Influencers are everywhere now. They’ve practically taken over social media, but this wasn’t always the case. The influencer industry has skyrocketed. You can be an influencer in any area now, it’s forever expanding. Beauty gurus, new Mum blogs and so many home improvement accounts. Where did it all start though?
Influencers to some extent have always been around. Before we had social media, we did still have news reporting. This made it easier for trends to take off. When you think of the 60s, a time before social platforms; you think of flower power, mini skirts, peace and love. This wasn’t just a coincidence that everyone at that time wanted the same thing from life. It would have started somewhere and grown in popularity. The more people joining in, the more it grows. Hence, the influence of others. Think of Marilyn Monroe, a huge influencer of her time. Perhaps not intentionally. She didn’t stand there promoting certain products to claim her cut of the profits as such. However, she was a trend setter, and when she did something, others would follow.
Before we had people sharing images across social media, we had bloggers. People with interesting lives, or even those who could just put an exciting spin on quite a mundane lifestyle. They’d take to their website or blog and write about their day, and their experiences. Bloggers would come from various backgrounds and each have their own niche. Popular ones would perhaps be new Mums, jet-setters, or foodies. This is because they share common interests with their readers. Those who have also had children recently would take the time to read about experiences of another new parent. It would be something they could refer to, and while they’d never get to speak to the writers, they could relate with shared experiences which might make them feel more at ease as they take on the huge challenge of parenthood.
Backpackers still to this day prove very popular across blogs. This is because they try things others never have before. They’re able to scope out a location, and tell you all the dos and don’ts. That way, when you visit, you know you’re playing by the rules. It might be you’re about to embark on a new culture, and you want to make sure you don’t offend anyone, so you read up about the area and the culture within it from someone who has already visited. Another thing they might share is places to eat, things to do. Travel blogs are fantastic for sharing tips and tricks on how to explore the local area. Many people will only read a travel blog around the time they’re booking their holidays because it tells them places they shouldn’t miss. However, there is still and possibly will always be a huge demand for them.
The start of social media
In 2010, Instagram was first born. It came after many popular channels like MySpace and Bebo fell. But, it had a fantastic fresh, new idea. It was a platform to share your images. Really, it started as somewhere you’d share pictures with friends and family that followed you. They might have a harsh, amateur filter over them, which was acceptable as phone camera quality was lacking anyway then. People would photograph everything for their Instagram account. From photos of their dinner, to pictures of them and their friends. Often images weren’t thought through. Facebook was still so popular – a platform where people shared what seemed like everything. So, Instagram followed this pattern for a while. Anything that could be capture in an image and shared, would be.
By 2013 Instagram had introduced paid adverts. This really allowed influencers to start forming their identities. Those with an already strong online presence were only going to grow from here. Brands and companies would notice them and pay them to promote their products or services. From there, influencers were born. The more adverts they had, the more their social media status would grow. Selling products became easier for companies. With the relationships between influencers and businesses growing, there became an increase in followings. Users of Instagram would follow anyone with a large presence. Often this is still the case. But this would help boost their name, encouraging others to follow them. After all, we were all still in a stage of posting random images to our account. We hadn’t quite reached the days of airbrushing and preset filters.
Social media’s rapid growth
No one saw it heading this way. After Instagram began to grow, Facebook took a different path. Many stopped posting their day-to-day lives onto their status, and instead would post images to Instagram. Images are often said to speak a thousand words. Which meant that people no longer had to express their feelings through text. Facebook became a platform where people would connect with loved ones instead. Sharing albums of images rather than the odd one here and there. Many still created status’ but they’d be fewer than before. Instagram really took the lead. It was more of a creative outlet. People enjoyed experimenting with filters and effects to make their images stand out.
Since then, we’ve seen the rise of TikTok. This along with Instagram has become the most popular social app around. It changed the way we represented ourselves. People became more excentric and wanted to show just how exciting their lives were. Even those who worked a typical 9-5 and had less going on in their free time, wanted others to believe their life had a lot more to it. It became a place where people showed an idyllic lifestyle. Whether they were living one or not. This is where people started to believe others had the perfect life and theirs could never compare. Thankfully, as we’ve moved even further forward, many are aware that social media is a front and nobody lives that life 24/7. However, for quite some time, it was believable.
So what is the role of an influencer today, and how have they changed our user experience? Well, today it’s a full time job. Rather than being paid here and there to promote brands and products, influencers will live off their earnings from promotions. They can be paid by social media apps themselves depending on how many followers, likes and views they receive. As they often get so many advert opportunities also, they don’t need to work alongside influencing. Their title is simply to be an influencer. Providing they continue to have many people following them and engaging with their content, they’ll always have work. Especially if they have a particular niche. Normally though, influencers are those who are in shape, and have the money to get themselves started. Sometimes you have to pretend you have the influencer lifestyle to end up with the influencer lifestyle.
The idea of an influencer is to be idolised. When you think about it, why are they liked so much? It isn’t because they’re an actor on your favourite show, or because they’ve won awards within their field. Instead, it’s because they have a lifestyle that looks good on social media and people enjoy watching it unfold. TikTok and Twitter have allowed influencers to make connections that can help them grow. They can communicate with their fans though these channels easily. TikTok almost acts as a bridge between Twitter which is all communication based and Instagram which is largely content based. With TikTok, you can easily reply to comments with new videos that are shared to your main feed. A lot of brands, it’s thought 75% have a budget specific to influencer marketing. Often companies will take a loss, by sending free products, to eventually make a gain when fans of an influencer start buying from them.