Influencer Marketing: Interviews and Consumer Thoughts

 

Images Collected from: Pngmart.com. (2018. PNG Mart. [online] Available athttp://www.pngmart.com/[Accessed 31 May 2018].

 

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Influencer Marketing: The Shift of The Celebrity

We as a society are constantly consuming various forms of media. As we tour our homes today, every corner of a room is filled with countless means of new technology, providing hours of entertainment. The development of digital media has revolutionised the way we view news, information and entertainment. Any major historical event from the past 50 years we have witnessed happening through a screen. From the horrific events of the 9/11 Terror Tower Attack to man’s first steps on the moon, this documentation and new wave of technology creates an extent sense of connection, bringing individuals together through discussion and reaction.

Growing up in the early 2000’s traditional media played a huge role in my upbringing. My generation was probably one of the last to shape their nights around a television screen, tuning in to watch our favourite programs at a specific date and time. With this medium having such prevalence at the time, these featured celebrities and their influence were pushed as spokespeople for many brands. (Think Michael and Britney for Pepsi).

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Screenshot from Pepsi’s ‘Generations Campaign’ paying tribute to musicians Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Ray Charles

However, from what we can see shown throughout this blog, Today’s audiences don’t hold this past way of consuming media. Although CD’s, DVD’s and Television has given place to streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, people are also turning to other forms of entertainment platforms like social media. With TNS global market research company reporting that 71% of this millennials use social media daily and 76% watch online videos, the number of hours spent watching old forms of media are diminishing with each generation.

With the introduction to social influencers through online platforms, many are challenging past mediums with the shift towards producing their own content. This has proven to be well received as shown through their success in views and followers, which each influencer pushing activities that target specific niches.
Example: Kayla Itsines (@kayla_itsines) Instagram: 9.6m Followers

Kayla Itsines is an Australian personal trainer, author, and entrepreneur. She is the creator of a series of fitness ebooks titled Bikini Body Guides, and a meal-planning and workout app, Sweat with Kayla. While this content has previously been made before by various other fitness trainers, Sweat with Kayla has generated more revenue than any other fitness application. Being named one of the 30 most influential people on the Internet, Kayla notes her success at leveraging social media to promote her brand. Itsines’ interval workout regimens may not be revolutionary, but she leveraged an enviable body, #transformation pics, and an achievable lifestyle into a true fitness empire.

Estimated income: $17 million from “Sweat with Kayla” app alone, $150,000 per Instagram post (Data retrieved from Complex.com)

Looking at these online individuals influence, their factors of credibility challenge the notion of the traditional celebrities. Look at actress Jennifer Lawrence for example. She is a traditional celebrity as a result of numerous acting roles over the last decade. Although she has a large following she isn’t apart of the online world, having no accounts throughout social media. Comparing her to the popular influencers of today, audiences are more attached to these online stars rather than traditional celebrities. A survey executed by Variety compared the 10 social influencers against the 10 traditional entertainment stars with the highest Q score among teens, a widely recognized measure of influence by advertisers and marketers. Testing a sample of 1,500 people aged 13-17 , these individuals were asked how these 20 personalities stack up in terms of approachability, authenticity and other criteria considered aspects of their overall influence. Looking at the respondents data it was the social stars that rated on all counts a quarter of the top 20 list, including the top three influencers ­— KSI, PewDiePie and Vanoss -Gaming. Other findings found in these surveys noted that young individuals have “emotional attachment to social influencers as much as seven times greater than that toward a traditional celebrities” (Variety), with these being perceived as “17 times more engaging” (Variety).

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Screenshot of ‘Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg’ (@PewDiePie) to the left and ‘Olajide William “JJ” Olatunji, Jr’ (@ KSI) to the right

What I have gathered from this data is there is a deeper relationship between audiences and social influencers over traditional celebrities. There is a relatable sense throughout influencers as they act on free will, whilst tradition stars are often orchestrated by PR strategies to act in a particular manner. The relatable factor acts as a new wave of media for the public as audiences and consumers are able to get to know these individuals on a deeper level, due to these people being more likely to share their lives and experiences more openly. According to a study commissioned by Google, 40% of millennial YouTube subscribers say that their favorite content creators understand them better than their friends and 70% of teens admit that they can relate to those folks more than to traditional celebrities. This also looks to drive more engagement with audiences through making connections with viewers. Looking at the platform of Instagram for example, audiences are offered direct contact with these individuals through private messaging and open field commenting. As this career is built off strong fan bases, these infulencers are constantly connecting with audiences to maintain their relationship and audience .

Before the eruption of social media, a standard celebrity endorsement would involve a long-term collaboration full of lengthy conditions between the brand and high-profile figure. Nowadays, this arrangement has been facilitated with the rise of social media’s popularity. The emergence of this ‘modern celebrity’, combined with changing consumer behaviours, means that brands and influencers have the capacity to be more flexible, by collaborating over short-term projects, strategically chosen by both parties to ensure relevance, which in turn leads to authenticity. From what we can see the traditional celebrities influence on audiences has declined over recent years with the introduction to this new form of marketing. My advice for these individuals would be to maintain an online presence, utilising both traditional and social methods throughout their distribution. A great example of this shift can look at Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as he has understood the concept of a modern celebrity, adapting himself into the online environments and now embrasing a total of 77.3 million followers on Instagram alone.

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Influencer Marketing: Authenticity

The Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising reported that “83% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers over traditional advertising” (2015).

Looking at these social marketing strategies, audiences are more responsive to products endorsed by ‘everyday’ individuals as they provide a sense of reliability. As shown throughout this blog, influencer marketing has proved to be highly effective across all social sites, through being a visual platform. Consumers see these posts as similar to a friend recommending them a product, rather than a celebrities blatantly being paid to advertise and sell. With celebrities and high profile accounts, consumers may see posts as aspirational, and follow suit as they want to emulate the influencer’s lifestyle.

Being a brand, your authenticity shows through the creative expression between your objectives, influencer vision, and audience connection. When considering influencers to partner with, businesses need to assure that the influencer’s overall personal brand aligns with the their core values. One of the biggests faults I’ve seen brands make when executing a campaign is handling creative control. For example, although scripting what influencers should say will portray the direct message of the product, brands who look to trust these influencers to convey their own messages benefit more from this marketing strategy as these individuals know how to create content that best resonates with their audience in order to maintain a high engagement and continue to grow their following.

With influencers often considering their social feed as a form of expression, providing creative freedom goes a long way. What sets influencer marketing apart from traditional methods is the authentic factor it provides audiences. Businesses need to ensure influencers align with their brand when choosing who to work with, while influencers need to remain credible when giving their reviews or opinion about a product.

Mara McCune, Vice President of E.L.F Cosmetics is one example that utilizes this practice throughout her own brand, stating;

“We ask them to be truthful – to share their candid thoughts on our products, tell us what else they want to see from Elf and tell us what we could be doing better…We have found that they understand who we are and are able to help tell our story without needing to provide specific guidelines.”

The byproduct of authenticity is, therefore, trust and loyalty. Remaining authentic is the foundation to keeping your audience. James Nord is the co-founder of Fohr Card which is a a service that helps match up brands and influencers. Nord has an optimistic opinion of how much honesty really goes into a partnership stating;

“The amount of influencers we have who come in and turn down $10,000 from us because the product doesn’t make sense for their audience is really encouraging for me. The fact that we have people turn down $30,000 deals because they feel like they couldn’t authentically speak on behalf of that product makes me feel really good.”

Although we would love to believe that all influencers generate authentic collaborations, for brands investing in the correct influencer is vital to ensure the product is promoted correctly.

Example: HiSmile (@hismileteeth)

Oral cosmetics company HiSmile are one of the leading teeth whitening brands throughout the online space, running adverts and sponsored posts across numerous social platforms. Launching in December 2014 with just $20,000 in capital, HiSmile has achieved a turnover exceeding $50 million and has plans to reach $100 million by the end 2018. The brand’s success can be attributed to its targeted social media marketing strategy and focus on influencers, including Kylie Jenner and Conor McGregor.

Discussing these strategies in an article with News.com.au, Brand owners Nik Mirkovic, 22, and Alex Tomic, 24 state they saw individuals like Jenner “as the pinpoint of that (16-24 female) demographic, she was the go-to and it was important for us to align ourselves with her,” (Mirkovic)

Expanding into the male millennial market the pair also saw McGregor as the “most relevant male for our demographic,” stating that they wanted to “ make noise in the male market and make it OK for men to purchase products like ours” (Mirkovic)

Although the this success is impressive, doing research I uncovered the strategies and lengths they go to work with these influencers, which isn’t always authentic to its customers.

Every individual who has promoted HiSmile expresses nothing but positive feedback for both the product and the brand itself. However, influencer Brittney Lee Saunders took to twitter recently voicing her opinion on the brand and showcasing their lack of authenticity with audiences. Saunders is a fairly popular Australian blogger herself with over 1 million Youtube subscribers and 604k Instagram followers. Posting a private message with the brand on twitter, she discusses why she isn’t able to promote their product due to having porcelain veneers (as they cannot be whitened). Going back and forth, the brand attempts to persuade the blogger stating these influencers like Jenner promotes Hismile even though they have veneers too.

However, throughout their article in news.com.au, the entrepreneurs talk on their work with the reality star stating “ they went through six months of negotiations and talks because Jenner was very clear that she has to test and review the product to make sure it aligned with her image.”

While this highlights Saunders authenticity with her audience it negativity showcases the unethical practices of Hismile product, brand and promotion , revealing their lack of care through as they profit off a fabricated product.

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Influencer Marketing: Cost and Pricing

Now that you understand the operations behind influencer marketing, another aspect of my blog looks at the cost of this promotion and how it its priced. These influencer costs can range from a couple of hundred to millions of dollars across various networks. Although there’s no exact science to configure how much brands pay these influencers, throughout my blog I have broken down four factors that contribute to the cost of this marketing. These guidelines might not always apply to a particular influencer or marketing campaign, but understanding these factors can allow businesses and brands to adjust their rates accordingly so that they can find a price that works for both parties.

These Inculde: 

What Social Platform?

  • The choice of what platform for the campaign is one of the key factors that influences cost, As they varies across channels.
  • Instagram usually tends to be the top choice for for this marketing, followed by YouTube and Snapchat. Generally, influencer marketing is less common on Facebook and Twitter.

Influencer Following:

  • Brands look at the potential reach of a channel to decide how much to pay for an advertisement. The idea is that the more followers an influencer has, the more potential people the brand could reach, thus influencers with a larger following will usually charge more.
  • However recently the ‘micro influencer’ (which are individuals with a smaller following) are proving to be quite popular with brands as they are shown to make closer connections with their audiences.

Does the product fit the influencer?

  • When hiring an influencer to promote a product, brands need to ensure that product fits the infucleners audience. For example hiring beauty influencer to promote skin care or cosmetics will look to engage audiences as her following interested in this content.

Campaign:

  • Looking at the extent of the campaign will also affect the cost. This involves the number of posts, the creation of the content, what platform they want the content held and if it will be a permanent post on their page (as some influencers delete their sponsored posts after the campaign.)
  • Simply put, the more work the influencer has to do, the more expensive the campaign will be.

Example: Bella Thorne (@bellathorne)

Bella Thorne is an American actress and singer bringing in a total of 17.5 million instagram followers. Being one of the top influencers on most social platforms, Throne appeared in a mini-documentary produced by Vogue entitled ‘ Inside the life of Bella Thorne’ where she discusses her money-making strategies on apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Bella is well known for sharing videos of her skin struggles and even speaking up about issues like the #MeToo movement. As discussed previously, these individuals look to be the most popular over these platforms as their use of open sharing with their audiences creates strong connections.

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Screenshot Captured from @bellathorne on Instagram (2017)

“I put myself out there the way I do on social media because I want people to see who I am. I was raised to think that social media is everything”.

Bella breaks down exactly how much she gets paid for content. When looking at these prices per post I was definitely surprised to see how much goes into this strategy. She states that for her Instagram posting “it’s $65,000 a post and for story it’s anywhere from $10K to $20K,”. She also elaborates on sponsored posts for Snapchat, which operates the same as Instagram Stories, and Facebook, for which payments can vary.

 

The documentary showcases how these endorsements act as jobs for these influencers. Highlighting the success from her pages, Bella talks on her progress from branded content stating;

“I started out 18 with literally $200 in my bank account and I bought this house a year later, and that’s all from social media.”

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Featured

An Introduction to Influencer Marketing

Aim: This is research/ information based blog on Influencer Marketing for social users to gage further understandings of the operations behind this field. Through my content my aim is to showcase the methods and strategies brands implement to attract us into buying products. I look to use my research behind this topic to enlighten readers on how this form of marketing has both positive and negative attributes, as well as the exploring notions of trust for consumers with distribution of authentic products.

What is Influencer Marketing:

The introduction to new mediums like social media has shifted content from a centralised model. This has created new opportunities for any individual to voice and give perspectives online. Looking at the aspects of marketing in this sense, social media has become an significant part of any business. In the age of immense social media use it has become a must for these brands to secure a place in both the conventional and digital marketplace. With Influencer marketing designed to tap into an existing community of engaged followers, these influencers are specialists in their niches. Companies look to target selected journalist, giving them access to aspects like information, products, spokespeople and even company events with the goal of building a long lasting relationships that facilitate positive coverage. With the digitalisation and shift of businesses, the focus of marketing has shifted from offline to online opinion leaders, as they offer a wider reach via their social networks.

Breakdown Example: 

Alex Lifestyle is a Youtuber/ business owner that uploads videos to show audiences tips, tricks on social media hacks. Using the platform of Instagram as an example, this video illustrates the operations behind this strategy as well as emphasizing the power behind this marketing.

Alex’s content is not only useful but also a great source of inspiration for the creation for this blog.

Who are Social Media Influencers?

Freberg, Graham and McGaughey’s 2010 paper on social media influencers and the study of public perceptions of personality defines social media influencers to “represent a new type of independent, third-party endorsers that shape an audience’s attitudes through blogs, tweets, and the use of other social media channels (Fredberg, 3). Through sites like Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, social media influencers create content through the promotion of certain brands and products, with the overall goal obtaining a following and receiving brand recognition.

Influencer marketing on social media opens up a new channel for brands to connect with consumers more directly, organically, and at scale to their everyday lives. These social media influencers promote brands through their personal lives, making them relatablable to the average consumer. Looking at the popularity of these individuals, they serve as the ultimate connection between a brand and a consumer. Being candid and open with audiences, these influencers have high social credibility making the phenomenon so successful as traditional marketing only looks to target mass audiences.

Example featured in one of my posts- : St. Ives’ Skin Care Advertising:

With the approach to raise brand awareness, St. Ives opened a New York City pop up- retail store between June to September of 2017 called the St Ives Mixing Bar. Running through a 3 month period, the promotion gave people the opportunity to test St. Ives’ products, purchase a customized facial scrub or lotion, as well as take photos in an Instagram friendly “Apricot Room.”

Owners of the brand Unilever (who also own brands like Dove, Lux and Lynx) have struggled in the past to find success among millennial men and women in the skin care category. Using the strategy of Influencer marketing, the brand utilized these individuals to bridge the age gap of their audience through various sponsored instagram posts.The skincare company collaborated with 12 influencers to create 18 sponsored photos promoting the brand, product and store features.

Seen here, the majority of the influencers involved posted a photo of themselves at the store with branded hashtags like #stivesmixingbar and #stivespartner

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Screenshot Captured from @lilireinhart on Instagram (2017)

With the combination of these posts and the bar itself, it looked to bring influencers, fans and new customers together in a kind of mini-conference so they were able play with the brand’s products, learn techniques and mingle with each other.

MediaKix (influencer marketing agency) reported the results from the campaign 1.8M likes, 9,000 comments, and an average engagement rate of 9.9%.

Example: Remi Ashten Cruz (@missremiashten)

Lifestyle YouTuber Remi Ashten Cruz maintains 848,000 Instagram followers and created one St. Ives sponsored post. The multiple image post captures Cruz’s visit to the Mixing Bar and garnered over 56,000 likes and 1,000 comments for an engagement rate of 16.7%. Cruz is well known for her bright style and the post fits in well with her colorful feed. The 22-year-old is also well positioned to advertise St. Ives, as her viewers look to her for skincare and beauty advice.

Cruz’s partnership with St Ives looks to reach a new, younger market for this product that has been predominantly sold to middle-aged women in the pre-social media era. Along with Instagram content for the brand she also weaves these products into her YouTube videos to try to expose it to her following of over 2.2 Million, which a lot include St. Ives desired demographic.

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