June 19, 2021

What is “success” for an Influencer?

During a time when one’s personalized Instagram feed no longer displays the images of close friends and family. The social media audience craves to understand what is going on in the lives of people that interest them the most. Instead, we open the app only to be forced to observe the millions of targeted brand advertisements, pages we’ve never interacted with before, and of course the influencers… The realm of social media influencers has taken over all social media platforms and has become a sort of normalcy in contemporary society. Whether it be presenting a product or a service, these so-called “influencers” are given an incentive to “influence” the people who follow them in order to create a pipeline from the fan to the consumer. With this being understood, I think it’s important to define what makes an influencer successful.

Before we dive in, we must first ask “What is an influencer?” According to Influencermarketinghub.com, they state that an influencer is someone who has, “the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his or her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his or her audience.” Knowing this, every self-proclaimed influencer could range from someone who has 1,000+ followers to a notable public figure such as Kim Kardashian who boasts an impressive 229 million followers on Instagram. The power of an influencer lies in the loyalty of their audience. If an influencer has a large number of followers, but a low engagement rate they aren’t technically an influencer and rather just someone with a lot of eyes on them or someone with fake followers. Influencers are often broken up into categories based on their follower count. These categories are listed as Mega-Influencers, Macro-Influencers, Micro-Influencers, and Nano-Influencers. Brands will often target a certain type of influencer depending on the project or campaign that they are planning to run for marketing purposes. The thought behind the process is absurdly fundamental at its core. The more people that see a product/service being used by an influencer they follow will translate to those same people hopefully wanting to try that same product because one of their public idols influenced them to do so. This process is called Influencer Marketing.

Influencer Marketing has been around for a while now. Dating back to when bloggers and celebrities were the main focus of pop culture media. Now, as social media began to skyrocket and become more popular among groups of all ages, influencer marketing kicked into another gear. According to Sproutsocial.com, they explain influencer marketing, “At a fundamental level, influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers–individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts within their niche. Influencer marketing works because of the high amount of trust that social influencers have built up with their following, and recommendations from them serve as a form of social proof to your brand’s potential customers.” Knowing how influencers are utilized as types of “brand ambassadors” for differing companies it shows how clout/attention has become sort of a social currency today. The interesting thing about influencer marketing is that it has proved itself to be an effective tool for marketing and branding. In an article by Bigcommerce.com they mention, “65% of influencer marketing budgets will increase in 2020. Nearly two-thirds of marketers will increase their spending on influencer marketing this year.” With more companies spending money on influencer marketing, this proves that the power of influencers is something that businesses find value in.

As mentioned before, influencers are broken into categories that are specified by the number of followers that they have. Yet, there are different types of influencers. Individuals ranging from attractive people in a popular city, food vloggers, celebrities, artists, world travelers, and athletes. These individuals cater to a certain niche in a societal culture that allows them to gain more authority than others which makes them an influencer. Depending on the area of attention, these people can create a sense of trust or interest in a brand that they choose to work for. Due to this occurrence, people tend to follow the lead of their favorite social media personalities as a way to almost mimic their lifestyle and appearance. Those with the largest communities supporting them often become the more “successful” influencers.

Identifying what makes an influencer “successful” is completely subjective and can differ from case to case depending on what success is defined as to that individual. However, an effective influencer can be more easily described as someone who covers the most important bases of social media marketing. Business coach and thought leader Jonathan Farrington wrote this article for allbusiness.com mentioning the characteristics of what makes an effective influencer. One of the characteristics he mentions is listed as, “Base the success of their communication on the response it produces in others. If other people don’t respond in the way that the influencer was wanting, they accept responsibility and change their communication until they do achieve their desired outcome.” The list goes on as he continues to mention other attributes that make influencers effective. However, this one point, in particular, can encompass one of the most important attributes an influencer can possess, that being communication. If an influencer cannot properly communicate with their followers to create some sort of impact on them, then they have ultimately failed to influence their crowd. With that being said, most influencers find success in creating compelling content and interacting with the people that choose to follow them. There is no proper way to gauge how successful an influencer is, rather measuring the amount of influence they have on their niche and community around them.

As new features and content creator tools continue to roll out for social media, the presence of social media influencers will continue to rise. The decision to appear authentic lies in their hands. Whether they learn to become more genuine as people or fall into the trap of robotic engagement, only time will tell how effective influencers will become in the future. Yet, understanding what this means for the marketing/branding space. This can only lead to further marketing innovations and create new opportunities for promotions/sponsorships regardless of the brand. Becoming an influencer isn’t the difficult part of the journey, it’s understanding how to leverage their followers to create new business for others.

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