I bought something based purely on an Instagram post this past weekend. The sheer force of that statement is blowing my mind four days later (and I’m having a stellar hair day thanks to the product I bought).
Influencer marketing flirts with the boundary between a clearly defined advertisement, like a commercial or magazine ad, and a recommendation from a trusted friend. The first sightings of this occurred in the late 1800s when companies would create their own fictional celebrity that the consumer could trust.
Aunt Jemima and her foolproof pancakes are the first documented example of this. After the success of this character, other brands began seeking out celebrities to endorse their products. Tobacco companies paid mega-star athletes like Babe Ruth to vouch for them. And Coca-Cola found a way to blend the two strategies together with its Santa Claus Christmas campaign that is still going strong today.
With the rise of the Internet (and let’s be real, Apple and its iPhone), influencer marketing latched onto the unscripted, but filtered world of social media. In Social Media Land, the average person had the potential to become a sensation through a viral hit or by creating likable content that resonated with an audience.
Lately, I’ve noticed a huge uptick in social media posts trying to sell me something. Mainly on Instagram. A quick check through the 291 accounts I follow informed me that 5 percent are “influencers,” or bloggers that make a living by leveraging their impact on their (sometimes large) audience with marketing agencies and brands. For me, I see a lot of posts about beauty products, everyday luxury products (like artisan candles), restaurants, and experiences.
On the side of things, my fiance sees influencer content for fishing and hunting gear because he watches a lot of vlogs about those topics.
Sometimes I feel angry about being marketed to every time I open Instagram. In those moments, I feel hurt because I think of these bloggers/personalities as my friends. After all, they are cooking dinner, planning a wedding, and juggling the responsibilities of adulting just like me!
There’s this oddly intimate connection I have with these strangers on the Internet. Sometimes it stings when I realize this blogger doesn’t know me and is using me to make a profit. At the same time, I signed up for it by tapping their “Follow” button.
Other times, I feel empowered by having a choice in who I follow and trust that they are partnering with brands that I would trust personally. After all, we all have to make a living, and they have found a way to be successful on their terms. It makes me wonder what the next big thing in marketing and sales will be.
Oh, and that thing I impulsed bought last weekend? It was the Dafni Straightening Brush. The Londoner, who I found on Pinterest years ago because of her “Anti-Diet” blog post, uploaded a short video clip on Instagram wearing cute pajamas and styling her hair with this magical hair tool. It sparked action because she consistently has been my #hairgoals role model for the past three years. Kudos to Rose and Dafni for partnering to create a fantastic advertisement that both worked and felt authentic.
For the record, I straightened my hair in 4 minutes flat this morning.