THE POWER OF THE INFLUENCER

Hannah Smith explores how influencers and micro-influencers could be the best way for brands to reach new audiences.

It is argued that social media and the number of likes, followers or retweets one receives defines us as individuals. It began with Millennials, those born from 1989 to 1996; a time also known as the digital age. Millennials championed a different side of the internet, one that revolved solely around friends, followers, statuses or tweets. From 1996, Generation Z were born. Like Millennials, they are tech obsessed, having grown up in a world where mobile phones, internet and technology were at their fingertips. These two consumer groups are undergoing a switch in the way they use social media and the impact it is having on their self-esteem.  

The trends of over-Photoshopping magazine covers, size 0 super models and celebrities advocating absurd and painful diets are passé. Who really cares anymore? 2018 has taken a shift; it is the year of bodyconfidence, whether that be size, age or skin. A huge encouragement of positive thinking and championing the skin you’re in has been the theme throughout countless campaigns this past year. Some of my favourites are Missguided, L’Oreal and Dove. You’re probably wondering where the topic of Influencers fits into this; well, it appears that retailers and ad campaigns are no longer there to disrupt or capture the audience, they are now simply replying, retaliating and responding to the shift in perspective of its consumers, what they class as beautiful and how they can connect to this.  

The term influencer was adopted on Instagram not long after the mobile app launched in 2010, and within 3 years, Instagram had reached 100 million users. Once brands began to realise the goldmine that was marketing to Generation Z through influencers via Instagram, then there was no turning back. What Generation Z seek in brands is more than the product, or what they present on the surface; this unique group of individuals crave more. Nowadays the most successful brands are turning to influencers with far smaller numbers of followers to help them share their message; these individuals are called microinfluencers. In return they receive “intangible benefits, like authenticity, a unique point of view, deeper storytelling and the potential of reaching a more tailored audience” (Suhrawardi, Forbes 2016). This honesty has proven to work, yet only certain brands seem to have mastered this. Others are slowly lagging behind, missing the easiest marketing practice that is speaking the language of one of the biggest consumer groups there is.

I have been exposed to microinfluencers myself whilst working on a university project last year in collaboration with the sock brand Stance. This brand seeks out collaborators, creatives, and sportsmen or women who have a story to tell. These individuals are labelled by Stance as Punks & Poets, advocating the brand via their social media handles and connecting with the brand’s unique audience of Gen Z and Millennials. As touched upon previously, these consumers are tired of seeing the same airbrushed celebrities and make-up enriched faces, so Stance’s brand ambassadors are not only refreshing, but raw and authentic too; again this is a perfect example of a brand capitalising on the phenomenon of influencers.

Another brand I touched upon earlier which is excelling in the authentic micro-influencer market, speaking to core audience Gen Z in a dialect they want to listen to, is Missguided. Last May they launched their #InYourOwnSkin campaign, celebrating “what the industry perceives as ‘flaws’ and ‘imperfections’, but which actually make up who we are”. It features a mix of women with scars, skin conditions, and birthmarks, all completely comfortable in their own skin. They are sharing their story with the world, connecting with the audience and impacting how they view themselves and others.

Missguided also launched their #MakeYourMark campaign last year, which involved the boycotting of Photoshop and retouching images. They encouraged women to reject what the world perceives as perfection and embrace their own perfection. This type of interactive campaign encourages this consumer group to get involved and share their stories. Gen Z responds well to this type of campaign. It is honest, personal and authentic; it highlights the shift our society has seen in social media and body empowerment and gives influencers a real story to inspire with. Campaign casting has noticeably changed this last year, and something hopefully all brands will take on; making it the norm rather than an anomaly.

The final brand I will delve into on how marketing by using microinfluencers can be hugely beneficial is the Glossier phenomenon. Glossier launched in 2014 and disrupted the beauty industry as we know it. This brand communicates directly to its consumer – using a Slack account to exchange messages, gaining feedback, constructive criticism and simply hearing it from the horse’s mouth – what’s working and what is not. This is so effortlessly simple, yet many brands seem to speak to consumers in a more commanding way rather than conversationally. Furthermore, Forbes found that 62% of millennials stated that if a brand engages with them on a personal level through social media, they’re more likely to show loyalty to that brand. Not only do brands need to keep up posting on their social media accounts, they also need to connect with their audiences. Furthermore, their Instagram page is filled with reposts of tagged images from the consumers themselves, whether they have 300 followers or up to thousands of followers. I find this very refreshing compared to the endless celebrity-endorsed posts that fill my Instagram feed.

The next best thing in the world of marketing, aside from microinfluencers, in a way that captures the short and unique attention of Generation Z and Millennials is brand video. WGSN has stated that brands that have recognised this are ahead in the game. Short videos and branded content using influencers who fall in line with a brand’s values and who are creating content that will resonate with the Gen Z audience will reap the rewards. Videos that reflect the world this age knows, one that is diverse in background, shape, and personality.

Find more from Hannah, a student at Nottingham Trent University, at Instagram.com/fcphaanlilly

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