If names like Pewdiepie, who is currently worth $30 million, and David Dobrik a 23-year-old currently worth about $7 million, are unfamiliar to you – read this post to learn why and how you can work with influencers to boost your own brand with millennials and Gen Z.
What is an Influencer?
An Influencer is a user on social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube or Twich who has established credibility in a specific industry and have access to a large audience. They have the appearance of being everyday people like you and me, though their identity is often curated in order to appear authentic. They make a living out of sharing their passions, whether that passion is home baking, makeup, fashion, gaming, or many others.
Some influencers gain immense popularity, allowing them to shape and impact audience opinions on matters through their online presence.
Brands can (and frequently do) make deals with influencers to promote their brand or product to the masses in an “authentic” way.
An introduction to influencer marketing
Google searches for “influencer marketing” have increased by about 300% since 2017. According to Adweek, the influencer marketing industry is set to reach $10 billion in worth by 2020, making this the fastest-growing online acquisition method of the year.
Influencer marketing can save brands millions in paid advertising. One dollar spent on influencer marketing generates on average $12 in earned media value, and with that type of ROI, everyone is getting into the game.
It’s like high school all over again
Influencers hold a lot of sway with their audience. In a world where people spend more and more time on their phone and less time with friends, many people feel closer with the influencers who share their lives online so intimately.
This authenticity sells as people want to emulate their favorite influencers. We want to look, consume, and act like people who we perceive to be the cool kids. As the proverb goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
In this case, the flattery has a dollar value.
Credibility and social affirmation
The credibility of any influencer depends on expertise and trustworthiness. The degree of influence a person possesses depends on how well they embody those attributes.
Expertise can be curated by specialization. For example, a vlogger that focuses on one particular subject – let’s say home baking – will be perceived to have more authority or expertise than someone who covers multiple food topics. We inherently trust “experts” because they project a vast knowledge on a particular subject that we often do not challenge.
This perceived authority is further strengthened by the influencer’s number of followers, resulting in trust. A large number of followers, shares, and likes will provide viewers with the same social affirmation as the cool kids in high school. The fact that others value the opinion of the influencer, and copy or follow their judgments, reinforces to followers that doing so is not only okay but that we should trust them. If “everyone” is doing something, we don’t want to be left behind.
Relatability drives behavior
What uniquely sets social media influencers apart is their relatability. Despite having a large following and internet fame, influencers are still perceived as normal, down-to-earth people. In fact, the more normal the persona they portray, the more influence they can wield as their lifestyle feels attainable.
They post about their everyday life, stay connected with their followers, and can interact directly with them at any time, from anywhere. In addition, they often share the same demographics, interests, and behaviors of their target audience.
Take for example 28 year old Richard Tyler Blevins, better known by his online alias Ninja. He is a professional gamer, streamer, YouTube vlogger, and Internet personality. As of July, he is the most followed streamer on Twitch.tv with over fourteen million followers and an average of over 50,000 viewers per week.
This relationship leverages social identity theory. People view themselves as belonging to a group of similar individuals and base part of their personal identity on belonging to that group. Back to the high school analogy, if my group was the cool kids (it wasn’t), I would wear the clothes, carry the accessories, drive the cars that the group identity portrayed. Naturally, the opinions of members of the same group are worth more to people than those of a different group.
Millennials and Gen Z
As a parent contributing to both of these generations, I would be remiss not to point out the unique reach of influencers. Most influencers belong to the younger age group of millennials and older Gen Z, both demographics that are notoriously difficult to reach. They’re a group that places strong value on forming their own identity, one of the most important parts of growing up.
While these groups pride themselves on being different, they often shape their own behavior after the modern role models: the social influencer. Having a role model that is relatable and easy to identify with makes it all the more likely that they will copy their behavior. I assure you that many vloggers have impacted our family spending on gaming, fashion, and technology. My kids want to be cool like ‘so-and-so.’
Have I watched endless Pewdiepie vlogs, bought Ninja gaming gear, influencer branded clothes? Unfortunately, yes. The dynamic of high school has come into our home through social media and the influencers are the new cool kids that my own kids want to be like.
Food for thought on using influencers to promote brand authenticity
Before you jump in to striking deals with influencers, understand who the influencers are, what social conversations they are having, and what digital content they are consuming. Immerse yourself into the social community the influencer has created, then ask these questions:
- Does the influencer and the content match the values of your brand or product?
- Would this person use your brand or product in everyday life?
- Is it believable or authentic that the influencer would align with your brand?
Identifying the right influencer that aligns with the emotional and rational dimension of your brand will make the message much more impactful and believable.