In the early noughties, we saw two wealthy socialites leave their lives of luxury and trudge through the drudgery of the common folk in their designer heels. Paris Hilton undoubtedly became the original influencer as millions of viewers tuned in to the reality show The Simple Life. Starting fads before the term ‘influencer’ was even coined, Hilton made it trendy to say ‘that’s hot’, wear pink velour sweatsuits, and carry a diamond-collared chihuahua in a handbag.
The rise of Hilton as a pop culture ring leader paved the way for many others to use the power of the paparazzi to propel themselves into the limelight. One of these is her former assistant, Kim Kardashian, who followed in the footsteps of Hilton and has herself risen into the ranks of celebrity. These celebrity influencers, who are said to be famous for being famous, generate media hype by building attention around their personal brand and cult of personality.
So Hot Right Now
A social media influencer is someone who garners a loyal following through the content that they create on social media platforms. Through generating conversations, sharing their opinions, and driving engagement, influencers hold considerable sway over the buying habits of their captive audience. According to reports, the influencer marketing industry is estimated to be worth about 13.8 billion dollars in 2021.
Before the grand age of social media, much of brand advertising was accomplished through celebrity endorsement. Famous actors, sports personalities, social figures, and politicians promoted brands and products, lending their star power to add that extra appeal for the spending audience. But, as valuable as celebrity endorsements are to marketing, they have significant limitations as well.
Traditionally, celebrities are viewed as existing on a pedestal, aloof and out of reach. While celebrities may offer massive reach, most of them have public relations staff to manage their social media accounts and often post only generic and impersonal (i.e. boring) content. Audiences these days demand relatable personalities with opinions that they can connect with. Social media influencers fill this gap by focusing exclusively on their followers, building relationships, engagement, and trust.
This interactive approach is not new to marketing. Just as the Tupperware parties of the 1950s relied on personal testimonials and mutual rapport between housewives, influencer marketing relies on the authenticity of the influencer user experience. Despite having an immense following, influencers are still perceived as being ‘real people’. They face the same dilemmas about how to look good, what to wear, and where to go for dinner, and thus present a friendly avenue for followers to turn to for advice.
Under the Influence
Given the low entry barrier and the appeal of fame and fortune, many millennials view becoming a social media influencer as an appealing career choice. Indeed, anyone can be an influencer with nano-influencers commanding small audiences of only one to ten thousand followers. While nano-influencers have vastly less reach than macro-influencers who boast audience numbers between half to one million, they can still be important to brands who want to reach a specific audience.
The first step to becoming a successful influencer is to choose your channel. There are different social media channels to suit various content styles. If you like to publish in-depth videos and commentaries, head to YouTube. If attention-grabbing photography and frequent lifestyle shots are more your thing, then Instagram is the channel for you. Because every channel has its media content strategy, it pays to focus on building an audience through one channel initially instead of trying to grow them all at once.
Once you have chosen a channel, it is time to decide on your niche. Media-savvy audiences can spot a fake a mile away, so make sure that you choose something you are truly passionate about. Once you have decided on a niche, create unique and high-quality content that will grab the attention of your audience. When creating content, always spend time researching your topics and choose ideas that are relevant to your target audience. One way to do this is to create a poll or pose questions to your audience, using their feedback to guide you.
Social media platforms have complicated algorithms that can bury content from new users with few followers. In the early days, you may need to gain a boost by obtaining instant likes and followers that will help to push your content to the top of user feeds. In addition, audiences are often attracted by influence and are more likely to follow your page and engage with your posts if you already have a large number of followers, likes, and comments. After you establish a substantial user base, post relatable and engaging content that will be shared by your audience, spreading your reach.
Finally, with most endeavors of the marketing kind, consistency is key. Stick to a posting schedule, albeit once a week or once a month. Spend time having conversations and discussions with your audience, building relationships with them. Be on the pulse of the latest trends in social media and use trending hashtags such as #tiktokcookoff to get more post views. Remember that your social media content does only half the work, your presence makes up the other half.
Being an influencer is an attractive career and lifestyle choice. However, behind the paid advertising, product sponsorships, and brand collaborations, is hard work and a commitment to great content. We can’t all be as popular as Paris or Kim K., but with a little time and effort, we could carve out our own place in the social media landscape.