The Evolution of the Influencer

May 15, 2017

Its an undeniable fact that we are living in the age of the influencer.

Take this morning, for example. My first few waking minutes were spent scrolling my way through at least 10 ‘outfit of the day’ posts supplied by a selection of my favourite Instagram accounts. I turn on the breakfast radio only to hear an interview with YouTube sensation Alfie Deyes, promoting his new book. As I flick through the Metro on my morning commute, I notice numerous recipes provided by the Hemsley sisters, known best for their healthy food empire, which started off as an extremely popular blog I estimate that I interacted with at least 15 social influencers before it had even reached 9 am . But how did we get to this point?

It’s unsurprising when you break down the psychology behind the phenomenon. As humans, we create connections with other humans, and social platforms allow us to build relationships with people who resonate with us. When people build up their followings in places like Instagram, they’re also building trust and authenticity with their audiences, which means their followers are more likely to believe and listen to what they have to say than a slick piece of marketing from a brand.

Before Bloggers Although blogging and social influence is somewhat in its infancy, it is not a completely new concept. We have been influenced by product placements and celebrity endorsements for decades. However this came with problems, celebrities don’t come cheap and, are also not as relatable as real people.

2004 Blogging (as we know it today) was born. Educational blogs and online journals had been appearing since 1997, but in 2004 personal blogs that were primarily focussed around showcasing possessions and reviewing products began to appear. In terms of influencer marketing, the fundamental function at this time was link building. Marketers would reach out to bloggers and ask them to review their products. Although receiving a positive review was a perk, the end goal was getting a link back to the company’s site.

2006 Social media was now firmly rooted in the mainstream. Twitter is founded, Facebook is now open to everyone and YouTube is purchased by Google for $1.65 billion. Consumers now have a voice, and are not afraid to use it blogging and social media has given everyday people a platform to share their thoughts and opinions.

2008 – 2016 Blogging was on a steady incline, with key figures such as Youtuber ‘Zoella’ creating an account in 2009 (among many others) starting a ripple effect of social content creation. Notably, Google’s Panda update was first released in February 2011, which penalised sites for having ‘thin content’. This began to shape the way bloggers and brands worked together, meaning that more was expected of the blogger than a simple backlink within their post.

2017 Influencer-promotions have become the norm. Almost all brands are now using influencers across video, social media and blogs to promote their content and products. Influencers have spilled out into cinema, TV, print and even have their own merchandise. However, some speculate that influencer marketing hangs by a thread of authenticity. The market is becoming over saturated, and users are becoming savvy to the paid opportunities that influencers receive.

Consumers are looking for more authenticity and genuine product reviews. It’s more important than ever that brands use more authentic influencers as consumers become more and more concerned with making connections rather than being sold to. Influencer marketing will be less about celebrities and more about real people who consumers can relate to.

That being said, the future of influencer marketing is looking bright. 84% of marketers are planning on taking up an influencer marketing campaign in the next year, which shows that the trend is still providing a solid ROI for brands.

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