“What even is an influencer?”
The rise of social media and the influencer world over the past decade has certainly caused some controversy and frustration. The tut from the older generation when you’ve been glued to your phone for the last hour sat around the dinner table. Or the confusion as to why influencers are sitting on a small fortune after “just taking a few selfies”.
Despite these critics, social media has proven it isn’t going anywhere; out of the 7 billion people in this world over half of them use social media – that’s a lot of people and a perfect audience for brands to play with! But social media is about real people, building relationships and making connections… So how does a brand break into this market? Influencers!
It quickly became apparent that individuals on social media with a large following were inspiring their followers and driving human behaviour. For example, if Molly Mae shares her location on Instagram at a nail salon, you can almost guarantee they’ll have a queue out the door in the following days. It didn’t take long for brands to realise the power these social media stars had. If they can change human behaviour, they can drive sales of their products. This lightbulb moment essentially led to what today is known as ‘Influencer Marketing’ and what we at EngageHub are so passionate about. By definition, Influencer marketing is a method that helps companies break through the media noise and reach their target groups more efficiently through the use of influencers. Whether the older generation is on board with it or not, influencers are a critical and essential tool to brand and product marketing, so it’s about time to banish the typical assumptions that influencers are materialistic ‘wannabe celebrities’. The truth is, being an influencer is a whole lot more than this, they are the driving force behind influencer marketing and brands breaking through their market.
“Don’t they just take selfies for a living?”
The short answer to this is, no. A recent trend has started on YouTube in which some of the biggest influencers around the world are sharing a ‘day in the life as an influencer. This trend has proved very popular, as their followers invest so much of their time following their lives but until now it has been almost taboo to talk about the behind the scenes aspects of what being an influencer actually consists of. Molly Mae (5.7M followers) jumped on this trend and let her followers in on what a typical working day was like for her. She starts the day checking over a daily to-do list she receives from her manager, believe me, this list was far from short! After a morning of filming herself unboxing PR packages and sending this content over for approval, Molly got glammed up for a day out getting content.
A ‘content day’ seemed to be a frequent occurrence across most of the influencers who took part in this trend. Patricia Bright (1.2M IG followers) even rented out a fancy London city apartment to get all her content, ensuring there was plenty of natural light. The night’s stay required plenty of planning and organisation; Patricia documented styling a series of different outfits along with packing up all her photography and editing equipment. So even though it looks like these influencers just get their cute pictures as they head out to dinner or drinks, their content is far more planned and regimented. Although all the influencers appeared genuinely passionate about the brands they were working with and the content they were making, this did not deter from the fact the process was tiresome and somewhat gruelling. As an influencer you are pretty much on your own and therefore have to juggle many different roles at once… a model, make-up artist, photographer. Not to mention the post-content work such as the video and photo editing as well as uploading and promoting the content on their social media channels.
Aside from the content and promoting brands and products, an influencer also has the job of marketing themselves and keeping their audience engaged in who they are and what they do! This is easier said than done; in a hugely saturated industry of over 20+ million influencers across the globe… standing out and staying relevant is extremely difficult and requires a huge amount of consistency and dedication. This leads us to our next assumption about influencers; “anyone could be an influencer”. To an extent, this statement is somewhat true, as most people have access to social media and therefore have the opportunity to try to build a large social media following and instil influence. But becoming a successful influencer requires more than just having a social media account, see below for a few tips on how.
“Anyone could be an influencer”
It can take years and years to become an influencer, requiring a lot of consistency and determination to build a following that is influenced. In such a saturated industry it is crucial that any aspiring influencer posts regular content that is constantly ahead of the trends and able to cut through media noise. So aside from consistency and determination, what else does it take to be a successful influencer? A key part of building a loyal follower base is ensuring an influencer always appears authentic and genuine. This may sound easy enough, but if an influencer is offered a hefty paycheque to promote a brand they wouldn’t necessarily use themselves – it can be tempting to lose sight of authenticity and just think about the money coming into their bank account. Nevertheless, it is far better to play the long game and opt for authenticity over money at the start as they will benefit from building an audience that trusts them, which will boost the longevity of their interest and engagement of the influencer.
Influencer marketing is more effective than advertising because as humans, we are far more likely to engage with content if it’s coming from an individual we’ve actively chosen to connect with. An audience on social media chooses to follow an influencer, unlike advertising which is pushed onto us involuntarily. In turn, influencer marketing offers something more than regular advertising; attention plus trust. In order to trust, an individual looks to share values, interests and aspirations with another. They will seek them out for inspiration, entertainment and value. Having a real person (the influencer) behind a brand will make building trust far more natural and authentic than trusting the brand alone. As humans, we trust people, not brands.
To conclude, the overriding message stands that influencer marketing is here to stay and this industry wouldn’t exist without influencers. Despite the critics, they do work hard – posting consistent content that breaks through media noise, by trend-forecasting and staying socially savvy. Moreover, the unique difference to influencer marketing, as opposed to regular advertising, is building trust with the consumer and a brand simply could not achieve this without influencers. Let’s give influencers a little more credit!