Social media influencer industry sees huge growth

Global Business

Online advertising is rocketing, specifically on social media platforms. As fewer eyes see traditional television and print ads, younger demographics are looking at the likes of Instagram, Facebook and Youtube. That’s led to an explosion in what’s known as the ‘influencer industry.’

CGTN’s Phil Lavelle reports.

Influencers are social media users who take paid endorsements from brands to showcase their products.

People like Diana Marks – her 486,000 followers regularly see what products she’s working with. But she insists that influencers need to work with brands that fit their personality, to keep it authentic.

“It has to be aligned with my brand as well,” she tells CGTN. “So my branding is all about millennial lifestyle, luxury, travel, fashion… and so if the brand is aligned with my style, my branding online, that’s when I will give a green light to a campaign. And then if something is completely off my branding, for example, marijuana or cigarettes, then I definitely will not endorse this brand,” she said.

Marks has been in the industry since the early days, and has seen it grow and evolve.

“When I was starting out, it was a big gamble because we didn’t know what we were doing back then… we were pioneers of the blogging industry back then, but it’s surprising how much the industry has grown, and now it’s a fully regulated industry,” she said.

“There’s contracts, there’s managers, there’s career paths that people follow, and there’s a lot of people that actually pursue it as a career from the beginning, So yeah, I’m very proud that it’s become an industry, and it’s booming and that’s great.”

According to media branding agency, MediaKix, the money being spent on influencers has shot up in recent years and is going to continue upwards. Back in 2015, the industry was worth about $500 million. By 2020, it’s expected to be worth between $5 billion and $10 billion.

A study by Tomoson found that a brand tends to make an average of $6.50 for every $1 it spends on an influencer marketing campaign.

“It’s not that expensive generally, to work with influencers compared to traditional marketing”, said Kim Rose. She’s an artist and an influencer who could be described as a ‘Micro Influencer’ – they’re the influencers with smaller online presences (hers sits at around 50,000 followers) compared to the ‘Macro Influencers’ who tend to have follower numbers in the millions.

Rose believes it gives her an edge.

“You’re smaller, but you’re more connected to your audience and so no, you don’t have to be one of those big celebs with millions of followers, you can be a smaller down to earth person and still have an audience that really appreciates what you do and your voices,” she said.

Arguably the world’s most successful influencer is a boy called Ryan, and he’s only eight years old.

He plays with toys on YouTube, and last year, he made $22 million. Seventeen million followers love his work with toy companies falling over themselves to get their products in his hands and on his channel.

But there is a danger with becoming too big, says branding expert, Jason Pires from L.A.’s MVC agency:

“If you become too big, you may start to cater your content too much towards the brand, less so towards your audience and you lose your authenticity,” he said.

And Marks points out that anybody who wants to be an influencer has to remember one golden rule: Stay positive.

“People don’t like to associate with negative stuff, especially on Instagram – it’s such a positive world,” Marks said.

“And overall, it’s a creative platform, so people go there for inspiration, to see where they wanna go next, what do they want to wear, and the type of lifestyle that they desire, so technically yes – a lot of the industry is positively driven… you wanna showcase the best aspects of your life – and that’s how it attracts more and more attention.“

Kyle Wong of Pixlee on the growing social media influencer industry

CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke with Kyle Wong, founder and chief executive of Pixlee, about the growing influencer industry and its outlook.