The Influencer Phenomenon

There are many definitions of what an influencer is. Depending on who you ask, it can vary from person to person but more importantly from experience to experience. If we extract the meaning from the dictionary, an influencer is a person or thing that influences another. Those ten words have recently shaped how a lot of companies have shifted their marketing, advertisements and even outreach plans and execution. 

Influencer marketing industry is reported to see almost $10 Billion in revenue this year. If you are asking yourself what sparked this growth you are already behind. If we review human history over the last millennia,  humans exchange information on various events, topics, points of view through words, pictures and sounds. This content of the message has not changed but the mediums that it flows through does. Fast forward to the year 2010 when a small app was available to iPhone users to document photos in real time: Instagram. 

Over the last decade, Instagram has helped mold if not totally form the state of influencer marketing. Companies flooded their agencies with requests for assistance with Instagram. This phenomena led to new departments, roles and businesses being created to solely assist with social media due to its power and prevalence in the culture. The use of filters, captions, hashtags and the ability to tag brands and locations in pictures led the way for companies to realize they one, could benefit from free advertisement, and two, pay for people to post their products. 

As the possibilities with Instagram grew, so did that of other channels.  Social media counterpart YouTube allowed creators to have their own channels and produce video content that would include advertisements that were profitable. Makeup and hair companies used this opportunity to send PR boxes to influential content makers to use their products for tutorials and reviews. While free products were piling up so was the cash. 

Talented individuals found that they were able to leverage social media as a tool to receive additional income or turn it into their main source. Companies started in listing A-list celebrities with followings to post using or wearing their brand. These partnerships have ranged from everything from sportswear brands like Nike to even featuring popular animals for Dyson

As many positives as there have been in the world of Influencer marketing, there have been plenty of unsavory ones. Many influencers have been called out for using content that gave the  illusion of having esteemed partnerships when in reality no partnership existed. Audiences were also under the guise that people were posting because they liked it, not because they were paid, leading to certain words like #ad and #sponoredpost being mandatory in the information provided by the influencer.  Affiliate links (customized links where people make a commission off sales) must be stated that people are earning money from posting. Some influencers have also gotten a bad rap for their antics and willingness to “do it for the gram” no matter who or what it damaged or offended. 

For the companies, and the influencers, that get it right the possibilities are endless. Events are held both nationally and internationally to invite those lucky few to be invited to rooms most people can never enter. When we step back and ask why these groups of people seem to  have this power, a lot of questions come to mind. Is it their looks? Is it their money? What is it that builds the pedestal that influencers often stand on? It’s not a what, but a who. We do. We relate to these people, often want to be like them or go to  the places they go. We trust them. People don’t buy from companies, people buy from people. As history suggests, our message hasn’t change, but our methods will.