Nowadays, you don’t have to see someone starring in a movie or a show to consider them a celebrity. From reviewing the latest make-up releases to spearheading the latest online challenges, unknown individuals turn into internet celebrities overnight by accumulating a number of views and followers with just one viral post. Remember that Walmart yodeling kid who now enjoys more than 600k streams on Spotify for his newly-dropped single, or the Turkish sensation whose videos of sprinkling salt garnered more than 10 million views and made him into a meme known as Salt Bae? They are known as social media influencers, and their meteoric rise in the digital world has changed the face of advertising.
With their legions of followers, between 2,000 to 10,000 on one platform to be exact, social media influencers have the power to create the latest trends and drive more demand for certain products. With their targeted approach to certain interests such as beauty, fitness, gaming, or traveling, digital influencers offer reviews and share experiences on a personal level which makes them different from celebrities who are hired to endorse products. Knowing that these influencers don’t get to have five-star statuses like celebrities do and manage to live ordinary lives, more people can connect to them and find them relatable. Word-of-mouth marketing has also proven to be an effective driving force in a consumer’s decision in buying a product, generating more than twice the sales of paid advertising with a higher retention rate of 37% as reported by a McKinsey study.
In 2017, the Instagram influencer industry alone is worth $1 billion with 700 million monthly active users and 200 million users for their newly-added feature Instagram Stories. Since its start in 2015, influencer marketing has skyrocketed as a popular and effective marketing channel replacing paid ads and focusing more on credibility, reputation, and engagement. Instagram and YouTube, top social media platforms for influencers, has gained a rapid number of followers for a variety of niche subjects such as beauty, travel, gaming, and lifestyle, enabling the likes of Casey Neistat, Felix Kjellberg or more famously known as PewDiePie, Michelle Phan, and Logan Paul to become household names in internet fame.
While YouTube has seen a decline in advertising revenue after major ad sponsors pulled out of the platform in 2017due to their ads being shown alongside explicit video content, it also paved the way for YouTube personalities to work directly with brands through product reviews, partnership deals, and sponsored content to make up for the ad income drop. Instagram has recently installed a paid partnership feature specially created for influencers and businesses to enable and specify a sponsored content post with a ‘paid partnership’ tag. For content creators, this would help them communicate to followers that the post is sponsored content. The business partner, or sponsor, would have access to insights and metrics for a period of 14 days also available for the Instagram Stories feature to see how well the post had performed.
Influencer collaboration has also become the latest wave in influencer marketing, most especially in the cosmetics industry, amassing a whooping $62-billion revenue in 2016 from its sought-after presence in social media. From makeup tutorials, product-reviews to makeup hauls, 95% of internet users who are searching for beauty-related content head to YouTube for beauty advice. No other industry has tapped into the social media influencer engagement faster than the beauty industry, with major cosmetic brands such as Colourpop and Becca launching collaboration collections with beauty vloggers and coming out as a breakthrough in the industry.
Jaclyn Hill, a beauty vlogger and professional makeup artist who loves using Becca products, gave a lot of raving reviews for the brand. With over 3 million subscribers in 2016, Hill gave Becca a successful start due to her engagement with the brand. Hill is famous for her contoured look – sculpted cheekbones and radiant highlight, and the cosmetic brand has teamed up with the makeup artist to release Champagne Pop, a limited-edition highlighter which suits a lot of skin tones while giving that desired glow. The product was so successful that it was able to sell 25,000 units during the first 20 minutes of its online launch, breaking Sephora’s single-day sales record. This success story inspired other cosmetic brands to jump into the influencer collaboration bandwagon, with brands such as MAC, Morphe, and Tarte running the show. Some influencers like Jefree Star and Laura Lee, to name a few, were also able to make the most out of their successful following by establishing their own brands and launching their own products.
With the constant rise of social media influencers, there’s no sign of influencer marketing fading away from the radar so soon. In fact, it is predicted that the influencer industry will become an estimated $5-$10 billion dollar market in the next 5 years. While the shift towards digital influencers as channels for advertising has clearly impacted the business world and the engagement and purchasing behaviour of consumers, it just shows how interacting with followers and audiences on a personal level makes it a subtle and effective way of getting your product across. What clothes to buy, what food to eat, and what team to support on a football betting, your favourite influencer most likely has a say on that decision, and like it or not, it’s here to stay.