You stumble upon a perfectly curated Instagram feed. Trips around the world perfectly captured through pristine filters. Gorgeously toned bodies and impeccably coiffed hairstyles for every occasion. Over 50 thousand followers and a “verified” blue check-mark. A photo holding up a bottle of the weight-loss tea they swear is the culprit for their “flat tummy.” Famous models and actors casually follow them and make cameos in every other post. This, my friends, is a social media influencer’s page in a nutshell. It all seems pretty fabulous and rather harmless but it goes a little deeper than an aesthetically pleasing feed. The obsession with fame and the accessibility to it may not be as glamorous and positive as the people promoting it.
Whether its a related page to your favorite brand’s account or a mutual friend someone mentioned over lunch, chances are they’ll show up on your Explore. The Explore page has an algorithm involving a series of steps taken to create a unique explore feed for every account. Using artificial intelligence and data collection the page is eerily made just for you. Very often the explore page is where most influencers’ profiles can be found. Many influencers will be informed of the algorithm more or less, and there are tips and techniques on how to get your profile to appear on the Explore page. This includes hashtags, scheduling content for optimal times, and interacting with your followers.
So what does it mean to be a social media influencer exactly? The definition is tricky as the phenomenon is relatively new. In the Kardashian era (can we call it that?) being famous for being famous is incredibly trendy, and easy. Influencers are essentially that. They are users on social media who have in some way established their credibility in a specific industry, or in multiple industries. Their influence is due to a large audience and their ability to persuade the said audience. They’re famous because well, they just are. It’s become a career and an industry where depending on how many followers you have you may be paid hefty sums for posting a photo or an Instagram story.
A celebrity put simply is a famous person. The difference, although the gap is closing, is that celebrities are not necessarily using their platforms to influence their followers. What we may consider a celebrity in 2018 is a person celebrated for their craft. Whether it’s a singer, an actor, an artist or an athlete, they are well known for their career. Celebrities still remain the top social media accounts with the most followers.
With the rise of social media, we have definitely become more interested in the personal lives of famous people, being able to get a glimpse into their day-to-day life. The more celebrities interact with their accounts the closer we feel to them on a personal level. Another difference between influencer and celebrity is that the later does not need to follow certain algorithms and are frequently using Instagram to promote themselves rather than other products.
The growing industry of influencers is proving they have more power on social media than traditional celebrities. 70% of teens trust influencers more and six in 10 teens follow the advice of their favorite influencers over celebrities. The reason for this is as stated above, influencers are there to (cough, cough) influence, whereas celebrities are not necessarily. Even more, shockingly 4 in 10 millennial subscribers believe that their favorite influencer understands them better than their friends.
There are steps influencers take to assure they have the highest amount of followers and steady growth. In an article published by Forbes, there are apparently seven secrets to becoming a social media influencer. Most notably is having a steady stream of content to keep their followers interested. Studies show that one Instagram post a day is “optimal” and a maximum of two. A steady gaining of followers also has very little to do with what you know but rather with who you know. Connections are everything and posting a snap with someone with double the number of followers as you will immediately get you traction. Having other influencers or celebrities promoting your social media presence on their platforms is a sure way to gain a following.
In short, yes.
Much of what makes influencing a money-maker is influencer marketing. This is when a business pairs up with a social media personality to promote a service, product or campaign. Most people with an Instagram would have come in contact with influencer marketing in some form, whether you realize it or not. Originally influencer marketing took the form of celebrity endorsements. This still exists.
If a celebrity is posting a photo with a brand and advocating them positively it’s often than not an endorsement. Many posts will contain the #ad, a clear indicator that the person is plugging the product or company. Recently, however, brands have found that “content creators” or “social media influencers” can offer more value. A survey conducted by Dana Rebecca designs found that 72 percent of respondents had made a fashion, beauty, or style purchases after seeing something on Instagram. Most commonly influencers will be paid a flat rate per post or will be compensated with free merchandise depending on their amount of followers or the deal made with the brand. In 2017 Sponsored Instagram posts generated one billion likes and 49% of consumers depended on influencer recommendations before making purchases.
Although there is a strategic way in which influencers gain their followers and earn money (like any job), part of this is remaining authentic to a certain extent. Too much advertising and they’ll lose followers, a palpable lack of authenticity is sensed, they’ll also lose followers. Of course, it’s impossible to know the motivation behind people’s actions but in order to be successful, it is an influencer’s job to remain somewhat true to themselves, or to the brand they’ve created for themselves. Many influencers will take to social media to spread awareness on issues they believe to be important. This can be positive. If someone has over a certain amount of followers they have a wide and sometimes global reach.
Many influencers have begun sharing body positivity, equality, and sharing the darker sides of the social media industry. The honestly that a handful of influencers share is helpful in reassuring young people looking up to them that social media is not always what it seems.
The other side of the coin is that doing business over Instagram is faster and cheaper than it’s ever been. It costs less to advertise over Instagram than to advertise traditionally and promotes two-way communication. As it’s become easier to connect with brands and potential business partners through direct message, windows have opened up. Influencer marketing campaigns earn $6.50 for every dollar spent. If you can find a social media personality that connects with your brand you can reach thousands of people within seconds of a sponsored post as well as making a significant profit.
The dark side of social media influencers is how they might be making us feel. It’s proven that too much time on social media is detrimental to our self-esteem. It generally can make us feel insecure, alone, and at its extreme depressed or suicidal. According to a recent survey of over 1,500 teens and young adult’s Instagram was closely associated with high levels of anxiety depression bullying and FOMO. A lot of these feelings come from the human urge to constantly compare yourself to others. This is where influencers can become dangerous. You are comparing a curated feed to your real, raw life. You have no idea what a person may actually be doing when posts are being shared. A photo from a fabulous party may have been posted from a dark bedroom and a beautiful beach shot may be a throwback.
In a recent BOLDFISH interview champion golfer Debbie Doniger sheds a light on why she believes influencers can be dangerous figures for her children to be following. In her opinion, “very few are actually being the best version of themselves. Because those ‘who are living their best life’ do not have to use selfies on social media to promote it…Social media is all a ‘show’ and should be viewed as such.”
Following an influencer on social media can be a wonderful way of discovering new products, looking at beautiful photos, and connecting with a person you look up to in some way. In order to keep the experience positive understanding the business behind the industry is important. You need to be aware of the fact that their feed is their job and their personality is their career. Presenting themselves in a certain way is how they make a livelihood so if you’re not seeing imperfections don’t fall into the trap of thinking they are not there. The same way you may work hard to make sure you are successful in your field, influencers are working hard to make sure they are too.
Written by Delfina Forstmann