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The Power of Influencer Marketing: Fad or Phenomenon?

By now you will have come across the term ‘social media influencers’ and may even know roughly what they are, and what they do...

By now you will have come across the term ‘social media influencers’ and may even know roughly what they are, and what they do. Influencers, in their most common sense, have been around for decades, but it is only within the last five years that social media influencers and influencer marketing have really had an impact on the world.

We all know that the internet has changed the way brands go about their marketing and has subsequently changed the way we shop. Traditional advertisements no longer generate the sales they once did, but 'influencer marketing' on the other hand most definitely does.

We are in the middle of an advertising revolution, which reaches us directly through our daily scrolling on social media platforms.

'Social influencers', as they are known, build up an immense following for themselves and, as a result of this, brands reach out to them to help promote their products, events, or services to their followers. This works very well, especially with the millennial generation. They’ve gained a huge amount of trust from their audience and have almost become a 'voice of reason' in some respects. 

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Now a multi-billion-dollar industry, influencer marketing is another way to describe a popular online figure being paid to promote a product or service online. These influencers can be paid in the multiple thousands for an Instagram story, for example, which would take them just minutes to post. This amounts to thousands of their followers flooding to purchase what they have advertised.

You can understand then why brands flock to these influencers in order to collaborate with them. However, in recent times, there has been cause for caution and influencers are being watched more closely. And although it's an effective marketing tool for brands and businesses, is it having an overall negative impact for those being exposed to it on a daily or even hourly basis?

Now there is no denying the power of social influencing. It's a tool that any business selling a product or service should be using. The simple reason behind this is that it just works. 72 per cent of millennials report buying fashion and beauty products based on Instagram posts, and this doesn’t just apply to large brands or celebrity influencers. I myself have, in the past, made money from an app simply by uploading pictures of clothes I have worn and tagging where I got them from. If others then buy the clothes through my tags, I earn money. But trust me, I am by no means a social media influencer! Although I am, perhaps, a 'micro-influencer'.

The term ‘micro-influencer’ is slowly becoming more prevalent. Micro-influencers tend to be more niche, revolving their pages around a specific subject such as fitness, travel, or their passion for animals, food, or even memes. They are becoming just as important as influencers with a larger following.

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At a glance, these are everyday people with a decent following, most using their social media channels to earn extra money on the side of their 9-5 job. To help with this, there are now apps where you can sign up, see a number of companies that need micro-influencers, and create a submission post advertising their product. This post, if chosen, can earn you money and increase your Instagram following. This means it is now easier than ever for everyday people to pick up the influencer hobby, which could eventually lead to a career.  Micro-influencers may be the new kids on the block, but you can see how they could steal the thunder of bigger social influencers.

Although this all seems positive, there are negative implications and opinions with the concept of influencer marketing. This includes false or suspect advertising which has been picked up on in the public eye recently due to two things:

The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority)
releasing new guidelines for influencers, meaning they now must specifically outline when they are being paid, or if they have received something for free. This has frightened some due to the perceived lack of authenticity this may then cause

Due to the media storm, and subsequent documentaries, surrounding ‘Fyre Festival’, and the part celebrity influencers from around the world had in its promotion. And as we all now know the festival
didn’t quite go as planned for anyone involved…

Controversy aside, I can only see this industry growing. Social influencer marketing is a great marketing tool, with its dangers mostly arising from celebrity endorsements. This is where the distinction needs to be made, and where influencer marketing needs to separate itself.

"The simple reason behind this is that it just works. 72 per cent of millennials report buying fashion and beauty products based on Instagram posts, and this doesn’t just apply to large brands or celebrity influencers"

Linking back to ‘Fyre Festival’, we see an example of celebrity endorsement, specifically, that went wrong, rather than social media influencer marketing. Whether or not the celebrities were paid to promote the festival, there was no real connection with the product to their followers. Going back to the term, 'micro-influencers', this is now where we can see the power the true influencer has, and where the focus should be shifted: to genuine campaigns run by genuine people. This makes the tool far more effective.

Due to the sheer power and popularity of social media, more and more marketers are increasing their budgets specifically for influencer marketing. If done well, influencer marketing is very effective for brands. Influencer marketing is now making this shift from celebrities to everyday people, and the supporting technology is only making this easier to do.

There is enormous power in the everyday influencer, but only if they engage authentically. Put simply, why wouldn’t brands want their advocates to create engaging content for them to use, which could then be shared to their network? It’s a win-win.

Yes, there are new guidelines in place, with posts with #AD or #Gifted emerging, and the scrutiny is likely to continue now the authenticity veil has been lifted. But it's certainly not the end of this industry. In fact, it's only the beginning. 

By Winnie Ellis-Hall - Admin and Marketing Executive