A social media influencer is someone who is well known on social media and uses their social media accounts to engage with, and potentially influence, their large number of followers.
Following social media influencers can be fun, and it’s interesting to get an insight into someone else’s life. However, it’s important to be aware that social media influencers can be approached by companies to help market a particular product or service that fits in the lifestyle portrayed by the social media influencer.
The secrets of social media influencers
The information that celebrities or influencers share about their lives on social media can make it seem like you are genuinely part of their lives – making the experience of following them feel very authentic.
Social media influencers are marketers. Instead of marketing a product, they market their lifestyle and appearance to build up a following and build trust with their followers. What you see online is not necessarily what their life is like in reality.
Getting the perfect shot
Social media posts can seem like genuine snapshots of people’s lives. However, they are often a lot more planned and staged than they look. A lot of influencers employ professional photographers to take their pictures. Even photos that look like they were caught off guard are often set up.
Most of these photos will also be edited before they go online. Some of the things influencers might do are:
- Whiten their teeth
- Remove spots or change skin tone
- Change the shape of their faces
- Make body parts look bigger or smaller
Photo editing software is becoming very advanced. It can be difficult to see if a photo has been edited or not.
Of course, not all influencers are like this. Some are genuine and want to use their platform to connect with their followers – but it can be difficult to tell the difference sometimes.
Always looking perfect
Because social media gives us such a personal insight into the lives of influencers, it can be hard not to compare ourselves to them. This can make us feel that the way we look or the things we do are not good enough.
Remember that this is their job and they spend lots of time working at it. Even in what appear to be casual pictures or posts, they may have professionals helping them to get the ‘perfect’ shot to fit with the lifestyle that they portray as part of their online profile.
Learn about body image.
Product or service reviews
Influencers often review products and services on their page. The type of review they do can be important in deciding how trustworthy it is.
For example, is this something they spent their own money on? Will they make money if you buy the product as a result of their review? Did they get it for free or are they hoping to get freebies in future? Have they been paid to review the product or service?
It’s not easy to tell straight away what motivations a person has for sharing a review. Make sure to consider these things before trusting something.
Find out more about the difference between a regular post and an ad.
The popularity of people is often measured by the number of followers that they have and people with more followers can be perceived as being more trustworthy.
However, the number of followers that someone has can be artificially increased because there are sites where people can buy social media followers and likes.
You can see for yourself if someone’s followers/likes are real:
- Look at the list of people who liked a post or who follows them
- Go onto their profile and see if they have posted anything, or if they only post very generic posts
If someone has a lot of followers but very little interaction with their posts, this might indicate that not all of their followers are genuine. It’s also a good idea to look at what kinds of accounts are leaving likes and comments on their posts too, because these could be coming from bots that have been paid for.
Some social media influencers behave in certain ways to try to entertain followers and keep them engaged and to convince marketers to work with them. Although they might seem genuine, they are often trying to please as many people as possible to keep their career going.
This could lead to a situation where they want to avoid conflict by not properly monitoring the comments on their posts, or allow people to be bullied or spread nasty messages on their page. Influencers who do not stand up to bullying or prejudice on their page are missing an opportunity to use their platform to make a positive impact, rather than simply making money.
Things to be aware of when it comes to influencers
Here are some things to think about when you come across a post by an influencer online.
The rules for influencer advertising
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland has regulations around any social media posts that count as ‘marketing communication’. A post counts as marketing communication if:
- The influencer is sponsored by the brand in their post
- They were paid to post something
- They were given a free product or service on the condition that they post on social media about it
The influencer must make it clear that the post is marketing and not an independent review. It must be clear from the start, without the reader having to interact with the post. A lot of influencers accompany this with hashtags such as #sp (sponsored post) or #ad.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the USA have similar regulations.
It’s important for influencers to follow these regulations and to make it as clear as possible that they are advertising a product. Find out more about how to tell a social media post is an ad.
Some influencers might encourage you to spend, spend, spend. They always have new products and make it look like the norm to consume as much as they do. You might find yourself buying things you don’t really want or can’t really afford and the cost of excessively buying new things that you don’t need is greater than you might think.
Before buying something new, think about if you really want or need the product. It can be easy to get sucked in by influencers and buy things that you might regret later.
Many influencers will use something called an ‘affiliate link’, which is a link with a piece of code at the end to tell the website where the person came from. If you click on an influencer’s link, the website will know it was that influencer who sent you there. If you use the influencer’s link and you make a purchase, that influencer will make money. Any influencer using an affiliate links should say so, and use the hashtag #AF or #AFL.
Remember if an influencer is a brand ambassador for a brand every post should be hash tagged accordingly with #BA or similar.