5 Min Read |

In the ever changing landscape of social media marketing, it’s increasingly clear that not all influencers are made equal. The term itself is broad; anyone who promotes products or ideas on behalf of a brand is an ‘influencer’, as is anyone who has a large following and is perceived to have sway over that following.

The power to influence the thoughts and purchasing decisions of consumers is a valuable commodity right now. But brands and marketing agencies are becoming more interested in those who have genuine influence — the social media figures who have something important to say, rather than those who can simply boost sales.

Social media feeds are now packed with sponsored posts and ads. Social media users can spot them a mile off; posts that could once have promoted a product or brand quite subtly are now glaringly obvious to an advertising-savvy audience, and not only because etiquette now demands that influencer ads are explicitly labelled (or hashtagged) as such. Consumers are more cautious, and more ready to call out influencers on sales pitches that don’t fit with their broader message.

Stats published by Business Insider Intelligence predict that global ad spend on social media influencers could reach up to $10 billion by 2022. To make that spending worthwhile, it’s vital that brands stay ahead of changes in the way that consumers use and view social media. With each sponsored post or influencer ad, a brand enters into a broader conversation. If that brand doesn’t understand the conversation it’s taking part in, it risks alienating its switched on and highly discerning audience.

Brands Need Versatile, Interesting, Authentic Influencers

Just a year or two ago, the influencer market was simpler than it is today. Brands wanted the influencers with the biggest followings. A big audience meant big sales. Now, however, the market has changed; consumers are more aware than ever that those big name influencers are constantly trying to sell them something, and more likely to question whether they really want that thing they’re being told they should want.

This means that straight up big-numbers influencer marketing is less stable for both brands and for the influencers themselves. So a new type of influencer is growing in strength; the influencers who have other projects or day jobs that they can use to strengthen their message and expand their reach.

These influencers don’t have to rely to heavily on the income they earn through social media because they have other skills, and other jobs. And they provide additional value to the brands they collaborate with — because they know what they’re talking about, and their audience values their expertise.

For example, Samantha Chapman used her background as a professional makeup artist for the MAC Pro team — working with big names from Paul McCartney to Myleene Klass — to launch three successful YouTube channels with her sister, Nicola Haste. Offering makeup tutorials with Chapman’s credentials, their channels are highly sought after by brands who recognize the value of expertise and consumer trust.

Brands are no longer so interested in influencers who simply advertise products for a living. Instead, they want insider knowledge and industry insight from makeup artists, stylists, and other professionals. Why? Because credibility sells.

Collaboration Over Transaction

The highest earning beauty influencer is Huda Kattan, known for her cosmetics company Huda Beauty. At time of writing, the Huda Beauty Instagram account has 38.8 million followers, and Kattan’s personal account has 1.4 million. Across these two accounts Kattan promotes other influencers (always using Huda Beauty products), and creates posts for high end brands including Dior and Chanel.

Kattan’s power is in her collaborative approach to influencer marketing. Instead of focusing on a transaction model, in which brands pay per post, she embraces the potential of creative collaboration and long-term relationships. She cultivates partnerships with the brands and other influencers she works with, encouraging creativity and mutual support, and generating a different dynamic. Instead of salespeople, influencers can become ambassadors and thought leaders.

Other, smaller name influencers are following Kattan’s lead and moving away from the transaction model. Instead of posting the ads they’re paid to post, influencers are collaborating with brands; working as consultants, curators, editors, and storytellers.

Conscious Conversations — ‘Woke’ Politics In Influencer Marketing

Millennial and Gen Z beauty consumers are more interested than any of their predecessors in buying into brands that fit with their political perspectives. They want products that reflect their views — from cruelty-free to fair-trade, and perhaps most importantly, eco-friendly and natural.

So the beauty market no longer looks to shiny magazines — or shiny influencers — for inspiration. Increasingly, consumers look to people they respect politically to discover products that appeal to them. For beauty brands, this means that influencers who are already have a voice in current political conversations can help them connect with consumers.

Fenty Beauty, a makeup brand created by Rihanna, is capitalizing on socio-political activism through inclusive products. The brand embraces diversity in its product development, with a range of 40 foundation tones for different skin colors. Rihanna’s influence, along with the brand’s timely message that all people are worthy of beauty products that work for them, is a perfect example of the lucrative intersection between influencer, expertise, and politics.

People are using their spending power to support their politics; putting their money into brands and products that reflect their beliefs about the world. Research by Deloitte says that 75% of millennials worldwide believe that companies can (and should) make a positive impact on key issues. Influencers who speak on diversity and inclusivity; on the environment; on veganism; and on social justice, are powerful partners for modern brands.

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