I’ll have kids of my own. They’ll start changing to interior design and showcasing where they live, and maybe I’ll have bought my own house and be looking for inspiration. I can see in a way, that we will grow with the Influencers we follow and that their content will probably be relevant to the majority of their followers, if not attract new ones.
However, in ten years’ time there may be new social apps that have taken over our most used ones today. Twitter have already talked about charging for the use of their site and who knows what could happen then. Facebook are trying their best to own as many social media platforms as they can, and who knows the changes they will make to them.
Strike while the iron’s hot
For those who are full-time Influencers/Content Creators, should they make the most of this time when Influencer Marketing is at its peak? Do they try and make as much money as they can so that if Influencer Marketing starts to notice a decline in return on investment, they have enough to fall back on? For a lot of Influencers, they get a lot for free. Free trips, free items, free hotel stays, free access to events. But free experiences don’t pay the bills.
There is still so much uncertainty around how much Influencers should be paid and how much their content is actually worth. This means brands are having to match what other brands are paying as the Influencer won’t want to expect less than what they’ve been told they’re worth. And they also need to be paid enough to keep paying their bills and living.
Due to the uncertainty of the future, if I was an Influencer, I’d be trying to make the most of the current heat around Influencer Marketing and building my brand as much as possible. I would also highly recommend to not just use social apps for exposure, but also have a blog or portfolio to back up your work in case the dreaded day were to come that Instagram shuts down. Whatever would we do?!
The final verdict
At present, I definitely think Influencers are here to stay. And they’re here to stay for a few more years yet. It’s widely known that we have more trust in what our neighbour tells us than what our local politicians do. People that we used to see as highly influential, are now at the other end of the spectrum. We rely on word of mouth for reviews much rather than advertisements that are always going to be positive.
With Instagram very recently setting to work on getting rid of fake accounts that receive money for comments, likes and follows, it will be eye-opening to see who loses thousands of followers and likes overnight. It’s also becoming apparent that the most successful Influencers are those that offer a service or add something of value to their followers’ every day lives. Be that with cleaning tips, Slimming World advice or fitness videos. Just look at the success of Mrs Hinch, David Cyril and Caroline O’Mahony. The Influencers I find myself following most are those that are personal with their followers and that make me want to tune in to see what they’re up to every day. A selfie per day just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.