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?
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)
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.
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.
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 Influencers: A 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/ >