5 Things You Need to Know About Influencers

We are under attack! I repeat, we are under attack! Everywhere we go, our screens are with us, and they know it. No, I’m not talking about germs, bugs, or zombies. I am talking about influencers.

Business Dictionary defines influencers as “individuals who have the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their (real or perceived) authority, knowledge, position, or relationship [to their audience].” Note the importance of "real or perceived authority" and the importance of relationships.

Let me make one thing clear: I do not hate influencers. In fact, I am a fan of many of them. Don’t get me wrong, many influencers do create content for the love of helping others with common interests and to truly connect with their audience. I do, however, think that most people trust them too easily and are not fully aware of the ways companies can and do use them to prey on society’s addiction to screens, modern enjoyment of social isolation, and obsession with aesthetic to make money off of us.

Here are the top five things you need to know about influencers before buying the products they endorse.

  1. 1. They get paid to support products.

    Whenever you see a video, post, or any piece of content that is “sponsored” by a company or brand, that means the individual was paid to speak about the product positively. Just like a commercial or magazine advertisement. Today, sponsored posts are the equivalent of magazine or television ads, only they are disguised better to make you think someone you trust is genuinely in love with a product. Millennials are increasingly skeptical of traditional advertisements, and influencer advertisements are a way around this skepticism.

    Even if they are not directly paid, many influencers get products sent to them for free to try out and share their thoughts with their audiences, regardless of whether their opinion is negative or positive. This enables many companies to get advertising across to a large audience completely free of charge. That not only exploits us as viewers, but also the influencers themselves.

  2. 2. Getting you to like them is what makes them, uh, influencers.

    Image via Giphy

    The number one thing that differentiates influencers from stereotypical celebrities is that, most of the time, we view them as “just like us.” It is this perceived authenticity that makes it easy for them to market to us in a way that we don’t even notice.

    As mentioned earlier, their power partly lies in their unique relationship with their audience. The trust and admiration we place into the hands of influencers makes them much more trusted and credible in the eyes of regular people than traditional mega-celebrities like Britney Spears or Leonardo Dicaprio.

     

  3. 3. They are the new age of celebrities.

    Although influencers may start either on a small YouTube channel or Instagram account with humble roots, what many of them have grown to become is equivalent to that of a famous musician, actor, or supermodel would be considered some twenty years ago. What makes them different is the closeness and relatability we feel towards them, and they use this characteristic to their advantage. How many times have you heard a YouTuber tell their followers, “You guys are my best friends?”

    I am not saying they are lying to you, but remember, this is how they gain more followers, popularity, and, consequently, income.

     

  4. 4. Social media can be full of illusions.

    While we might believe influencers lead our dream lives (all thanks to that skin cream they told us to buy, right?), social media showcases the best case scenarios. That means we see them at their most flattering angles, most exciting vacations, and, in videos, after copious amounts of strategic editing.

    Our society’s obsession with glamour, youth, beauty, and wealth makes us naturally drawn to people whose lives seemingly embody these characteristics. We follow their advice and recommendations in hopes that we can be like them. This is an illusion. They are just people after all, and they only let us see what they want us to see.

     

  5. 5. Some of them make a lot of money.

    Image via Giphy

    In a recent interview with CBS, Kris Jenner revealed that Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, who have the largest social media following out of all the famous sisters, make six figures for every post they publish for a brand on their social media. Prices vary depending on the product, too. For any pharmaceutical product that is ingested or put on the body, their endorsement price rises.

    YouTube beauty guru giant Jaclyn Hill discussed influencer advertisements in a video titled “Let’s Talk…” where she revealed that many YouTubers in the beauty community with large followings charge as much as $50,000 to $100,000 to speak positively about a product.

I am not asking you to go on Instagram and unfollow all your favorite YouTubers and Instagram models. What I am trying to say is to remember that access to a large audience equals large amounts of money paid in exchange for their eyes and attention. Influencers are simply the new advertisers in a culture where primetime television has been swapped for media outlets such as YouTube and Instagram.

Remember, you do not need to be influenced by anyone. Be your own role model. Take your own "perfect" Instagram snapshot. Wear that piece of clothing you are unsure about and watch your friends ask you where you got it. Influence yourself! Lead the life you dream about instead of watching someone else do it through a screen.

Image via Giphy