Marketing is changing, and business owners need to remain aware of these changes if they want to retain their audience.
Traditional methods of advertising are becoming less effective, while more organic forms of advertising such as social media are steadily becoming more powerful. In particular, social media accounts with large followings are becoming an important strategic lynch pin for advertising campaigns.
Here’s everything you need to know about these powerful social media influencers.
The Rise of Influencers on Social Media
Media savvy consumers have been turned off by advertising for some time. Consumers have been increasingly blocking web-based advertising, paying to avoid commercials, and ignoring their mail altogether. This has had a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of direct advertising, forcing advertisers to get more clever and creative. Advertisers have been attempting to connect with consumers on social media, “go viral,” and start conversations.
Influencers have become a major method through which marketers can connect with their audience. Consumers presently use social media more than ever before, with the average person potentially spending five years of their entire life on social media. Influencers grew organically: at first, they were simply accounts that were followed frequently, and consequently there was a certain level of weight to their recommendations. Now, they are a marketing entity unto their own, with their own marketing strategies.
New Technology Empowers Influencers to Act
Influencers have existed for the last decade, but the true evolution of the influencer lies in new technology being produced. New marketing technologies make it easier for influencers to subtly advertise products. Shopping on Instagram, for instance, makes it possible for people to tag products within their images, so their audience can click through to make a purchase.
In the past, many influencers were bloggers who wrote reviews on products and were compensated for their time. However, they still needed to negotiate their own affiliate deals, find new products to sell, and generally manage their business. Today, there are new marketplaces that are designed to connect influencers to brands—and brands are looking for influencers rather than the other way around.
This legitimization of the influencer market is making influencers even more powerful.
Hiding the Influence of Influencers
As mentioned, consumers are turning away from direct advertising. One of the appeals of influencer advertising is that it isn’t always immediately obvious. Influencers are being paid to wear certain brands, visit specific places, and review particular products. All of this relies on a sort of tacit agreement that everything appears natural and organic. Unfortunately, this also breaks a certain contract with the influencer’s audience: the audience cannot tell what is advertising and what is not.
In terms of regulations, influencers in many countries are required to reveal that they have been paid to promote certain items. In practice, this does not always occur. The goal of many advertisers and influencers is to provide a seamless experience between entertainment and advertising.
“Fyrefest”: The Dark Side of Influencers
Released on Hulu and Netflix, two Fyrefest documentaries recently highlighted a darker side to online advertising and social media influencers. In the well-publicized Fyrefest debacle, an expensive and overly ambitious event was created almost entirely through the abuse of social media advertising. Influencers were courted to advertise the event itself, which had little actual backing.
This raised questions of influencer ethics, as these influencers were able to successfully promote and sell an event that ultimately had little hope of delivering the experience it promised. Perhaps more pertinently to marketers, this also revealed to the general public the power that influencers wield, as well as how frequently influencers are used for the purposes of advertising. Moving forward, it’s likely that consumers will become more wary of being influenced by these individuals.
Ultimately, businesses need to understand that marketing is changing. These changes may be permanent. Direct advertising such as commercials, banner ads, and mailers are no longer as effective. Instead, consumers are starting to follow specific individuals who mesh with their lifestyle. These trend setters wield an incredible amount of power, as the lines between entertainment and advertising are becoming blurred. By leveraging influencers, brands can build themselves very quickly, but they need to be wary of being seen as either artificial or disingenuous.