Consumer behaviour is changing, especially with the younger generation. Today, there is a shift from wanting to grow up and be a vet, doctor, lawyer or a rocket scientist to now wanting to become innovators, makers and creative thinkers.
Millennials are content creators and curators; they thrive on driving their online image to build towards careers as big name social media influencers (Instagram), YouTube personalities, and developers.
The old saying ‘people trust people’ still holds true for the millennial. They search for an authentic voice, which drives their purchasing behaviour. Today, millennials are just as likely to seek style tips from local fashion Instagrammers, bloggers and vloggers like @fashionbreed and @Nadiajafta, as they are from global icons that sit front row at Fashion Week in Paris or New York.
This ‘new kind of celebrity’, the ‘social media star’ like popular Instagrammers or YouTube celebs, more often use their very large social, almost cult-like, followings to promote products and services they like, and that sometimes fit their personal brands. This allows the social media stars to generate an income through long-term brand partnerships or affiliate sales.
The recent rise has not gone unnoticed, and has peaked interest in global tech giants like the Amazon Influencer Programme, which is an exclusive programme where influencers are required to submit a form to be considered.
This type of marketing, influencer marketing, is notoriously difficult to get right, but is not a new concept. The platforms and the reasons for motivations have morphed, but many global and South African brands have raised the bar with smart partnerships for marketing campaigns. Global research shows celebrity endorsements impact both brand awareness and sales.
Consider well-known vlogger Casey Neistat together with Samsung, who created a successful means of communicating a brand message to his large, trusted community.
However, with great power comes great responsibility, and there could be the opportunity for destruction as well, where the consumers lose faith in the ‘honest nature’ of their trusted celeb’s content because it’s too ‘ad or brand focused’.
Globally, social media influencers and brand partnerships are now being scrutinised, and watched to ensure consumers are not mislead to think that consumers are giving unbiased testimonials.
So, what about your brand? Is your brand currently using social media stars to spread your brand message? There are of course a few questions to ask yourself before you delve into the world of influencer marketing. Like, are your consumers ready for a shift? Are your PR teams equipped to deal with any crisis that may be attached to the risk of producing content with these stars?
Raeesah Motani is social media strategist for isobar.
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