Social Media Influencers: The New Brainwashers

My name is Jess and I have been paid to post on Instagram.  Don’t worry, I’m rolling my eyes too.  Working in the fashion industry, I have been sent clothing, products, event invitations, and on one occasion money to post about a particular campaign.  What struck me, was how willing these brands were to hand over these free things to me, simply because I had an ok amount of followers. I’m certainly no celebrity or expert on anything really, but I am privy to these benefits because people are willing to chuck me a like and a comment every now and then.

I don’t think of myself as an “Influencer”- but I guess you could say I am having some sort of influence over my followers.

The social media influencer, has divided opinions since we first saw them rear their well dressed (“check out my #FashionNova discount code for sweet threads!”), toned (“I have so much energy thanks to #SkinnyMeTea!”) exfoliated heads (“#FrankBod makes my skin feel so soft!”).  So why do we have this attitude towards social media influencers?  Do we really like people telling us what to wear, eat and buy? Especially when it’s coming from those who arguably don’t have any professional knowledge to offer us other than their own popularity. Or, do they have more to offer than we give them credit for?

How do we define the influence these social media stars have over us?

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Framework: Digital Influence Pillars by Brian Solis (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Simply Measured  explains that there are three defining factors when determining whether an individual has this power online.

  • Reach– Can they touch an audience that is beneficial to your brand?
  • Resonance– Is their content engaging and does it resonate with their audience and your brands values?
  • Relevance– Does their content have relevance or does your brand share likeminded values with the individual (Smitha 2014)?

One thing that isn’t mentioned here is the number of followers, or amount of reach the influencer must have-  huge numbers aren’t always important, being able to have influence over smaller-niche markets could be just as valuable.

Gen Z will be the first generation that interacted with technology and social media essentially from birth.  Brands are now learning that to market to these young people- they have to change with the times. A printed ad in a newspaper simply won’t have the same impact anymore. It has to be online, and it has to grab their attention in a shorter space of time.

The average American’s attention span is down to eight seconds from 12 in 2000. That’s why Gen Z prefers quick communication, largely rooted in images, quick videos and emojis. (Hulyk 2015, p32)
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student_pad_school by Brad Flickinger (CC BY 2.0)

Hulyk  (2015, p.34) mentions a study conducted by Variety in 2014 that surveyed Gen Z to determine who , based on a number of factors was viewed more favourably to them- celebrities or YouTube stars.  Based on their approachability, authenticity and influence- all five individuals that were chosen were Youtube stars. This generation listen more to people they can relate to.

We hear of influencers charging exorbitant amounts for one post, but is it really worth it and how can we determine an appropriate cost? Australian Influencer agency TRIBE created a ballpark rate card for what influencers could charge per post according to their research.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 5.19.05 pm
2016, ‘Rate Card’ – Source: TRIBE

What this doesn’t take into account is the influencers who are buying followers and faking their engagement.  I have personally seen acquaintances churning out the sponsored posts to their 15k+ followers- 10k of which are fake.  Some would argue that misrepresenting your following online and charging a premium rate could essentially be cyber fraud.  Gillin and Moore (2009, p. 77) say that ‘there is no one metric, formula or service that can reliably measure influence’.   So basically brands are left with the option to do their own research and to use their common sense before shelling out the big bucks.

The above graphic from Social Media Today (click on the link in the tweet), shows that brands struggle most with finding influencers that are relevant.  They are also skeptical of its validity since it is such a new form of marketing. ‘When everyone is free to produce whatever content they want and publish it without fact checking or compliance, how can online recommendations be trusted'(Brown & Fiorella 2013, np.)?

Scott Disick did exactly what brands are scared influencers will do-not taking their position seriously and abusing that trust- motivated entirely by the pay-off and not by the want to create quality, engaging content.  Whatever you do, just don’t be like this Di(si)ck. #FacePalm.

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2016, ‘Instagram Star Accidentally Posts Paid Sponsor Instructions in Caption’ – Source: PetaPixel


References:

Smitha, M 2014, ‘How to define, Identify and Engage Social Media Influencers For Your Brand’, Simply Measured, weblog post, 2 April, retrieved 16 August 2016, < http://simplymeasured.com/blog/how-to-define-identify-and-engage-social-media-influencers-for-your-brand/#sm.0000169ty41te7ej0zijzjagrqg93 >

Hulyk, T 2015, ‘MARKETING TO GEN Z: Uncovering a New World of Social Media Influencers’, Franchising World, Vol. 47 Issue 12, p32-35, retrieved 16 August 2016, Database: MasterFILE Premier

Gillin, P, Moore, G 2009, The New InfluencersA Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media, Quill Driver Books, California

Hutchinson 2016, Challenges of Influencer Marketing, infographic, retrieved 16 August 2016, < http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-business/state-influencer-marketing-infographic >

Brown, D, Fiorella, S 2013, Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage, and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing, Que Publishing, USA

Cade, D 2016, ‘Instagram Star Accidentally Posts Paid Sponsor Instructions in Caption’, PetaPixel, weblog post, 20 May, retrieved 16 August 2016, < http://petapixel.com/2016/05/20/reality-star-accidentally-posts-sponsor-instructions-instagram-caption/ >

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9 thoughts on “Social Media Influencers: The New Brainwashers”

  1. Social Media Influencers are a great topic for discussion! On one-hand I agree that Influencers are/can be a great marketing channel but on the other hand debate continues to rage about their validity and the ability to measure the impact of an Influencer campaign.

    Adding to this is the feeling that everyone is an influencer these days and as you point out all you really need is a decent following and you are good to go. I can’t help but feel this dilutes the value of true Social Media Influencers.

    As you are a self-confessed Influencer, I appreciated the balanced presentation of your arguments. Perhaps you can find a way to show a snippet of articles that you include in embedded tweets? I found your choice of photos spot-on.

    I’m going to pop on over and follow you now on Instagram. Maybe you will influence me to buy something in the future!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jess – you say you’re not an expert in anything, but I would argue that you certainly have some level of expertise in this very topic considering you have received income from your social media posts (no shame in this by the way)! Your first paragraph, although you assumed people were rolling their eyes, immediately drew me in and made me want to listen to you since you obviously have first hand knowledge on the subject.

    I thought you closed the post perfectly with Scott Disick’s hilarious example too. You’ve included a great mix of media and your tweets are loaded with extra information and articles which is great. The only thing I would suggest is that you might want to include your three pillars of influence (text under the graphic) in bullet points for readability.

    Fantastic post, I really enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jess. A very interesting and fun blog post, I enjoyed reading about ‘social media influence’ from your unique perspective.

    While there are many metrics/numbers and stats that can be thrown at understanding influence and measuring it as a marketing/advertising tool. Do you think it might boil down to what you touched on later in the piece, ‘relating’, or the relationships with the person/social media personality? Particularly on YouTube, being an influencer is a paradox of being popular/wealthy but still a down to earth and relatable human that people engage with. This is a far cry from the product placement of a distant, idolized celebrity, ‘influencers’ recommendations seem to come with a sense of honesty (at least perceived honesty). As a result of this, I feel like for some, poor sponsored content can feel like an abuse of trust.

    My only criticism is similar to Gemma’s, the embedded tweets linking to other articles pulls readers away from your blog post (if they choose to click), it might be worth just using a quotation or small preview.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jess,

    Great blog post. I must confess I am pretty obsessed with social media influencers. I really like your topic context. Your headline is great, you addressed the topic at hand and you followed your argument.

    Great use of media with Creative Commons images, they are very true to your topic. Really like your embedded tweets as well. Perhaps your user generated content could have been improved with a podcast.

    I really like your blog layout, it is very easy to read and looks professional.

    I did feel that perhaps at times your language was a little casual. Perhaps the blog post could be improved with the use of slightly more formal language. Otherwise well done and I will follow you in Instagram now!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Jess,
    Your first two sentences were really engaging. I bet everyone would want to know more about your post just by reading those two. Inserting your sense of humor every now and then makes the blog feels genuine and personal.
    Very good use of various media, and the way you placed them are so strategic that they compliment the body text. I can feel the balance between your text and media. Well done on the research, you managed to add in important thing in relation to the topic and put your arguments in them. Your 3-column blog looks really simple and neat. Looking forward for more posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post Jess, very engaging first sentence and title. Great to see the Instagram example and very good use of CC images, although maybe try an image of your own in one of your blogs too. Very good use of hyperlinks. Minor improvements would be to make sure all in-text citations have page numbers and have a dot after the ‘p’ (i.e. 2009, p.77). I would also have a more concluding paragraph at the end of your blog to wrap it up a little better. Well done! Looking forward to more!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello Jess!

    Loved the ‘roll your eyes’ bit, that grabbed my attention and kept me engaged with your blog post. I liked the way you included your own perspective as a social media influencer and gave a balanced argument for both negative and positive aspects. I found your links useful and informative, but just a thought I would have liked to hear more of your experiences being an influencer. I remember recently the case of Essene O’Neil who quit Instagram due to the claim of her life being all a lie, have you ever had doubts or felt odd with paid posts? A podcast that shares a little bit more about you would be fun to hear!

    Overall, enjoyed the topic and looking forward for more! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Jess,
    I have always been interested to know more about people being endorsed by Instagram so seeing that in the first section of this blog post caught my attention right away. Your use of a variety of media, statistics and images were what really pulled this blog together. I am someone who is subject to the good old ‘SkinnyMeTea’ and ‘gummy bear hair vitamins’ products, so I can really relate to this topic. I liked how you used your personal experience to highlight the new brainwashes social media influences in conjunction with scholarly references. I would be interested to know more about engagement that you recieve from your followers on posts that are endorsed. This blog has a great flow to it and will definitely be subscribing to read some more.
    Great work.

    Liked by 1 person

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