The world of marketing has become a volatile place over the past several years. Consumers are no longer interested in typical avenues of product promotion and tune out advertisements faster than a 13-year-old listening to a parent’s lecture.
This is, in part, what has driven content production to flood every information channel of the Internet and enact a chorus of commotion making the digital noise more difficult than ever to break through. Content provides value and consumers want useful information to improve their lives.
People don’t want product peddlers pushing messages down their throats anymore. They have had enough. And thanks to today’s technological capabilities, they have the power to drop out, research the products they desire, consume the materials they want, and do so when they want to do it. For the first time in history, brands and marketers are truly at the mercy of consumers.
Those with the purchasing power now turn to peers, experts, and thought-leaders for sage advice on everything from career enhancement opportunities to the best toothpaste to buy. With all of these folks residing on one social channel or another, the collective power of social media has brought forth the age of influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing, while its current incarnation has never been seen before, is nothing new as celebrities have been viewed as “influencers” since the dawn of public life. But with individuals amassing thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of followers on their personal pages, “influencer” has become a more broadly defined term. This method of advertisement leverages these social powerhouses to promote a brand, product, or service to their highly engaged following. The results have proved to be astonishing, and thusly, everyone is looking to cash in.
It’s clear how the industry feels about influencer marketing, but what about the customers themselves?
The Consumer’s Point Of View
Daniel Newman, CEO of BroadSuite and influencer in his own right, recently stated that “As reported rates of trust in traditional advertising continue to sink to levels well below 50%, brands are going to continue to invest in channels that increase trust.”
Largely speaking, these channels are through social media and the influencers that inhabit the space; real influencers that is – not those who have purchased their followings. For those that are the real-deal, they have established trust and credibility with their followings, through sharing valuable information and only endorse messages they truly believe in; and their audience knows this.
As far as the consumer is concerned, the influencers they follow are not at the helm of any other authority ; their authentic voice has made them an extension of the audience. These people have become like friends to their social supporters because they trust the information they provide is reliable, interesting, and credible.
Since 92% of consumers turn to people they know for guidance, 81% of which is online, influencers have become an unparalleled resource for a multitude of people. And consumers aren’t dumb. They know that their favorite influencers are often compensated to promote products, business, and so forth. The difference is that they don’t mind as much because they’re keenly aware that many influencers only endorse brands that resonate with them and that they genuinely believe in. The deals they take are on their terms, and if they cannot confidently support the partnership, it simply won’t happen.
Influencers often feel it is their obligation to provide their network with the most relevant and useful information, that will help their audience lead a more fulfilling existence. If they fail to do this, people will walk away from them just like so many brands before them; authenticity and transparency are key in the digital age.
In the audience’s eyes, these are real people, not some faceless corporation. There is a genuine connection, and beyond valuable information, there is a very clear reason why that attachment exists.
Just Like Me
In terms of content consumption, digital media is quickly becoming the preferred source as both younger generations and adults are turning away from the television and towards mobile devices. While there are several reasons this transition is occurring, one of the main factors was pointed out in a DEFY Media study, which analyzed the 13–34 year-old demographic to understand what fuels their content consumption as well as what causes them to “stop, watch, and share.”
While celebrities are still considered to be influencers, there is a certain disconnect when it comes to these larger-than-life figures when compared to social superstars. In August of 2014, Variety published a study on YouTuber influence over younger generations.
The study found that the appeal of YouTube celebrities outranks that of the more traditional variety.
Among those surveyed, 32% of 13–17 year-olds stated that they are more likely to view YouTube personalities as role models. While that number was slightly lower for millennials ages 18–24, 56% did state that they “feel closer” to their favorite YouTube personalities and 46% stated “they like the same things as I do.” For 13–17 year-olds, that number leaps to 61%.
As far as sales go, 63% of respondents from all ages said they would try a company or product recommended by a YouTuber while only 48% would take the same suggestion from a TV or movie star.
But relatability and admiration aren’t the only factors at play here. When participants were asked if they think they could become YouTube celebrities, more than 50% of the people from all age groups said “yes.” This speaks volumes to the fact that people not only trust influencers at their word, but view them as real people; consumers just like them. Socially influential individuals are just part of the larger audience who are also seeking out great and authentic brands, products, and services like the rest of us.
The bottom line is, as far as the audience is concerned, influencers are just people; people who have built their followings through only giving advice and recommendations to their audience that they themselves would take. Consumers are the ones who have given these folks the platform to stand on, and if led astray, that platform will be demolished. Influencer marketing is such a powerful modality because influencers are real, have a real and resonant voice, and promote messages of legitimacy. Audiences and influencers are one in the same. In a socially connected world, today’s follower is tomorrow’s influencer.