The rise of social media has also given rise to a number of new careers that didn’t exist before the Internet. Professional bloggers and Youtubers get paid to make online creative content. All major companies have social media managers. Digital marketing is an entire field in itself. One of the stranger and more difficult to understand careers to come out of the digital age is that of the social media influencer. The job description is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: these people use social media to influence others, usually to get them to buy a product or service, for a living. That may sound strange, but it is actually a huge trend in marketing at the moment, and there are a lot of people out there trying to get in on the action.
Who can be an influencer? Well, technically lots of people can do it, though some are more effective at it than others. Ordinary, everyday people can influence others’ purchasing decisions simply by talking about products they like on their own personal social media accounts. But not everyone has a big enough following on social media to be a worthwhile influencer for a major brand. One slightly more traditional approach is to turn to celebrities. Actors, athletes, and the like have been doing advertising for decades. The difference is that now, instead of doing TV commercials or having their face on a cereal box, they can promote products using their social media accounts.
However, even celebrity appeal isn’t quite good enough for some brands anymore. It has been done for so many years now that many consumers are becoming wary of it. This has given rise to the Professional Influencer, a person somewhere in between ordinary and celebrity whose claim to fame is their ability to rack up followers on social media platforms. These people partner with brands, try out their products or services, and then pass their thoughts and opinions on to their followers, who may then decide to purchase that product or service based on the recommendation of this seemingly average person.
But how does one become a professional influencer? How do you build up enough of a following to push products on social media for a living? That’s the big question, and lots of recent hype surrounding this profession has led to all kinds of advice articles from marketing industry experts. Unsurprisingly, a lot of it boils down to personality. An influencer has to be able to build a personal connection with thousands or even millions of people through the Internet. This means balancing personal charm and charisma with careful calculation about exactly when and what to post. By managing how their personality comes across online and what products they recommend, influencers can build a connection with their followers and influence their purchasing decisions.
Along with cultivating an online personality, most successful influencers also work to become established in a particular area of expertise. It could be food, travel, comic books, or any number of other things. The important thing is that it’s something they’re passionate and knowledgeable about. Once they find their niche, they work with brands who create something related to it, such as a food delivery service, a cruise line, or a comic book merch company, for example. The more a potential influencer builds up their reputation for being an expert in a certain area, the more likely people are to listen to them when they recommend a product or service. And, of course, it all goes back to making it seem personal and natural: an influencer is not a company pushing its own product; they must come across more like a friend recommending a product to another friend.
Chances are that you’ve already seen influencer marketing at work. Maybe your favorite Youtuber has done a sponsored video where they discuss a certain product, or you’ve seen bloggers offer promo codes for a paid online service they’ve used recently. As strange as the title of “influencer” may sound, it’s actually already a lot more common than many people might initially think. If done correctly, it can also be vastly more beneficial for companies than more traditional means of advertising like the television advertisement or billboard. More direct, personalized influence is the new form of marketing for the digital age, and it will probably continue to grow and evolve with the changing times and new Internet trends.