Once considered a dubious venture, social media marketing has become the norm. Now, advertisers are kicking it up a notch by capitalizing on the popularity of social media gurus and heavy hitters, also referred to as influencers.
Brent Rivera is like any other American teenager who engages in social media, except he spent this past holiday season uploading six-second video clips of himself dressed as his grandmother in order to coerce holiday shoppers to spend more at retail giants like Best Buy. Rivera’s Vines are viewed by 5.8 million users.
He is just one example of a new wave of social media influencers whose strong social media presence is used by advertisers in order to mirror the advantages of good old fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations. However, the digital aspect of social media allows this be accomplished on a far greater scale.
Social media influencers are transforming the world of digital marketing, as advertising agencies, online platforms and even everyday users are vying for their attention in order to capitalize on the trend.
“Influencers are different; they avoid cliche,” says Darren Eiswirth, Woodlands Ad Agency. “Smaller agencies are able to adapt to this new form of marketing while older more established agencies have to unlearn what they think they know about social media.”
Rebecca McCuiston, senior vice-president of influencer marketing at agency 360i, agrees. According to a 2012 Nielson study, 92% of people trust word-of-mouth. “A lot of influencers now have more followers than the Today Show has viewers and than the circulation of some magazines. It is a paradigm shift in how marketers reach consumers,” she said.
Major companies such as Best Buy, Bravo, Fidelity, Fox, United Airlines, and even Universal have used the staying power of influencers on social media to promote their brand. Meanwhile, entire advertising agencies are being created in order to meet the new demand for influencers, with others expanding their advertising agency services in order include the new trend. In fact, PR companies such as Oglivy and Weber Schandwich have added special units to manage influencer marketing.
The power of social media marketing shows no signs of slowing down. According to estimates from technology and market research firm Forrester Research, social media marketing spending in the U.S. is expected to more than double to $18.7 billion in 2019 compared to just $8.2 billion last year. However, due to its newness, influencer marketing does not yet have its own category.
Users are constantly bombarded by mobile advertisements, so much so that most are ignored altogether. According to McCuiston, brands are turning to influencers in order to stand out among the “cluttered space” of internet and mobile advertising.