A simple celebrity endorsement used to do wonders for brands back in the stone age 50 years ago, but smaller online influencers are now integral to modern marketing strategies.
The democratization of media due to the internet allowed many people to become famous without an expensive company backing them, but now companies must court these new celebrities to better reach their market.
“Anyone that has a voice within a community … can literally influence that community” is how Hulu VP of Marketing Nick Tran defined an influencer while at VidCon in Anaheim. “I don’t really look at it in terms of biggest people with the most followers or the highest paid celebrities.”
The rise of social media influencers has brought a new breadth of marketing opportunities for brands. Reaching smaller audiences through influencers has the potential to drive up sales of a product because of the positive association the target group might gain regarding a brand, according to Tran.
A general, all purpose advertisement such as a commercial or a billboard might be seen by more people, but by paying influencers to sell their product for them, brands increase the chance of consumers actually buying from them.
“If you are trying to do everything for everyone, it will never be as effective as if you are trying to something personalized to a small group or micro-community,” Tran said.
However, there are unique hurdles brands must watch out for when working with influencers, as many social media stars court controversy. For example, beauty YouTuber and influencer Laura Lee lost every one of her brand deals last summer after a discovery of a tweet she wrote which read. “Tip for all black people if you pull ur pants up you can run from the police faster.. #yourwelcome.”
At VidCon, the world’s largest gathering of online and digital-video creators, marketing executives held conferences on how to work with influencers. According to Twitter’s Global Head of Content Creation Stacy Minero, brands must allow the influencer to market without micro-managment.
At a panel, Minero explained that since influencers know their audiences best, companies should simply let the influencer market how they please.
“We did a big campaign with Disney and the Dumbo movie,” said Matt Nelson, founder of WeRateDogs, a Twitter account which posts humorous ratings of dogs. “It essentially took what people loved about WeRateDogs and incorporated it into a brand.”
The global influencer market was measured as worth $1.3 billion in 2018, but is expected to go over $6 billion in 2020, according to a Statista report.
With the weight influencers can throw around in their niche audiences, corporations have a responsibility to use them ethically, according to Cassie Roma, who’s worked with brands and marketers for over a decade, but is currently the head of content for New Zealand retailer The Warehouse Group.
“Just because you might have 15 million people (followers) and can sell some mascara, that doesn’t mean you’re doing better things for the world,” Roma said. “Everybody who puts anything out online, whether you’re an influencer or you’re just a normal human who’s sharing anything, we all have a responsibility to understand the implications of what we put out into the world.”
An editorial intern and news junkie with a hankering for all things spicy, Jackson gained a passion for journalism writing about housing and homelessness in the Bay Area for the Daily Californian and the Tenderloin Tribune. When not writing, Jackson can be found rambling to anyone who listens about old movies no one else cares about. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.