With an influx of bloggers, freelance writers and YouTubers currently dominating social media platforms, we are continually being exposed to sponsored posts, adverts (#ad) and brand campaigns with every thumb scroll. The truth of the matter is – it’s now becoming the social norm.
With the term ‘influencer’ now being coined as the buzzword of 2017, an entire platform has evolved out of people wanting to work with the biggest brands and agencies in the world in terms of exposure. And in return? Serious money can be made.
Whether we actually love seeing social influencers on our channels, or if in reality, we are starting to get annoyed by it all, one thing will remain certain; these influencers are paving the way for a new generation of writers, photographers, brand enthusiasts and blog writers across the globe. They’re giving back social media platforms to those with a voice and who have something to say. They’re also allowing people to create their own jobs and to earn a living from doing something they love and have a passion for. But now it comes down to the serious question: Is the number of social media followers now more important than your job or CV?
What does an influencer do?
Most of the big ‘influencers’ are known to have thousands (and some, millions!) of followers on a range of different social platforms. It’s also these same influencers who have converted their own websites and Youtube channels into million pound empires.
They’re the new type of digital PR. They’re the people you see on the front of fashion and sports publications, in blog posts and in viral videos. They’re invited to red carpet press events and are flown to new holiday destinations with world class designers and brands each week. They have unknowingly become responsible for spikes in fashion trends and are practically the new definition of the term ‘famous’. Inevitably, influencers have sparked a new way of connecting with people online.
The market is huge and ranges from beauty to fashion, entertainment to travel, gaming, food and so much more. It’s the job of these networkers and influencers to market products as part of a bigger campaign and to get people talking about popular products of the moment.
They set out to essentially ‘influence’ what you are buying on a daily basis – but by no means force. Whether it be that brand new lipstick, handbag, new air drone or a pair of shoes that you’ve just so happened to see on your Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook feeds – they are usually being marketed by the right person to encourage sales. The best part about it all? These social influencers are turning up to big events, wearing designer clothing and encouraging their followers to buy certain products. In doing so, they are usually (but not always) being paid a hefty sum.
The biggest ones are renowned for charging hundreds, even thousands of pounds for a single blog post or Instagram snap shot. But in reality, it’s easy to forget that influencer marketing is not always rainbows and butterflies.
When Influencer Marketing Goes Wrong
We’re all aware that being in the public eye with millions of followers can have its low points. Not everyone is going to agree with you, people will hate you regardless, and there will always be internet trolls. But what if the influencers are the ones encouraging the fight?
A recent example of this is the backlash of Sarah Ashcroft’s Cosmopolitan interview – ‘How Sarah Ashcroft turned her Instagram account into a money-making business’.
If you’ve never heard of Sarah Ashcroft, she is a well-known Youtuber, Blogger, Social Influencer and Fashion Designer. She set out to discuss her powers of being in the spotlight as an influencer and how it’s shaped her to become the person she is today. Only after the article was published did the backlash and hateful comments started rolling in.
During the interview, Sarah reveals that she only started her blog because people would ‘ask her if she had one during interviews for previous jobs’. It was questioned as to whether her blogging career was genuine or whether she was essentially being ‘forced’ to do it. She then goes on to say:
“My followers are so engaged with me that whatever I wear, they will go and buy it – which makes it such a big money earner. That’s what allowed me to go full time straight away – brands know that if I wear their clothes, people will buy it. […] I initially found it [blogging] really cringe: my old blog photos are me standing on my driveway in high street clothes, with my boyfriend at the time or my mum taking the photos for me.”
Not forgetting, most influencers and bloggers today don’t have the capacity or means to create their content, whether it involves blogging or shoot ad campaigns full time, so they ask family members, friends and boyfriends for help. But is there anything wrong with this? Many bloggers initially thought (and still think) Sarah was biting the hand that is feeding her. Further into the article, Sarah apparently says the blogging world has become ‘saturated’.
“If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think there’s any space for more bloggers in the industry – everyone is one these days. It’s ridiculous.”
Coming from a big influencer who has got to where she is now by other bloggers supporting her, you can see how that statement is problematic. In reality, it was believed that Sarah wasn’t painting other influencers in a very good light and came across as ungrateful. Everyone will have their own opinion and take on this and you can read Sarah’s full interview here. (Please note, after receiving article backlash, the article was later edited by Cosmopolitan).
Do Influencers Also Use Their Platform In Positive Ways?
In relation to all things beauty and fashion, it’s people like Zoella who has taken the market for her own. With more than 11.8 million views on just one of her Youtube channels alone, it’s thanks to her popularity and butter-wouldn’t-melt personality which has enabled the creation of her own beauty range, her own set of novels – all because she’s curated one of the top ranking Youtube channels in the world, all with a little help from her friends in real life and online.
Zoella has used her platform to benefit not only herself, but for others too. In 2016, the Youtube star revealed her exclusive partnership with WH Smith to launch the Young Adult Book Club. Although she has set up her own book club which has encouraged thousands of people to get back into reading, it was actually the press that recently blamed Zoella’s novels for teenagers not reading enough, calling her novels ‘basic’. Little did they know Zoella was doing all she can to encourage readers to sign up to her book club, revealing titles from established authors across the globe. This is a perfect example of an influencer using their power for good and to benefit and support others.
So what comes next?
As time goes on, it seems that influencers are either living and dying by their social platforms and over the next few years, we can expect influencers to grow rapidly on social media and on other platforms. But how long will it be until brands turn around and realise that it’s not the number of followers (fake or real) that you have – it’s the way you can help each other when it comes to growing your own platform and collaborating with a brand to push their sales? Only time will tell.
If you would like to know more about the biggest influencers today, click to read this interesting article on The Highest Paid Instagram Influencers by The Telegraph.
Don’t forget, if you need any help or advice with your social or content strategy, give us a call – we’re always happy to help!