June 13, 2023
Social media has become an almost necessary part of our lives, shaping how we interact, consume information, and make purchasing decisions. Influencers have emerged as key players, wielding powerful influence with their followers. While the world of influencers has changed since the early days, these online personalities still shape consumer behavior, as well as impact audience engagement and brand perception.
The Rise of Social Media Influencers
The early days of social media influencers allowed for a natural progression of bloggers to migrate to image-focused platforms like Tumblr and Instagram. As high fashion and beauty spaces became more accessible to the average consumer in the 2010s, the audiences slowly began to move away from models and toward more ‘relatable’ influencers, who usually looked more like them.
As a result of the rising influence of social media-based marketing, fashion images featuring traditional models are falling flat with consumers. Influencers can be credited with being part of the shift in consumer perception of marketing messaging and what kind of images they want to see.
Part of the evolution of influencers is how audiences perceive the authenticity of their messaging. Without trust, a genuine connection with an influencer’s following is impossible. The most successful influencers– the ones with the most covetable brand partnerships and the most engaged followers are the ones who regularly produce relatable content.
Driving Audience Engagement
As mentioned above, the most successful influencers are skilled at producing engaging content that connects with their followers. In order to capture an audience and maintain the connection, an influencer also needs to have a unique point of view. Luxury labels are everywhere– but an influencer whose perspective on high fashion is shaped by her experiences as a short woman, or as a disabled woman, has a better chance to captivate her followers and foster meaningful interactions with them.
The next level of boosting audience engagement is the influencer-brand collaboration. Through sponsored posts, product endorsements, or other types of partnerships, these collaborations can amplify exposure for brands. They can also reach new audiences and drive audience engagement even further, and in many cases, convert engagement into sales.
Influencers as Brand Ambassadors
Audiences craft their perception of a brand in part by taking note of what, and who is associated with that brand. If an influencer is perceived to be authentic and trustworthy, recommendations and testimonials from them can influence audience opinion and their purchase decisions.
Brands that fully embrace partnerships with influencers have seen success in targeted strategies to reach niche audiences that are often hard to reach which traditional marketing strategies. Brands can leverage their relationships with influencers within specific industries and segments of a market to enhance their relevance and credibility.
The Challenges and Ethical Considerations of Influencer Marketing
While connections between brands and popular influencers might seem like the marketing golden ticket, there is danger in losing sight of the need for authenticity in the messaging. Audiences have become savvy about recognizing excessive commercialization.
Consumers will quickly turn their back on an influencer who is perceived to have lost their own narrative in an Instagram grid full of promotional posts. Influencers who have learned how to strike the balance between maintaining authenticity and their brand partnerships are the ones who will retain the loyalty of their followers and accomplish the goal of turning likes into sales.
Another important challenge for influencers is transparency and disclosure. Audiences are accustomed to sponsored posts in their feeds at this point, and they expect those posts to be fully marked as a sponsored post and any gifted items in the post to be acknowledged as a gift from a brand. Disclosure practices are an important part of establishing audience trust as is the responsibility of influencers and the brands that they represent.
Influencers have emerged as important partners who can shape audience engagement and brand perception in powerful ways. While the most successful influencers have mastered the type of storytelling that often converts likes into sales, brands need to know exactly what resonates with their audiences.
Working with an experienced market research agency like Eyes4Research helps brands create an effective and successful influencer marketing strategy by gathering insights from audiences who are actively engaged on social media. The right data will help companies find the influencer whose storytelling will best amplify the story of their own brand and drive sales.
Read more about social media and marketing on the Eyes4Research blog. Eyes4Research also has everything you need to collect high-quality insights from consumers who are active on social media platforms. Our panels are comprised of B2B, B2C, and specialty audiences ready to participate in your next research project. Learn more about our specialty panels here.