Since the dawn of time companies have been utilizing influencer marketing as a means to promote their products or services. This type of marketing is a reaction to the need of individuals to identify with their idols. One of the most famous examples of influencer marketing is the campaign of Nespresso together with George Clooney which skyrocketed the sales of the brand and has made the ‘What Else?’ slogan known worldwide.
However, with the rise of the internet and social media, influencers do not have to be celebrities anymore. This new generation of ‘social influencers’ consists of content creators who are active on multiple channels, such as Instagram, Youtube, blogs, etc. These creators put out daily content which is available to all their followers. Due to the accessibility and type of created content, consumers are able to relate to these creators on a more personal level. It is because of this personal connection that influencers can affect emotions, opinions, and the behavior of their followers, which creates a perfect opportunity for commercial exploitation.
When looking at “The State of Influencer Marketing 2018”, a survey in which 181 marketers and agencies from a variety of industries participated, it becomes clear that influencer marketing allows companies to reach their target markets more effectively. In the survey, 39% of the participants said that influencer content “somewhat outperforms” brand-created content and even 12% answered that influencer content “greatly outperforms” brand-created content. The key in this performance of influencer content over brand-created content lies in the high engagement (likes, shares, comments, reposts, etc.) with the customer, which stems from the aforementioned personal connections with content creators. Still, it is worth to note that a high engagement does not automatically increase sales for a company. Thus, one of the challenges that the companies still face is how to accurately calculate the return on investment from utilizing these influencers.
Nevertheless, companies are willing to pay a significant amount of money to utilize influencers on social media. With around 30% of the survey participants planning on spending about $25.000 – $50.000, 25% planning on spending $50.000 – $100.000, and even 19% planning on spending more than $100.000 per influencer marketing program, it seems that companies have fully embraced the potential of social influencers. Adding on to this, 46% of the participants run 2-5 programs per year per brand and 31% runs more than 5 programs per year per brand.
Social influencers allow companies to penetrate a niche market through familiar faces instead of their corporate image. A good example of how influencer marketing is used on social media is the campaign of Samsung’s The Frame. The Frame is a TV for people who do not like the looks of normal TVs. When it’s turned off, it turns into a painting and blends naturally with the rest of your house. The product is very focused on interior design and because of its niche, the price of the product is at a premium compared to normal TVs. Due to the focus on this niche, Samsung decided to run the marketing campaign of the product through creators which are primarily active on Instagram and blogs. One quick look through the Instagram posts using the hashtag “#theframe” and one can see the type of influencers that are active in the markets of interior design and lifestyle.
However, the rise of influencer marketing on online platforms has not come without its controversies. Due to the market of online influencer marketing still being young, it used to lack regulation. Surreptitious advertisement used to be, and still is to an extent, rampant on online platforms. This might not be that noticeable with smaller ‘micro-influencers’, but high profile influencers have received a backlash in the past. One of the influencers who received such a backlash is celebrity Kendall Jenner, who was found to have over a 100 posts on instagram promoting products without mentioning she had been paid to do so. As a reaction, regulatory boards, such as the Federal Trade Commission, have now decided that paid advertisements through influencers should be mentioned. This has to be either be mentioned in a full sentence or can be shown through the use of hashtags such as #ad, #paid, or #sponsored. Of course, whether something can be seen as surreptitious advertisement is kind of a grey area. Especially on a platform like Instagram, where users boast about the products that they use and their supposedly perfect lifestyle.
With all the plans of growing investments in influencers on social media, one might mistake this exploration of online marketing channels as a replacement for the traditional channels, such as TV, radio, and printed ads. However, as these channels will remain great for reaching a big and broad audience, there should not be too many worries about shifts in advertising platforms. It is only natural for companies to find multiple ways of reaching their target market and the utilisation of social influencers is an exciting way to do so.
Through a lousy Google search I calculated how much I would be able to earn through an Instagram post. However, with a mere $21 – $35 of estimated earnings per post, I don’t think I can make a living of being an influencer on Instagram (yet).