The term "influencer" is one that makes people light up with interest and delight or roll their eyes in disgust. I know these reactions intimately, because I work for an influencer marketing agency, and I do influencer work on my own. And believe me when I tell you, these are virtually the only reaction camps people hail from.
A story surfaced this week about influencer Elle Darby, who was publicly roasted by the owner of an Irish hotel for her request to stay there for free, in exchange for social posting. You can read the whole piece here.
This has generated a lot of conversation from both sides - from people who want to vilify her for having a sense of entitlement to those who want to tell him to back off and ease up on his very public (and frank) critique.
Here’s the thing.
Influencer marketing is real, and it works. If you think about it, we are all influencers to a certain degree. When you use your voice to share and disclose how you feel about something, and you have an audience who takes what you say seriously, you are influencing the way they think about that something.
So, when you have a public platform from which you use that voice, and you use that platform to reach a very captive audience that trusts you, AND that audience has the buying power to align with their vested interest in what you have to say, suddenly your voice can become a very powerful agent of suggestion.
Essentially influencer marketing is the ultimate word of mouth campaign, and more and more brands are not only realizing the power held within that style of advertising campaign, but are increasingly reserving segments of their yearly ad spend to devote solely to influencer marketing networks.
Some influencers get a bad rap for just trying to finagle free stuff everywhere they go - and some of them DO do that. But many, many other influencers have their own brand story they are telling, with their own mission in mind to use their voice for good, to translate their own experiences in life, and share them with their online communities. And for brands - regardless of size - this audience is often one they ordinarily would not have access too, which opens up a whole new market for them.
As with ANY profession, some people are great at being an influencer, and some are less so. That’s just the truth; anyone who’s ever had a bad haircut will tell you that not all stylists are created equal, and that’s just one example. And, just like any profession, there is a demand for professionalism and strategy involved in every aspect of the work… particularly when you are an entrepreneur, and even more so when your name is your brand.
This is a conversation that I, straddling the line between influencer and brand, am excited to have out in the open. I think it’s crucial to realize that we are living in a brand new age of communication, and what worked yesterday won’t necessarily work tomorrow.
At the end of the day, the purpose is to use a strong voice to educate and empower people, and although the means of the message may change, the purpose remains the same.