We’ve all heard of the term “influencer”, but this unclear word lacks meaning and precision. According to the dictionary, an influencer is a person with the ability to impact potential buyers of a product or service by promoting and recommending the items on social media. Easily said, not easily done.
With the launch of Instagram in 2010, following influencers’ life, passions and interest became easier than ever. Some of them stood out from the crowd at the right time and are now worldwide celebrities with a huge power when it comes to influencing their followers and the customers. For example, the 31-year-old Chiara Ferragni founder of theblondsalad.com, a fashion blog that has turned into a global retail business, has now more than 16m followers on Instagram, her main sharing platform. That is the age of influence.
This sharing and blogging activity, that used to be a hobby for some, turned into a multi-million advertising market. Every picture, every caption is very well planned and organized to expose the products at their best. Most influencers speak to the worlds of beauty or fashion. They take pictures of candles neatly arranged atop of a stack of glossy fashion magazines, or of themselves in outfits that are carefully tagged to send traffic to the brands who paid them for the post. But don’t underestimate the energy and attention given to a 1m+ followers Instagram account. A perfect sunset picture on the beach with the perfect pause can take hours to produce.
And now that the activity developed itself, we’re even hearing about the “ultra-influencer” clan that include celebrities like the Kardashian-Jenner family, Emily Ratajkowski and Hailey Bieber. This last announced having made at most “150’000$ of a single post”. “I’ve heard people making 1m$ off of one photo” she adds. Of the female influencers studied by Lyst, Kim Kardashian, with 120m Instagram followers and 59m Twitter fans, comes in at number two. As designer Tommy Hilfiger points out: “Every time she wears, posts or talks about a fashion brand, there is an immediate and significant increase in both awareness and sales.” And when it come to influencing, no publicity is bad publicity. On the day that Melania Trump flew to meet children at a Texas detention center in a Zara parka emblazoned with the words “I really don’t care. Do U?”, searches for Zara coats spiked 870%.
But now that million of fans follow celebrities online to see where they go, what they wear, which product they use, the Competition and Markets Authority started investigating to see if influencers were clearly disclosing when they had been paid or rewarded for endorsements and promotions. The SMA launched several investigations in recent months into online consumer activity, including dating websites, online hotel booking sites and secondary ticketing websites. In addition, the CMA and the Advertising Standards Authority issued joint guidance in September last year on social media advertising, stating it was against consumer protection law for editorial content in the media to promote a product where a trader has paid for the promotion without making that clear, according to the FT.
This trend that now takes part of our everyday life and the controversies that go along with it is far from being over and will likely continue to influence us and our future children for generation.