The Age of Digital Influencers

 In Advertising, Marketing, Social Media

t’s no secret the birth of social media has completely changed how we communicate with one another. Once upon a time, human beings gathered together in coffee shops, restaurants, and parks to talk about their lives, relationships, and careers. Now we scan a highlight reel of our best photos, in the best lighting, all while receiving high-levels of addictive dopamine.

But what social media has really changed, is not just how we communicate, but our decision making. For decades, traditional marketing has lived in the realm of billboards, buses, and direct mail. Now, because of social media, there is an entire universe of third party validators whose entire profession is strictly opinion-based. Whether the topic is fashion, beauty, or fitness, there are entire social media pages completely devoted to what product is best, what workout provides the greatest results, and what are this season’s top trends.

These digital influencers are changing the way the game is played. They have taken third party validation out of the hands of Yelp and placed it into a category that is much more personal; social media.

With many of these influencers posting personal photos of family and friends, their devoted followers feel an unspoken connection to their influencer, which only heightens their legitimization as a trusted validator.

Aimee Song, a 29-year old Los Angeles-based fashion blogger has over 4.6 million Instagram followers and was named Top 30 under 30 by Forbes Magazine. Her fantastical Instagram feed consists of high-end brands, hipster restaurants, and beautiful backdrops. In the fitness world, guru Kayla Itsines has over 7.1 million Instagram followers and has developed a proprietary app where users can receive workout regimes, diet types, and progress trackers. Emily Skye, another social media-based fitness expert, provides her 2.1 million Instagram followers with how-to work out videos and trend-setting gear. While these three women have over 13.8 million followers on Instagram alone, more traditional marketers are unaware of their following, their influence, or how to utilize their quiet, but powerful podium. Due to their massive online following, these digital influencers have become a marketing tool for industry professionals. In exchange for a positive, but not obvious review, businesses will provide free merchandizing and compensation for a “sponsored post”.

Sponsored posts, particularly on Instagram, have become the most effective tool for businesses to market their targeted audiences. They are a genre-specific captured audience who have built genuine trust with their digital influencer. In fact, some businesses, like PMD, provide personalized promo codes to anyone who converts through a digital influencer. Watched Cara Van Brocklin’s how-to video on PMD? Receive 25% off your next order with her personalized code, Cara25.  Loved the top Emily Rose Hannon was wearing? No problem, you can order it now and receive 20% off by using her code EMILY20.

Not only do consumers feel they are receiving a loyalty-based discount, but they will get to taste the product, wear the dress, or try the workout their favorite digital influencer used on social media. This transaction of instant gratification is extremely addicting to modern day consumers and will continue to dominate the advertising word. While there is no substitute for traditional marketing (i.e. television, radio, mail, etc.), digital advertising in the wake of progressive social media has forever changed how businesses reach their target consumer. In fact, social media advertising through digital influencers has become especially beneficial for small to middle-sized companies that do not have the advertising budget to infiltrate the market through traditional advertising. Depending on the influencer, an average sponsored post on social media can range from $500-$3,000 per post.

But with a higher audience comes a higher price tag. Aimee Song, from Song of Style, collects roughly $9,000 per post to reach her 4.6 million followers. British-born beauty and fashion blogger Zoe Sugg “Zoella” collects $14,000 per post and 19-year-old Nash Grier earns $13,000 per sponsored post after becoming known for his Vine videos in early 2013. Although the cost-per-post may seem a little high, a good marketer knows that if $14,000 guarantees you will reach 11.1 million people within your target audience, the buy is a no-brainer. Especially if that influencer can guarantee you a substantial return on your investment (ROI).

All-in-all, digital influencers have forever changed how the game is played.  Now, it’s up to advertisers to either learn to play or be left behind.

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