First it is important to introduce this topic by defining the function of social media. Here is a quote by accomplished authors, Safko and Brake, “The term social media encompasses all of the interactions between people online all the ways they participate in and share information, knowledge, and opinions while using web-based applications to communicate”. (2009). Using social media, a special type of person has emerged with a unique talent that can attract the attention of wealthy business owners.
The second term worth defining is marketing. Paloranta (2008, 21) stated “marketing is knowledge, which is provided to consumers from marketers’ products and services. The basic meaning of marketing is to further the demand of products and service.” An alternative definition of marketing was proposed authors Kotler, Armstrong, Wong and Saunders. They explained it as “A social process, through which persons and groups satisfy their needs and wants by exchanging products and creating value with others.” (2008, 7)
Social media offers a virtual place where a brand owner can have their story told and build a positive impression among viewers (Vaynerchuck, 2013,3). There are some rules for success (also called best practices). The business owner needs to respond to comments so people will believe their needs are being recognized. In addition, there needs to be consistent engagement in discussions pertaining to the products or industry in general. This means showing accountability for errors, answering to accusations, offering refunds, discounts, promotions, surveys, apologies and whatever else is needed. All these efforts will undoubtedly bring the consumer closer to the brand, build relationships and foster on-going communication. All this work takes time. As a result, the lucrative position for an SMI was born.
A social media influencer (SMI) has a simple definition, yet an incredibly lucrative job. They are paid to make sure that targeted audiences are aware services, products and brands of marketers. The marketers can be individuals operating businesses online, small local businesses, or large companies. Social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and others are wildly popular mediums for both paid and free advertising. In fact, the greatest feature of this platform is that it levels the playing field for the small (or new) marketers who must compete with big-name brands. Therefore, social media represents a beneficial alternative to other types of marketing with search engines, bill boards, and newspaper ads.
There countless ways that SMIs engage people and help them bond with their clients (since the SMI’s client is the product or service owner needing promotions). In this way, the SMI is also called an endorser, or third-party brand promotor. (Karen Freberga,, Kristin Grahamb,1, Karen McGaugheyc,2, Laura A. Frebergc,3) Using various techniques, they will make a major impact on the public’s view of a business by constructing valuable content. This content is carefully crafted for Twitter, Tumblr, press releases, Pinterest images, and posts published on various networks. Posted articles are also featured on blogs and websites. These are just a few of the strategically implemented tools available to SMIs. All these tools have evolved and continue to change with the birth of social media. (Blackshaw & Nazzaro, p. 2).
People who are “influencers” already have a huge following online from their own efforts. They have a way of developing and growing a fan-base that they can point in the direction of their client’s brand. Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram specifically are known for hosting accounts of people who become very popular and can serve as great resources for advertisers. Advertisers know that they can use these SMIs to reach buyers and drive sales. Celebrities are examples of influencers and are compensated with huge sums of money. In exchange for large monetary rewards, influencers promote brands in the fashion industry, health and wellness, hair care and various other niche markets.
SMI’s are not required to be celebrities, but they might not be paid as much as big-name stars. For instance, there could be a woman who started a blog to cope with her journey through cancer treatments. If her blog became popular and she grew a fan base of 12,000 followers in social networks, she could monetize that audience. She has several hundred-thousand views on YouTube wherein she talked about the chemotherapy treatments, her depression, her prayers and endurance. Then she tells all her followers that she is participating in Susan G. Komen’s 5K marathon and they can meet her in person at the event. Her local followers would be highly likely to attend the event and buy t-shirts and other apparel. The Susan G. Komen foundation might reward her with a hefty check for using her influence to help raise money for cancer research. Whether operating as an SMI on a small scale, in a professional job or as a famous athlete drinking Sprite, they have unlimited potential for helping businesses skyrocket their profits.
Successful SMI must keep a few things in mind while working in this field. They are responsible for creating and nurturing relationships with a targeted audience. This relationship serves as a vector that ushers the consumers into a loving relationship with a business’s brand. The mode of reaching people is equally important as maintaining the bond. It is crucial because more than 80% of people will seek and review the experiences of previous buyers before making decisions. They consider both good and bad reviews to be quite influential. One of the biggest segments of the population are people in their 30’s to 50’s (often referred to as Millennials). More so than people younger and older than they are, Millennials sharply focus on the story behind a brand, while considering the experiences of others with that brand. An influencer must get into the mindset of the consumer while keeping in mind the quantitative and qualitative goals of the brands they represent.
After establishing the fact that influencers have a major impact on the buying decisions of people on social media, answering a few questions became the objective of fascinating research. The first question asks what it’s like for an influencer to build a large crowd of followers. Secondly, it would be nice to know how money is earned and delivered when working as an SMI. Over all, it would be nice to uncover the real life day-to-day routine for SMIs.
Friedman and Friedman published research in 2013 that showed the various links between social media and communication in the online learning space. It can be multi-directional, networked or collaborative. It can also create a viral effect whereby discussions and content touch people and everyone with whom they are connected. Interactions on the webs began with people using cell phones to text and share images. The social media giants have since then, continued to frame the lives of members. Millions of people both young and old are addicted to the interactivity that spawns social communities and like-minded groups. Pattison (2012) stated that the online social learning environment offers people access to not only text, but also audio, videos, pictures and combinations of entertaining content.
Ever since the early days of television and film, celebrities have been featured in ads. Billions of dollars have been made by advertising firms and the companies behind the big brands. However, as explained by Crowdtap (2014), people are become repelled by traditional media messages in print and radio ads. This is because they do not have the same level of trust that was there years ago. Instead, consumers are placing their trust in content generated by the product users. This is the focal point for influencers. As an example, Twitter makes it so easy to share feelings with celebrities. It is likely the reason why certain televisions shows may have been cancelled, or additional seasons have been added to the television network roster. The consumer demand is strong and made known on the web. SMIs know how to use that kind of consumer energy and unify people.
To highlight just one of many social networks, consider Instagram. In 2015 Instagram published a defining statement. The network representatives described Instagram as a modern-day home for everyone to engage in telling life stories, sharing digitally enhanced pictures, videos, music and more. As a haven for creativity, no one is excluded from the fun (as long as all terms of service and rules are followed). Advertisers we able to begin using Instagram to promote their products and services in September of 2015. (Valtari, 2015). Even without paid advertising, many companies have strong campaigns running with the use of influential marketers and their content. Fortunately for now, Instagram is less saturated with visitors than Facebook. This means that a company’s messaging will get noticed and make a lasting impression faster because Instagram users are not as overwhelmed with ads.
To conclude, there are a few key points to remember for anyone who wants to earn a living as a SMI. People will view the lifestyle and behavior of the SMI as well as the reputation of the brands they are promoting. This is good because the product or service recommendations of the SMI will come across as a normal part of the consumer’s day rather than a pushy ad. The posts, videos and commentary will be viewed as chatter from one friendly consumer to another. It will lend tremendous credibility to the brand and make a buyer feel good about their purchase decision, or television and movie selections. The second key point was mentioned previously. To reiterate, Kassoway (2015) stated that social influence is a long-term endeavour. Rather than viewing it as an over-night operation, it must be appreciated as something that must be nurtured as it grows over time. It is the long-lasting relationships between the public and the SMIs that ensures success for businesses in today’s world of social media. In summary, building a large crowd and become popular requires focus and a love for connecting with people. It also means taking on the responsibility of keep up with consumers who have come to expect more and more engagement. In exchange for this effort, companies are willing to pay thousands of dollars per month, or annually as long as they can trace a rise in revenue to the work of the SMI. On a weekly basis, the work of an SMI could range from part-time to full-time depending on their client’s needs. If it is fun for the SMI to post, chat, tweet, blog and promote for the advertiser, then it probably does not feel like work at all.
- Interview by, G. B. 2012. Create a buzz around your business through influence marketing: Interview with mark W. schaefer, author of return on influence. Strategic Direction, 28(9), 33-36. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/02580541211256549
- Kassoway, A. & Anthony, E. 2014. Social Influence, Marketing’s new frontier. Accessed on 17 November 2015. Retrieved from http://corp.crowdtap.com/socialinfluence.php?submitted=1
- Freberg, K., et al. Who are the social media influencers? A study of public perceptions of personality. Public Relations Review (2010), doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2010.11.001
- Basille, D. (2009). Social media influencers are not traditional influencers. Retrieved July 30, 2010, from http://www.briansolis.com/2009/11/social-mediainfluencers-are-not-traditional-influencers/.
- Malhotra, N. 2013. Basic marketing research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
- Shaltry, C., Henriksen, D., Wu, M. L., & Dickson, W. P. (2013). Situated learning with online portfolios, classroom websites and Facebook. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 57(3), 20–25. doi:10.1007/s11528-013-0658-9.