In an age where social media is the most popular commercial media channel for 16-34s, brands are faced with the question of how best to utilise this virtual shop window. Working with content creators themselves and ‘Insta celebs’ seems the obvious solution; however online influencing takes many shapes and sizes and will become even more difficult to navigate as Instagram introduces hidden likes. With the disappearance of familiar visible metrics, there may be an uncertainty over the tangible reach and engagement that individual influencers can offer.

Lia Haberman, formerly VP Audience Development at Livestrong, predicts “this will likely increase the amount of ads as brands look for more exposure and make it difficult for anyone but established influencers to get a foot-hold.” Brands that have worked with Mrs Hinch, the UK’s biggest ‘cleanfluencer’ with over 2.5 million followers, attribute significant results to this macro influencer; Unilever claims that the sales of Cif Stainless Steel have grown by two thirds following Mrs Hinch’s backing.

Some influencers have such large followings that they don’t need to associate themselves with other brands, but instead can sell their own products to a ready-made audience. As a result of the online following she has built, influencer Grace Beverley, has been able to extend her own personal brand out into not one, but two companies (TALA sustainable activewear and B_ND vegan gym equipment).

From seeing these results, it comes as no surprise that consumers are more open to being sold products by their favourite personalities. Our quarterly proprietary tracker, the QT, revealed that 62% of 18-24s prefer product placement over traditional ads, with 24% even enjoying social influencers’ recommendations. Although it seems there is a mediator: authenticity. The absence of which prevents transfer of trust for influencer to brand. Perhaps this is where the micro influencer (someone with a 10k to 100k following) shines – working on partnerships with brands who can benefit from this intimacy that accompanies a loyal following of friends and family. The likes of Glossier have grown their brands in this way.

For influencers, it is important to pick partners with which they genuinely identify, to keep their relationship with followers authentic. For brands, it is a question of which growth strategy is best for them: mass exposure from association with a big name or loyal customers from an influencer with a smaller, yet potentially more engaged, audience.

(1) https://ipa.co.uk/media/7936/touchpoints_facebookreport_2018-digital.pdf

(2) https://later.com/blog/hidden-likes-instagram/

(3) The rise of micro-influencers and why they are important, WARC February 2019

(4) https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/trend-reports/mrs-hinch-how-cleanfluencers-are-transforming-household-/592609.article

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