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Do Social Media Influencers Really Influence People?


Jamie Pham - November 3, 2016

You might have seen influencer posts here and there on Instagram but scrolled past it without thinking about it. What you also didn’t know is these people were getting paid to post these products and some are getting paid A LOT. More and more brands are hiring these influencers to promote their products to the younger generation because traditional medium like TV commercials and print advertising aren’t as effective as they used to be.

Who or what is a social media influencer?

Someone on social media that has a large network of followers. In the past few years, brands have been reaching out to these people to push their products. It is a new way of celebrity advertising in a sense that the audience they are going for (millennials) can be found on social media platforms like Instagram, Youtube, and Snapchat. Up until recently, sponsored posts did not have to be disclosed as an ad to the public but this changed in August. This is part of an effort by the Federal Trade Commission to make everything more transparent so audiences can distinguish organic posts from paid posts.

What makes them different than any other users online?

One of the main reasons social media influencers can get paid by posting products is simple – they have the audience to advertise to. They built their following over time, whether it may be on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Youtube, etc., and have command over their audience so when they post about a certain brand, their followers take notice. This is why brands have been getting into influencer marketing because they speak the language of millennials, something some brands have trouble doing.

However, not everyone is simply posting pictures. There are many others who put a lot of thought into what they are promoting making it unique and interesting. One great example is filmmaker Casey Neistat, who makes films promoting products that are outside the box. One of the videos he made for Nike promoting their Nike Fuel Band has been viewed over 21 million times on YouTube. In it, he explained that he used the budget he received from Nike to travel the world inspiring everyone to live life to its fullest. The film barely shows the Fuel Band itself but in the end, it drove sales to the device because people wanted to “do something that matter.”

How much are they worth?

According to a survey, 62% of respondents stated that they follow an influencer because of the content they create. One of the most notable influencers is Kim Kardashian where she has amassed more than 86 million followers on Instagram and 48 million on Twitter. This has led her to charge a reported $10,000 per post for endorsements. Vine star, Logan Paul, got paid $200,000 for a Dunkin Donuts campaign where he directed and starred in several clips that were marketed to his audience. According to a rep for a company, those clips generated the same reach as a prime time network commercial and got more than 750 million overall views.

However, for influencers that don’t have mega-celebrity status like the Kardashians, it is harder to come up with a price to charge brands because this area is still relatively new and the return on investment is hard to measure. Usually, the higher network a person has will yield higher rates. And even with no set fee, brands can only look to other similar campaigns to make bids for influencers but this could turn into a bidding war between different companies vying for the same talent.

Should I get an influencer for my brand?

This is a hard question to answer because yes, your product will get exposure but that doesn’t lead to conversions. Just because thousands or millions of people are seeing your product doesn’t mean they are going to purchase your products enough for you to break even or make a profit.

The content they are posting has to be attractive and generate some sort of engagement because you are trying to get their followers and potential new followers to buy your products. Even if they don’t buy your products, you still want their audience to follow you or be aware of your brand in some sort of way.

It also has to make sense for your brand to pair your products with the right person/people. You don’t hire someone like Justin Bieber to promote your software security company because most of his audience doesn’t care for kind of stuff. There are agencies like The Amplify and Speakr who help pair brands with the right influencers. These agencies are similar to the Hollywood talent firms and make a commission based on the amount paid by the brands.

In the end, influencers will definitely drive visibility and brand awareness but there is no guarantee on a return on investment. Influencer marketing is somewhat still in its infancy stage so it hard to predict where it will lead.

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