It’s been a while now, that influencers have taken the internet by storm and so everywhere you look there is a new campaign or off-the-record ad featuring a somewhat familiar face. Are they celebrities? Yes and no. Influencers may vary, from actual existing celebrities to people you see at the grocery store or sit at class with on a daily basis, but they all run the same business; they spread the word.
In an effort to make a definition out of the term, an influencer (aka brand ambassador) is the transmitter in the active application of the word-of-mouth technique. Word-of-mouth advertising, also known as viva voce (literally meaning “with living voice” in Italian), has been considered to be the most efficient type of marketing in the past few years. And this is where our people come in; influencers are the accessible source for both companies and the audience as they appear closer to the person-next-door ideal than a usual actor in an advertisement. People get to follow their every single move on the social media and therefore think they see firsthand their habits and lifestyle. That said, it’s easier for them to identify with them with the evaluation of a product their interested in. The social media have made word of mouth more important and reliable than ever but that shouldn’t prevent us from realizing that influencers have been around for quite some time.
Even if we tend to believe that the genre is only a late discovery, influencers’ history dates back in the 18th century. Josiah Wedgwood, a well-known potter and entrepreneur of the times is known to be the first person to ever create actual marketing techniques around the pottery industry, while he is also the man behind door-to-door salesmen, free delivery, money back guarantees and other such novelties. Then actress Lillie Langtry became the face of Brown’s Iron Bitters in the 1800s and then there was …Santa Claus! Even if you have never thought of it before, actual characters like Santa as pictured by Coca Cola, Mr. Clean by Procter & Gamble or even Mario by Nintendo are all content creating mascots, meaning informal influencers. Actresses, models, TV presenters, all kinds of public faces ever used for any ad, are all influencers. They all spread the word. And the word reflects the product and only the product. But as technology grows and each and every one of us focuses on a screen, brands have to evolve, act as if they face every consumer separately and let them identify with someone they think is a lot like them.
Now, back to the fashion centered influencer marketing of our age, each millennial influencer has a certain – usually ever-growing – audience that follows their profiles for a reason. Influencers turn from channels to products themselves, considering they are selling a certain lifestyle built around the product they embrace. Influencers have been a threat to magazines for quite some time considering a brand could sign a yearly contract with a face and get the job a magazine does done for much less. Then magazines evolved; they recruited influencers because if you can’t beat them, you join them. And then, comes the fall. Or does it?
Taking it from the top, the charm doesn’t seem to be working like it used to. Influencing, especially through blogging and/or Instagram, is now saturated and as any trend bubble naturally bursts when the time is right, this one shall, too. One can understand that by observing the trend of blogging on WordPress or Blogger, which is now almost history. Furthermore, it’s crucial for us to acknowledge the fact that consumers know what is true and what isn’t, even when they get excessively drowned in pictures, products and campaigns. Their trust keeps the market moving and, when it comes to what they see on social media, it seems to have been shaken. Finally, it’s a fact that followers don’t mean engagement and, even in cases of macro influencers, some campaigns just don’t pay off.
But this is only one side of the coin. It’s true, influencing sectors like blogs seem to be slowly fading out of the picture, but then again the market is only moving onto other platforms (take Instagram, for example). And according to multiple influencer marketing focused companies, paid search, organic search and content creating marketing are indeed considered over, but the influencers will keep thriving. Why? Because of the ever-growing chain. There is always someone looking for inspiration, someone who needs to be influenced, a customer (that’s the whole meaning behind advertising anyway), and always someone who wants to be in the spotlight, who likes to affect others. Companies are now focusing on micro or nano-influencers as they are believed to be of greater following engagement and better financial interest for longer time periods. Nano-influencers never stop happening and rarely fail to perform exactly because of their eagerness to collaborate with brands.
So is influencer marketing dying? No, but it certainly is evolving.
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