Social media ‘influencers’: A marketing experiment that’s become a mini-economy

Captiv8 says Instagram influencers who have more than 7 million followers command an average rate of more than $150,000 per sponsored post. Family vacations become paid photo ops. --- Middledorf, 24, has a blog called It's All Good - along with related Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest accounts - where she offers up fashion finds and showcases her life in northern Virginia's wine country. --- Behind the work exists a more philosophical challenge: How does an influencer make money without diluting a carefully crafted, real-girl or real-guy brand? If they clutter people's feeds with too many sponsored posts or execute those sponsored posts in a way that feels contrived, they might alienate readers. Chew, for example, maintains a lifestyle blog called Alicia Tenise and an Instagram feed with about 12,000 followers. LaBau, the desserts blogger, said she charged $200 for her first sponsored post years ago, and now can command up to 10 times that per post. Cobbs charges $250 to $400 for a sponsorship package that includes a blog post and one related post each on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Sponsored posts are not the only way for influencers to monetize their work. Regulators have begun insisting that sponsorships be more transparent, with greater disclosures.

The Top 8 Reasons Your Video May Fail
Infographic: The Science of Brand Voice
4 Essential Tips for Assessing Your Event Marketing Strategy
  • Alicia Chew, a style and food influencer, poses for photos for her blog. Photo: Courtesy Of Alicia Chew

As soon as Lauren Middledorf starts striking poses, you can tell
that she’s done this more than a few times before.

Smile. Look at the camera. Look away. Reposition the
leopard-print purse.

Tousle hair. Cross legs. Add sunglasses. Repeat.

The photographer – snapping away at her subject on a
shadow-bathed outdoor plaza – occasionally chimes in with bits of
advice. “Teeth,” she offers at one point, prompting Middledorf to
give a broader grin. “Let me take some more of your shoes against
that,” she says, betting the sleek black stilettos will pop against
a beige block of concrete.

Middledorf is not a model: She has a full-time job as a
corporate event coordinator. The photographer is her mom. And
Middledorf put on this ensemble in the bathroom of a nearby
restaurant.

It’s all part of her effort to gain a modest slice of the
mushrooming marketing budgets that retailers and megabrands are
funneling to everyday women and men who have amassed large
followings for their blogs, Instagram feeds or Snapchat
stories.

Brands regard these social media “influencers” as relatable
messengers for their goods. Companies pay them in fees or free
products, resulting in sponsored posts in which, say, a millennial
gal-about-town, working mom or fitness buff might talk up a pair of
high heels from Kohl’s, show off a recipe made with Progresso bread
crumbs or flash a smile that’s been treated with Crest White
Strips.

What was an experimental marketing practice only a short time
ago has morphed into a mini-economy with dizzying financial stakes.
The social-media analytics firm Captiv8 estimates that big brands
are spending a collective $255 million per month for sponsored
posts on Instagram alone. Captiv8 says Instagram influencers who
have more than 7 million followers command an average rate of more
than $150,000 per sponsored post.

Some have even signed with agents, who help them get connected
for a cut of the earnings. Others have banded into informal
syndicates to help promote one another’s posts, making them
attractive to more brands.

As the business takes shape, and more people rush to join, some
wonder whether the new form of marketing can hang onto the sheen of
authenticity that made it successful in the first place. Already,
regulators and consumer watchdogs have begun clamoring for more
disclosure of the paid relationships. And already, some influencers
are feeling the strain of their always-on lifestyle, where the
product they’re selling is their own personality and taste.

Theirs is a world where happy hour with friends becomes a moment
to trumpet one’s enviable taste in cocktails to followers. Family
vacations become paid photo ops. Pleasure becomes business.

In other words, while influencer marketing rose to prominence as
a raw, credible antidote to the slick world of television and
glossy magazines, it has metastasized into something every bit as
calculated.

Middledorf, 24, has a blog called It’s All Good – along with
related Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest accounts – where she
offers up fashion finds and showcases her life in northern
Virginia’s wine country. She got into the game about five years ago
while she was in college, and much has changed since then.

“Now that it’s so saturated, it’s getting harder and harder to
get sponsored posts,” said Middledorf, who has almost 5,000
Instagram followers.

That’s part of why she and legions of other influencers go to
greater and greater lengths to make sure their feeds feature only
the most polished, aspirational imagery.

For Middledorf, that means studying Pinterest for fresh posing
ideas. She has honed tricks such as walking backward, a tactic she
swears actually appears as a more natural walk in photos. And she
scouts locations ahead of time to…

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 0
DISQUS: 0