"You have to be real to get a deal"
Recently one of my colleagues sent me an article published this past November 2017. The article came from a Fashion blog that positions itself as a source on the business side of fashion. It announced that it was now offering an “influencer” degree. This influencer program would train those interested and give them a “degree” as well as incorporate the participants into their own influencer portfolio. This type of commercial offering can be seen as a sign of the times in how marketing and media in general have changed. Stepping ever further away from the print, billboard, TV Ad world, social media has garnered a momentum that seems unlikely to curve anytime soon. Social media and the role that those who have acquired large audiences have, those called influencers, some rightly so, has started a type of gold rush. Thousands of individuals and companies are rushing in and they all want to make a buck.
How did we get here?
As with any gold rush, all those who participate believe they can become rich and in the social media case, also famous. But, let’s try and slow down a little. In a marketing sense, what is an influencer? In the past decades an influencer was defined as an individual expert in her field who also was well known and respected by others, both within and outside a particular field. Today, this meaning remains. Well known individuals with expertise in a field are able to convince and influence others into a related point of view or a product line.
In the beginning of FB, YouTube, and IG there were people who well, looked pretty and painted a life image that the great majority of us wished we could have. A lot of women took up to showing different varieties of how glam could look like. Professional models were no longer alone. Many women that could be considered aesthetically interesting by traditional media took online to show that they could also do the catwalk. The new influencer was born, for whom, specialization in anything was not a pre-requisite. Armed with a camera and social media platforms they could reach out to millions. Everything was new to everyone; the platforms themselves, their users, the content creators that adopted them. Based on these, companies started popping up going after this new marketing segment rightfully called Influencer Marketing.
Cool looking but not so cool engagement
There is one important aspect though that differentiates social media platforms from traditional media and this is its omnipresence: everywhere and anytime. This aspect allows acquaintances, friends and family – if we accept their invites – to be part of our day-to-day experiences all the time. And, because these platforms are open, we can also see into other people’s lives. We all personally know that individual who has an amazing online presence. The girlfriends that go to a supposedly cool bar, don’t have anything to talk about, but suddenly cozy up together for a boomerang shoot. Try once, twice, thrice, there, perfect. Post it, and go back to a lame posture. looking at their phones, looking around, and then calling it an early night. As a result, we know that many of these early made online stars were just hoaxes of what real life is or can be like. Another consequence of this is that the early online stars have lost a lot of their shine. Once seen by early users with a Wow factor, these hundreds of thousands, often millions of subscribers/following base influencers became marketing companies. New users quickly saw through their lack of originality and overall lack of down-to-earth style. These online super stars have lower engagement overall (i.e. interactions/number of followers).
Missing the point?
The mentioned realization is more and more the case. However, there are two groups that seem not to have caught on. Many brands and beginner content creators miss the point. With their eyes fixed in the remanence of social media’s early beginnings and their early participants, they still look for the girl with the half a million or more followers on IG. And, the woman content creator that reads about these online stars looks up to them and their pseudo traditional media style and wants to copy them. And this is where “influential” agencies come up. Setting their eyes in these two groups, they try to milk both brands and aspiring women content creators into paying them a pretty penny. The great majority of these influencer agencies act more like parasites providing little value to either. Thousands of women give their names, links, and emails to these agencies hoping they will be chosen. The influential “networks” that often are anything but, then turn around and tell brands they have millions in their social media outreach without even having made any contact with any of the people who gave them their personal info. The latest event into this gold rush and the milking of the social media cow, is the influencer training “certificate” mentioned at the beginning of this article.
All of this money being spent by both brands and aspiring content creators is largely being wasted. Aspiring content creators spend a lot of effort, money, and emotional energy so that they can feel unappreciated as they see themselves never get chosen via these influencer agencies. And, some brands are beginning to realize that paying up to 30k for an IG campaign or several thousand for an IG post is not a good cost/benefit strategy.
Keeping it real
Approachability and authenticity are preferable. In this, up-and-coming and mid-tier influencers are the ones that provide the greater engagement. Fashion Potluck is a new social media platform. It is a community of up-and-coming and mid-tier influencers. A women’s platform that’s approachable where anybody can join, but only women can post. It has given us a lot of data and information in general as to what makes somebody influential. It is that breakup with your boyfriend. It is that makeup that didn’t turn the way you wanted and now you are blogging or vlogging about it. It is above all, being down to Earth. Sure you can go to Thailand and sure Thailand is a beautiful country with amazing beaches. As beautiful as a beach can be though, it still has normal people and there is a beauty in this. Real life storylines don’t follow an orderly made script. Quality of production is important, but the story is even more so.
There will always exist figures who we admire because of their looks and sometimes, even because of their extraordinary circumstances. As social media continues to grow, however, we realize ever more that life can be inspirational because of what normal people can do. We become more and more immune to hoaxes of “dreamlike” and “perfect” lives that were so popular ten years ago. In the end, and with the huge amounts of content going up on a daily basis, it will be more and more about value added info, true inspiration, and keeping it real.