There has been confusion about what makes an influencer. To many people, the word ‘influencer’ conjures up images of powerhouse celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber or Kylie Jenner. However, it is becoming increasingly clear to society that solely being a celebrity doesn’t make you an influencer.
In recent times, we have been bombarded with stories from the press claiming that ‘influencers’ such as these, have wildly ridiculous lists of demands and just being total divas. In 2018, news broke that hiring Mariah Carey comes with some pretty outrageous demands; she refuses to speak for 24hrs before her performances, she must have a trailer filled with white roses and lamb teddies and she must have 20 humidifiers surrounding her whilst she sleeps, to name a few. Many agencies rush to personalities like these in hopes of capitalising on their addictive personalities and wide reach, however many of whom have no particular skills.
It is only beginning to dawn on people that the first requirement for being an influencer is being capable of influencing the decisions of others. You have to be a specialist in some niche to be an influencer – just being famous or having lots of followers isn’t enough. The difference between influencer marketing and celebrity endorsement is actually pretty stark, and learning the distinction between the two is key when creating an influencer marketing strategy.
Looking at surface-level definitions “celebrity endorsement” and “influencer marketing,” you can see why the strategies seem to overlap. Celebrity endorsement attaches the fame of a celebrity to a brand or product. With this strategy, you are getting people who are idolized to associate themselves with your product so people want to buy it. Influencer marketing creates word-of-mouth advertising using people that are trusted in certain circles. With this strategy, influential people are building up your image in the minds of their followers. Both strategies use well-known people to influence your target market. But the way they are executed and how they influence their target market is very different.
“With celebrity endorsement, the celebrity lends their fame to a brand or product,” British influencer marketing consultant Scott Guthrie said. “The celebrity often has no affinity or expertise with the product. Communication is one way. It’s the old broadcast model of communications.” On the other hand, influencer marketing is not always a popularity contest.
“With globalisation, digitalisation and the advent of a truly connected culture, influencers have a newer model available – one with smaller reach levels but far greater influence levels,” Clare Gore, head of affiliates at the UK website Vouchercloud, said. “An audience of 2,000 where 50% are directly interested is far better than an audience of 2 million where 0.005% are interested. It’s targeted, it’s cost-effective and it’s efficient.”
Celebrities can win their fame for several different reasons, through talent, scandal, inheritance, the list goes on. Influencers, however, are self-selected, since we as a society choose to follow them and choose to adorn them with popularity and status. We perceive them as inspirational, and we often aspire to be more like them in our daily lives. Based on this, their endorsements of products/services are often infinitely more effective as they mean more to us, we appreciate and trust their opinion more.
The rise and fall of using celebrities in social media campaigns are palpable, and their effects are becoming tentative. Influencers, however, have the burgeoning power to inspire, encourage and affect purchasing decisions.
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