Not long ago, a celebrity endorsement was considered one of the true pinnacles of marketing. Having a famous personality recommending your product to fans was an excellent way to build visibility and establish credibility. Unfortunately, celebrity endorsements are also incredibly expensive – stars aren’t willing to trade on their reputations and recognition without a substantial incentive to do so. But for the relatively few companies who could afford it, the impact could be immense.
Who’s Hot? Who’s Not?
Social media, of course, changed everything, and in more ways than one. Not only has the public perception of fame and celebrity changed, it has redefined who is a celebrity and how they are made. Fame was once reserved for an elite, fortunate few; those with a perfect blend of talent, charisma, and luck. Today, however, there are celebrities across the spectrum, and fame is no longer reserved for the upper echelons of the entertainment industries. Social media has made it possible for nearly anyone to become not just internet famous, but globally famous. Whether it’s a popular video gamer whose gaming videos have earned a huge audience or a food blogger who parlayed a massive following into best-selling cookbooks and successful TV shows, fame and success is becoming more and more accessible to those with the savvy and the creativity to establish loyalty and trust amongst those that follow them.
It may be that very blend of loyalty and trust that makes social media stars such powerful Influencers. In fact, a recent survey by Variety revealed that people not only trust Influencers, they trust them even more than mainstream celebrities. Their survey polled 1500 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18, and asked them which stars they were most influenced by. The roster of celebrities included a mix of top YouTube vloggers and mainstream stars with established popularity among the teen set. The results were surprising: the social media stars fared extremely well, claiming all of the top 5 positions in the results, and 8 of the top 10 spots.
Perhaps even more importantly, social media stars consistently outranked mainstream celebrities in categories that closely correspond to influence over buying decisions, such as authenticity, engagement and relatability. These findings tie closely to the message we keep driving home: true influence requires more than just reach – it need relevance and resonance as well.
What does this mean for Influencer Marketing?
It’s no secret that today’s teens are tomorrow’s consumers, and surveys like the one from Variety prove that there has been a sea change in how to reach and influence your market. In the sphere of Influencer Marketing, high profile YouTube stars are becoming the new celebrity endorsement, and the top performers are likely to be nearly as unattainable for most brands as celebrity endorsements were a few years ago. However, spurred on by the sweeping success of their peers, many new Influencers are making strides towards establishing their influence and building trust amongst their followers. These slightly lower-profile Influencers may not have the sheer size and scale of some of the most famous social media darlings, but they have many of the same qualities that make them influential: resonance and relevance.
In fact, studies have shown that Influencers with smaller audiences actually have more influence over their followers than those with massive followings. This is likely due in large part to the fact that a smaller audience is more manageable, and allows the Influencer to retain a true sense of engagement and authenticity with their communities.
It’s clear that Influencer Marketing is more than a passing craze that will ebb with time: it’s the new paradigm for the future. Expect to see marketing strategies become increasingly focused on the concept of Influence, and continual evolvement in how that influence is earned.