Have you heard of Lil Miquela? She's a 19 year old singer and influencer from California, with 1.3 million followers on Instagram (@lilmiquela). The stunning social media star was invited by Prada to take over its Instagram account during one of its Milan shows. Time magazine named her as one of 2018’s 25 most influential people on the internet. But the only catch is; she doesn't exist. Yeah, Miquela is a computer-generated model and brands are attracted to her!
From Computer Generated Influencers (CGIs) and nano-influencers to Instagram killing accounts with fake followers - 2018 was an activity-packed year for influencers and marketers alike. Here's a rundown on important insights from 2018 & previous years that will have an effect on your influencer marketing strategy this year.
1) Micro-influencers are in the highest demand
Micro-influencers, or those with less than 100,000 followers, are the most sought after influencers because marketers feel they are cost-effective and have a better connection with their audience.
Brands have collaborated with micro influencers such as Steven Onoja, Yannick Merckx and Miette Dierckx because it's been reported that micro influencers are 6.7X more efficient per engagement than celebrities with millions of followers . Brands like Google, Nike, Starbucks, Gillette, Sephora, Coca-Cola, and Red Bull are collaborating with micro influencers who apart from being great storytellers are adept at creating authentic content.
2) More efforts towards building trust & transparency
A startling report in The New York Times uncovers the "black market" of bot followers that can be bought for just a few cents each. And these fake followers were being sold to celebs including athletes, politicians, and filmstars. Marketers and social channels are proactively taking steps to address the issues of authenticity and credibility plaguing the influencer ecosystem.
Last year, Twitter took major actions towards deleting suspicious accounts from the platform. The purge affected the follower count of celebs including Barack Obama, Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber. It was reported that Katy Perry, the most followed person on Twitter, lost at least 1.5 million followers! Instagram also took a major step towards cleaning the platform. It said
we will begin removing inauthentic likes, follows and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity. We’ve built machine learning tools to help identify accounts that use these services and remove the inauthentic activity.
At Cannes Lions 2018, Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed said that the brand won't work with the influencers who buy followers. He called for more transparency from influencers and urged the marketers and social media platforms to “take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever”. He laid out a three-thronged approach to improve the situation which involves “cleaning up the influencer ecosystem by removing misleading engagement; making brands and influencers more aware of the use of dishonest practices; and improving transparency from social platforms to help brands measure impact.”
3) Clamour to grow for real-life like content
It's an Instagram promotional content for Listerine as it's been clearly mentioned in the post. Then, what went wrong with this post by Scarlett Dixon? Why did some users go berserk over this post? Let's check some of the comments
Listerine in bedroom... hahahah ridiculous post and constructed/fake reality
A picture that provoked a thousand arguments. Personally I see the irony/humour and think it's brilliantly staged ;) *gets up, blows up balloons, makes the bed, puts strawberries on top of a plate of wraps, puts mouthwash on bedside table, takes photo
Imagine if girls actually looked up to you and realised they could never reach this (which many girls all over the world will never experience pancakes and strawberry’s in a expensive hotel suite) especially the way suicide rates are going through the roof, you keep doing you though
Someone even suggested that the campaign was a parody set up by Listerine.
Loving the hilarious parody accounts @Listerine have created to expose the sham that is irrelevant “influencer” marketing. That’s what they are doing, right? Because the alternative is... pic.twitter.com/Z6GC5wX03Z
— David - Brave & ❤️ (@DaveParkinson) September 2, 2018
The more an influencer gives an unfiltered insight into his/her life, the better is the connection between the influencer and the users. We are seeing an emerging trend in the influencer landscape where more and more users are calling out the content creators who cram the feed with over-edited photos and carefully shot videos that border on faux reality. Amidst conversation around social media and its impact on mental health, we will see the trend to continue in today's age of envy as noted by The Guardian. The report quotes Ethan Kross, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan as saying "envy is being taken to an extreme...We are constantly bombarded by “Photoshopped lives” ...and that exerts a toll on us the likes of which we have never experienced in the history of our species. And it is not particularly pleasant.”
4) More opportunities for creators & brands
There have been a host of developments last year aimed towards helping marketers and influencers collaborate with each other. We saw Snapchat rolling out "Snapchat Storytellers” pilot program that connects brands with popular content makers. Facebook also launched Brand Collabs Manager to help marketers connect with relevant social media creators so they can collaborate on sponsored-content campaigns. It also rolled out a series of features including poll and game features to Live and on demand video for Facebook creators and new profile settings that let creators place their video content front and center.
Also, there have been concerted efforts by social channels towards helping creators earn money and grow their fan base. YouTube, the world's largest video site, rolled out channel memberships, merchandising, marketing partnerships, and “Premieres" to help YouTube creators generate revenue from their videos outside of traditional advertising. The announcement read
With Channel Memberships, viewers pay a monthly recurring fee of $4.99 to get unique badges, new emoji, Members-only posts in the Community tab, and access to unique custom perks offered by creators, such as exclusive livestreams, extra videos, or shout-outs...Since launching in January, comedy creator Mike Falzone more than tripled his YouTube revenue.
We want to make it easier for more creators to sell merch directly from their channel. So we’ve built a product that allows them to do just that. From shirts with a logo to phone cases with a creator’s face, we’ve joined forces with Teespring so creators can choose from over 20 merchandise items to customize and sell via a shelf on their channel...The creator of Lucas the Spider recently turned his hero character into a plushie selling over 60,000 furry friends and generating over $1 million in profit in just 18 days, according to Teespring.
We saw Snapchat opening commerce to Snap influencers. Also, last year Facebook ran a test for a Patreon-style membership model where fans could support their favorite creators with a monthly recurring fee.
5) Amazon to step up its influencer marketing program
As per a recent report by Business Insider, Amazon is expanding its influencer program by including several micro-influencers in its program. Last year influencer marketing platform Influence.co created a tool specifically for Amazon to help brands match with relevant influencers. It's been also reported that Amazon is offering hefty commissions to its influencers for selling the products. It offers 10% commission ( the highest amount) for Amazon's private fashion line, which in fact is in line with what other brands, like Levi's and Glossier offer through influencer platform RewardStyle. It's indicative that Amazon is upping its influencer game by competing with the leading fashion brands. Other categories include furniture sales by which the influencers can earn 8% commission. Non- Amazon apparel, shoes, and jewelry will net influencers 7% commission. Influencers will receive same 7% of commission for the sale of Amazon products such as the Echo and Fire.
What sets apart Amazon's influencer program from others is the way Amazon has structured the payout model. Unlike others, Amazon doesn't pay its influencers to deliver a message. It pays commissions when influencers bring in paying customers.
6) We will see more collaboration between CGIs and brands
Shudu (@shudu.gram) world's first digital supermodel, made her Instagram debut with a breathtaking post where she posed nude with a stack of gold chokers around her neck and giant ear rings. And soon after we saw Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line reposting a shot of Shudu with bright tangerine lips.
Shudu isn't alone. There's a powerful model gang out there ( Lil Miquela, Noonoouri ) taking the influencer ecosystem by storm. They look like real-life models, have an enviable wardrobe just the way high-end celebs do, hang out with bigwigs, and have millions of followers. And brands are increasingly collaborating with them to leverage their growing fan audience. For instance, last year we saw Noonoouri taking over Dior’s official Instagram account for two days as the label presented its Cruise 2019 collection in Paris.
7) Employees as influencers
Last year Macy's hired its employees as brand ambassadors within Macy’s Style Crew program. The staff can share Macy’s-sponsored content to their respective social media feeds, including short video clips.
It was reported that a Macy's staff who participated in the campaign generated a total of $15,000 of handbag sales in a week. It's not the first time that any brand has used employees to share promotional content. Vintage-inspired retailer ModCloth is known for its digital campaigns starring their employees. In 2015, it launched a digital swimwear campaign starring a diverse group of its employees wearing a mix of polka-dot bikinis and one-pieces in different sizes. It stirred up conversation and created a lot of positive buzz on social media as users described the campaign as "brave" and "incredible".
"Employees are the most credible voices on multiple topics, including the company's work environment, integrity, innovation and business practices", according to Edelman Trust Barometer report. And in 2019, we will be seeing more and more brands roping in their employees as influencers to convey brand messages in an authentic and reliable voice.
8) Brands Can't Ignore Instagrandmas and Instagrandpas
In an April 2012 survey by Pew Research Center, it was found that more than half of older adults (defined as those ages 65 or older) were internet users.
Unfortunately, most of the older adults don’t feel that they are accurately reflected in today’s advertising. A research by media agency UM found that 68% of elderly population over 65 believe ads in the UK often stereotype people in their age bracket. Other interesting findings include -
- Older people aren’t tech-savvy is the most 'frustrating' stereotype used by marketers.
- 57% of the respondents said that they were upset by the cliche that older people were physically weak and decrepit.
- 59% of the respondents said that the marketers treated them as ‘having nothing interesting to say’.
It seems marketers either are too focused towards targeting younger generation or are clueless on how to connect with the older demographic without the cliches and stereotype campaigns.
“Brands should celebrate [older consumers] because from a strict marketing perspective they are a highly valuable audience.
Hugh Pile, CMO at L’Oréal
And he’s right! People above 65s spend around £2.2bn per week on goods and services, according to a study ‘Opportunity Knocks: Designing Solutions for an Ageing Society’.
Some brands like Dove, Missguided, and L'Oréal are thinking of meaningful ways to connect with the older generation. For instance, L’oreal collaborated with Helen Mirren to promote Age Perfect Golden Age day cream to celebrate a “more mature period in life”
L'Oréal also teamed up with Baddie Winkle (@baddiewinkle), an Instagram influencer who loves posing in skimpy swimsuits. With 3.8 m followers on Instagram, she’s Instagram’s hippest grandma and has teamed with big fashion brands like Coachella, Missguided, and Fashion Nova. She also collaborated with a mobile investing app called Stash for their campaign which encourages young people to “retire like a Baddie” by investing in their futures.
She also teamed up with Dimepiece's “State of Mind” campaign where she made the online space hotter with her bold pics where she's seen donning DimePiece's signature badass streetwear - from mesh tunics and oversized jerseys to sexy swimsuits.
The remaining points are covered in the next blog.