The influencer financial system: Utilizing social media to launch a one-person advertising and marketing store
If you’re part of a tech-savvy company that brings a consumer-centric product or service to market, an unconventional but increasingly popular marketing strategy may have taken hold over the past few years: you work with influencers to promote your brand or check social media.
The definition of the term is pretty obvious – an influencer who has influence – but the industry, which operates primarily through blogs, Instagram, TikTok, and other social media accounts, is a broad umbrella that includes people who work in the fields Fashion, beauty, fitness, politics, publishing and health, among others.
The practice is increasingly gaining ground in the central trade fair, as both influencers and the companies that use them grow.
At its most basic level, brands that work with influencers offer some compensation in return for accessing that person’s social media followers. In other words, if an influencer has 1 million followers, you can reach up to 1 million potential customers by sharing your brand with that influencer. Instead of running ads in traditional outlets like newspapers, brands instead pay for sponsored content on a person’s account or website.
How they share your product, what they ask for and how the investment pays off varies greatly. Influencers can post pictures and text on their Instagram feed, Instagram stories, run sponsored content or ads on their blogs, or read news on their podcasts. Often times, these posts are accompanied by discount codes for followers to encourage them to buy.
“We started working with them about five years ago,” said Laura DiBenedetto, CEO of Vision Advertising in Westborough. “These relationships can be very valuable as someone else is doing the work to grow the audience, sometimes exponentially faster than marketing alone. However, that all depends on the right partnerships. “
Working with influencers in particular can be crucial for companies targeting women. According to a January 14 report by consumer and marketing data firm Statista, 84% of Instagram users who created sponsored posts in 2019 were women. According to market research firm Nielsen, women are expected to be responsible for 75% of discretionary spending worldwide by 2028.
In addition, word of mouth has proven incredibly effective. The 2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising survey found that 83% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family. 66% say they trust consumer opinions posted online. Influencers often fall into the latter category.
Still, investing in a relatively young advertising mechanism can pose a risk for some business owners.
“Older populations do not see the value in the industry,” said DiBenedetto. “If that obstacle can be overcome, however, working with influencers can organically grow the customer base.”
A divisive term
In an increasingly Instagram-centric world, even the word influencer can be polarizing, although brands and influencers often work together. For some, it could evoke visions of self-centered, non-contact models dependent on the attention economy (the @influencersinthewild account, which publishes humorous videos and photos of influencers creating content in public, has become a household name in some circles ). Others may put off influencers as (often) beautiful people who want to make a quick buck by capitalizing on their own relative attractiveness.
For many, however, influencing is a full-time occupation that encompasses all of the aspects you can expect from a one-person marketing shop: customer meetings, contract negotiations, hiring and working with photographers, planning and correcting content concepts, writing copy and moderating comments. Many influencers also run blogs, and some use the term blogger interchangeably with influencers.
Still, those who work in the female-dominated industry are often criticized, including the accusation that anyone with enough resources could do their job.
Photos / Courtesy of CC DRYER
CC Dryer is considered a micro-influencer in the fashion and lifestyle world as its number of followers increases.
“I get this so often,” said CC Dryer, a recent fashion and lifestyle influencer based in Hudson. “Like every day. Everyone. Single. Day.”
Dryer, who has been in charge of her Instagram account @lookatccglow for a year and a half, has just over 11,000 followers, which makes her a micro-influencer by most standards, or someone who follows hasn’t crossed the 100,000 mark. She mainly writes about fashion and beauty with her content focused on her daily life. The most recent brands she has worked with include blue-light glasses maker Ladyboss Glasses, the pretzel company Snyder’s from Hanover and the skin care company Tula. During her time at @lookatccglow, she worked with local and national brands, she said.
Dryer opened the account in 2019 after studying acupuncture at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Worcester.
“It was a hobby at first,” said Dryer. “And then, after a month of launch, I got my first collaboration with a brand from Amazon. That sent me an email saying they wanted to trade in products for a picture rating of their items. “
As their fan base grew and their customers increased, Dryer began to see running the account as well as their website as an almost total commitment. She used her followers to start a separate company, Boss Beauty Co., which sells eyebrow products.
Although she’s not making enough money to be fully financially viable – she also does the bookkeeping for her husband’s business – Dryer said that much of her personal expenses are being met by her work as an influencer.
Finance your life abroad
While the idea of making a living off Instagram, blogging, and other social media platforms is becoming increasingly competitive, it’s not difficult to search a geographic area and find low-metric accounts that position yourself as potential, up-and-coming influencers – For those with the right combination of engaging content, algorithm savoir faire and grit can be a life sustaining endeavor. However, it usually doesn’t happen right away.
Silvia Lawrence, a native Worcester American and a graduate of Williams College in Norway, who runs the travel blog Heart My Backpack and its Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube (@heartmybackpack) channels, started blogging with a friend in 2013. during a four month backpacking trip through Central Asia. After the blog attracted a lot of attention, especially from female travelers looking for advice on planning trips to the region, Lawrence launched her Heart My Backpack brand and documented a solo backpacking tour of Iran in 2014.
“I blogged for about six months before I got a Twitter account and a year before I opened an Instagram account,” said Lawrence. “I’ve always been more of a writer than a photographer, so blogging is the medium I’m most comfortable with.”
As with Dryer, blogging started out as a hobby. It wasn’t until 2016, Lawrence said, that she really tried hard to make Heart My Backpack a business. (However, she said she knew people who were able to convert their blogs into full-time income within a year of their launch.) She quit her job to run her brand full time the following year.
Most of their income now comes from the blog itself, not social media. Because of this, she prefers the term blogger – although travel influencer could be a suitable descriptor too, Lawrence said.
“Most people assume that I make money working with brands on sponsored campaigns, but I very rarely work on campaigns,” said Lawrence. “Most of my income comes from display ads on my blog, affiliate sales (where I earn a commission when someone buys a product through one of my links), and digital products like my Northern Lights e-book.”
Smaller, closer to home
The fees influencers and bloggers charge for sponsored content vary widely based on a variety of factors including post impression rates, number of followers, and previous success in converting ads into consumer dollars spent. For some, however, especially beginners, a simple payment in kind may be sufficient.
Photos / Courtesy of Logan Woodcom
Logan Woodcome hasn’t monetized her Instagram following yet.
Such is the case with Logan Woodcome from Worcester, the brain behind the Instagram account @ne_foodie_chick, a visual food blog. Woodcome, a daytime medical social worker, launched her page in 2019 at the request of friends and family, who commented on how often she took and shared photos of the food she was eating, especially local restaurants.
Woodcome currently has a little over 5,000 followers, and it doesn’t charge restaurant owners for their dues, though it does trade composed meals at times. That’s not necessarily because it doesn’t want to monetize its platform – brands have asked them about interest rate charts in the past, she said – but because it doesn’t want to put a financial burden on an industry struggling to stay afloat in the coronavirus to stay pandemic. That could possibly change in the future, she said.
Photo | Logan Woodcome
A photo from Woodcome’s Food Blog Instagram account
Even without paying cash, there is still pressure to promote someone else’s business.
“I would like to [the posts] to look beautiful … so that it looks good not only for me but also for the restaurant and makes them look good, ”said Woodcome.
Ultimately, brand and influencer relationships are like relationships of any other kind – finding the right match based on a variety of factors is key.
“Don’t underestimate the value of an influencer relationship; do your homework and due diligence,” said DiBenedetto of Vision. “Lots of influencers add a lot of value to the table, but some only look good on paper. Do your research, ask questions, and request references. If they are offended or do not want to cooperate, this is probably not appropriate. “