The New Breed Of Influencer – Why the general public is now more influential than the rich and famous and, how brands can tap into this using social listening
- PayPerPost article snippet
In 2006, PayPerPost became the first marketplace to commission bloggers to create content for brands and, just like that, the social media influencer was born. Within just a couple of short years, influencers had become a thing – and an incredibly lucrative thing at that. In a nutshell, influencers are celebrities or people who have gained credibility in their chosen field and amassed a huge following on social media. Having established themselves as an authority, these people then use their influence to promote brands – for a hefty fee – on their social media platforms and web pages.
One of the most successful influencers to date is makeup expert, Huda Kattan, who has 29 million social media followers and is said to be worth a cool $610 million.
Brands across the world, including Adidas, Audible and Bonobos, were once falling over themselves in a bid to secure the services of an influencer and, both Coca Cola and KMart have benefited from the influencing impact of singer / actress Selena Gomez.
Although influencers are still favoured by some brands, the tide began to turn in recent years following a number of scandals which brought into question the ethics and wisdom of this kind of marketing.
In 2018, Aggie Lai hit up her fans for $500 for a 12-week course on ‘How To Grow Your Instagram’ and then promptly vanished after uploading six weeks worth of pre-recorded videos.
- Buzzfeed article snippet
The following year, fitness influencer, Brittany Dawn Davis, faced a follower fiasco after charging fans $300 each for diet programs which didn’t work or, in many cases, didn’t show up.
Both of these scandals came hot on the heels of the fraudulent Fyre festival which promised luxury, glamour and celebrities galore and delivered instead mud, chaos and dodgy loos.
The final nail in the coffin for influencers may have been the scandal involving lifestyle influencer, Jemmy Lucy, who was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for violating a number of rules, including the promotion of unsafe practices.
Her demise came after she posted a photograph of herself drinking a branded weight loss coffee whilst pregnant. With one disastrous scandal following another, the darlings of social media began to lose their gloss – and their influence.
COVID – The ultimate influence
While the role of the influencer was diminishing but alive in 2019, 2020 then came along and stomped it flat. Known for their glamorous, jet setting lifestyles, the influencers found themselves, like everybody else, grounded as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Although followers may have remained loyal, loungewear selfies and sofa shots don’t have quite the same ‘Grammable appeal as a sun-drenched exotic island. Added to this is the fact that, having been hit hard by the pandemic, brands have become increasingly reluctant to spend huge amounts of money on this kind of marketing which, with tightened budgets, has become an unnecessary luxury. As a result, businesses have had to find new ways of promoting their products and services in this vastly changed landscape.
This year, we’ve seen a lot of innovation when it comes to marketing and promotion including a lot of long form content, social media wizardry and a move toward collaborations and partnerships – the latter being something that even big brands are implementing in order to ride out the storm of the pandemic. One example of this is the 2020 merger of T.Mobile and Sprint which aims to form a much stronger brand and to see off the competition.
- Sprint’s tweet
The new breed
While some brands have returned to more traditional methods of marketing, the influencer isn’t quite dead and buried just yet. In fact, decreasing budgets and uncertain times have given rise to a new breed of influencer – the Ordinary Guy. Unlike the big bucks Instagram stars, the Ordinary Guy has become a brand’s new best friend for marketing and, the best part? It usually doesn’t cost a thing!
In an extraordinary year, the Ordinary Guy has become the new rock star and, brands are scrambling to figure out ways to harness this in terms of promotion. Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which The Ordinary Guy has dominated 2020:
The man on the street
The pandemic has, of course, affected us all and, as such, TV production teams are very keen to get out onto the street to find out what ordinary folk think about the latest developments. This has led to ‘15 minutes of fame’ for a number of citizens including British shopper ‘Maureen from Barnsley’ who divided opinion after she stated that she would not be following the guidance and staying at home as, being in her 80s, she doesn’t know how many years she has left. Since her initial soundbite on the streets of Barnsley, Maureen has appeared on a number of television programs and in national newspapers.
- Maureen from Barnsley
As the world turned upside down in 2020, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel became, quite rightly, celebrated for hard work during extremely difficult circumstances. As well as featuring in advertisements by the Health Board, nurses have also been recruited by brands for more mainstream marketing. We’ve also seen a number of GPs featuring heavily on morning television shows as they share their expertise and opinions on the crisis and ways in which the public can keep themselves safe.
- COVID-19 personnel death count
With health services being crippled by the pandemic, a number of Ordinary Guys have achieved fame by raising much needed funds through sponsorship. In April, 100 year old war veteran, Captain Tom, raised over £32 million for the NHS by walking 100 laps around his garden and, has since received a knighthood. At around the same time, Staff Nurse, Leona Harris, raised £55,000 which was used to buy 140 tablets to enable care home residents to stay connected with their loved ones during lockdown.
Along with Ordinary Guys, nonprofits are finding unique ways to stand out and fundraise, The American Cancer Society partnered with card game site Solitaired to create a custom solitaire game that highlighted influencers on a number of cards. By partnering with these influencers, they were able to drive gameplay and direct donations, as well as sell sponsorships for other cards. It was a major success and a novel way for a traditional nonprofit to fundraise online.
- Solitaired’s idea
For quite some time now, Greta Thunberg has been a household name as she continues on her quest to increase awareness of climate change issues. The 17 year old has recently been linked to a number of brands which share her ideals and, in October, her name has appeared in presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaigning after her public endorsement.
More commonly known as micro-influencers, Ordinary Guys can be an incredibly effective tool for brands looking to hitch their wagon to an influencer who is a thought leader but is also real and relatable. The use of these micro-influencers very much resonates with the public who now want real, reliable information and advice rather than glossy photos and false promises. Sounds great, but how would a brand go about snagging themselves an Ordinary Guy?
I second that emotion
Any brand worth its salt knows the very real benefits that can be had by using sentiment analysis to find out what their customers – and potential customers think about their products or services – but that’s not the only thing that this valuable tool can be used for. Clued up brands are now using sentiment analysis, or social listening tools, to find brand ambassadors to champion their brands and, this can be done in a few different ways:
- Example brand mention stats, credit: Brand24
The fan club
As I’ve mentioned, the traditional use for sentiment analysis is to find mentions of your brand online. While it’s important to take note of negative comments in order to action them, those positive comments and posts can be your new secret weapon. Use your sentiment analysis tool to gather up those glowing reviews and then get in touch with the poster to see if they would be interested in getting on board as a brand ambassador.
- Potential brand ambassador
A simple way to work this is to offer the ambassador free or discounted products or service in exchange for them championing your brand on social media. This can be massively effective as customers will trust the views and opinions of someone who uses and loves your brand much more than they would a straightforward advert.
Although a bit trickier, you can also actually use this technique with those who have posted negatively about your brand. Get in touch and offer them a new product or, a new and improved version of the one that they didn’t like and, then ask for their feedback.
If, by doing this, you manage to ‘turn that frown upside down’, this kind of micro-influencer can be extremely valuable in terms of singing your praises for improved products and customer service.
The thought leader
If your business tackles, or is involved with, a complex topic or cause such as environmental and sustainability, veganism or health food, a micro-influencer can really help you to big up your profile. Instead of using your sentiment analysis tool to find people who are already customers of your brand, use it to find mentions of your hot topic. By doing this, you can put together a database of Ordinary Guys who are passionate about that topic, as well as people are extremely knowledgeable about it. You can then contact these people with a special offer or freebie in exchange for a review. This can then be followed up by a request to have the person become more deeply involved with your brand as a micro-influencer.
- Potential micro-influencer
With everything that’s been going on, this really has been a year where ordinary folk have had their chance to shine – and the influence of these everyday heroes should never be overlooked. The general public is currently very much ready to get behind brands who are actively using their powers for good and, in that respect, are more willing to listen to people who are just like themselves rather than celebrities or phoneys.