Gone are the days of sending celebrities products and merchandise for advertising. Today, brands are turning to the ‘everyday’ girl or boy who has a substantial following on social media.
Also known as the influencer.
Brands no longer want to know about celebrities or the Insta-famous with millions of followers, but about the social media users with just a few thousand followers.
These influencers have a minor reach in comparison, but by making use of a few of these influencers, you can reach thousands of people with half the cost.
What is an influencer?
Firstly we need to define what exactly an influencer is.
This person could be you, me or your next door neighbour. If you post interesting content, engage with your followers and have something different to offer, you could potentially make a living from paid posts.
The term ‘influencer’ usually refers to a person online who has a large, active and engaged following. (Someone who hasn’t bought all of their Instagram followers. Yes you with 10,000 followers and only 31 likes on your picture, we see you.)
This person will most likely have found success through social or online media or through blogging. An influencer, in short, is any individual that has the undivided attention of their audience and can influence customer behaviour.
You may say that this is nothing new as brands have always used influential, recognisable and popular celebrities for their ad campaigns but this is a totally new way of marketing. The current influencers that brands want to work with are the influencers that are more humanised, like you and me, and those that are accessible and engage with their followers.
Where did the ‘influencer’ come from?
Over time, as social media has become something that we use every single day, and also with the rising popularity of blogging, the influencer has come to the forefront of brand awareness.
It is now possible for basically anyone to be an influencer, if they are tech-savvy and have the determination to gain online recognition.
If we take the example of Zoella, who began taking videos in her bedroom and posting them to YouTube and now has 11.5 million subscribers, earning around £50,000 per month. Not bad for posting a few videos of what you bought in the shops and talking about your day. Zoella has been featured on the covers of many magazines, published her own books and now even has her own home ware and beauty ranges in retail stores.
What makes it even more inspiring is that Zoella started out by herself, taking her own videos and speaking from herself, truly connecting with her followers. This is what adds the personal touch, the authenticity and trustworthiness that can influence consumer behaviour.
What do they do and who do they influence?
These influencers are important for brands as they have a captive audience who listen to what they say and value their opinions. By endorsing a brand, the influencers can increase engagement, traffic and sales for a company.
An influencer is usually seen to post a picture on social media of a product saying how great it is and making sure to tag and link the brand. Influencers can often be offered free products and services in the return of a review on their blog.
However, when these influencers first began to appear, a free product was sufficient to gain coverage for the brand. Today, however, as blogging is extremely popular and some consider it their full-time job, influencers can charge a price for each picture, post or review.
The most impressionable demographic are the age group most active on social media. The teens and young adults. I, myself follow a lot of fashion bloggers on Instagram and love when they tag where their clothes are from as I can buy the item if I like how it looks on them. A lot of brands even give discount codes to certain bloggers for their followers to use online. These bloggers can then get commission from sales made using their discount code. For example, ‘Use EMMA20 for 20% off Boohoo’.
When it goes wrong
We’ve all seen it. The embarrassing copy and paste method. When influencers literally copy and paste the email into their caption without even reading what it says.
We all remember this post from Scott Disick:
And when Naomi Campbell got some new Adidas kicks:
This can be embarrassing for both the influencer and brand as it shows that the post is basically an advert and isn’t a way of reaching out to their followers to show a personal side of them.
But doing this always causes a media frenzy with everyone rushing to see the post. In some cases, it could be considered a publicity stunt.
The future for the influencer
As blogging is as popular as ever, and everyone and their dog has an Instagram account, there can easily be an over-crowding of influencers. In the future all brands will have to go down the route of the influencer for their marketing. However, the brands must choose wisely and choose someone who would represent their company well.
Realistically, this influencer is acting as an ambassador for your company.