Liv Griffiths – Content Executive
Last month, when the Love Island 2019 season drew to a close, news outlets like Cosmopolitan spilt the beans on just how much the contestants are set to make post-show. Most of it’s based on social media following, with many previous contestants never returning to their old jobs, and instead, using their reality-TV success to become full-time ‘Social Media Influencers’.
Apart from splitting the £50k cash prize, this year’s winners Amber Gill and Greg O’Shea left the villa (hand-in-hand) with 1,600,000 and 625,000 Instagram followers, respectively. As of writing, Greg’s has grown to an impressive 1,600,000.
But it’s not just ‘The Islanders’ with millions of social media users behind them. Cristiano Ronaldo has 180 million, Kim K has over 145 million, and Professional Influencer and YouTuber, Zoe Sugg is followed by 9.7 million.
As marketers, we all know that where followers go, those #ad and #spon captions follow. And after that? The dollar dollar bills, y’all!
In return for big bucks, social media stars are being asked to endorse and advertise products, experiences, and brands all over the world. But, does it actually work? In a world where social media following is almost a currency, I decided to look into whether social media influencers are worth the investment.
Where it begins
Getting an influencer on board with your brand or marketing campaign can come in one of many shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a blog contribution, sponsored Instagram post, collaboration, or endorsement, the first step is choosing your influencer. (I’ll touch on this again later, btw.)
You can contact the influencer directly, or sign up to websites that pair you up with your perfect influencer match.
Generally, the bigger the influencer (i.e. the more followers they have), the bigger the budget. The budget is always agreed before any content is created, and usually, so is what you’re going to get for your money.
There’s no average amount that you should expect to be paying an influencer, as prices can vary depending on so many factors. Audience size is considered, but so are engagement rates, the quality and amount of exposure you’re getting, and the amount of work the influencer is doing for you.
However, to give you an idea of how much it can cost, Kylie Jenner allegedly makes $1.2million (£960,000 ?) per post. Generally speaking, though, the figure is much less. *wipes away sweat*
And what do the results look like?
Again, results can differ hugely and depend on loads of different factors. As with most things, the more you put into it, the more you get out – and I’m not talking about just money.
While a big budget certainly means a wider reach, the quality and relevance of the content being produced are potentially the most important aspects of influencer marketing. In my opinion, that’s where your results will come from.
If you’ve chosen an influencer with an engaged audience that’s genuinely interested in your brand/product/service, you’re pretty much guaranteed a return on your investment.
Choosing the right influencer
As I’ve previously mentioned, one of the most important parts of the process is choosing the right person for the job. It depends on what product or service you’re offering, your brand values, and the overall goal of your influencer campaign.
You could spend hundreds of pounds on an influencer campaign for leather jackets, but if it’s being advertised to an eco-conscious, vegan audience, you’re not going to get very far. Considering the niche of your influencer is important, but you also need to think about their size.
While an influencer with a follower count in the millions is certainly going to help you achieve huge reach, a micro-influencer can be just as valuable.
A micro-influencer is someone with a smaller following (by small, I’m talking somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000) with high engagement rates on their posts. Generally, they’ll be posting pretty niche content (think Sandhya Hariharan, who creates plant-based Indian recipes) and receiving good engagement rates on those posts.
If brand awareness is your goal, it’d be better to link up with a large influencer on a clever campaign but if you’re looking for engagement and direct purchases (or the equivalent for your brand), go for a micro-influencer.
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Faking it! How influencers are deceiving brands
When looking for your perfect influencer, it’s easy to be fooled by fake engagement rates and follower counts. While this is something the industry is trying to crack down on, it certainly still happens.
With a few online clicks and your credit card details, it’s pretty easy to gain 1000 new Instagram followers, receive a shed-load of comments, or hike up the likes on your latest selfie. Influencers are also now taking part in something called ‘Instagram podding’. This is when an influencer joins a group chat with other influencers, and posts every one of their new uploads into the group. The group members will then engage with every other member’s posts to boost each other’s engagement rates. I have a slight suspicion this is something Love Islanders do.
There are tools you can use to decipher how ‘real’ an influencer’s following and engagement rates are, but with Facebook continuously restricting API access for third-party apps (Facebook owns Instagram if you didn’t know), there’s no way of us knowing exactly how reliable this data really is.
The best way to decipher whether an influencer’s follower count and engagement rates are genuine is to manually assess their profile. Is their engagement consistent? Who are their comments coming from? Could they be participating in ‘podding’? To be certain, you’ll probably need to keep an eye on their profile for a while, too.
Influencer marketing in the future
As transparency becomes a more sought-after brand value (especially for us millennials), influencer marketing is likely to follow the same pattern. Consumers are getting bored of false situations being marketed as real-life (remember this Instagram post?), and are demanding brands and influencers to be relatable, honest, and accountable.
I think we’ll see a trend in the next few years of more and more micro-influencers teaming up with brands on long, niche campaigns, especially because of the Instagram like count ban. The focus will move away from vanity metrics such as likes and followers, and focus more on developed relationships and influencers that truly believe in a brand’s message.