Under the influence
Social media influencers are impacting the content we consume and even the things we buy. One follower at a time.
The days when you needed a newspaper column, a political seat or your face on the TV screen to hold any influence are over. Now, anyone with a mobile phone in their pocket and an Instagram account has the power to create some serious clout of their own. Technology has democratized power and given rise to social media influencers, and with each post they’re shaking up the world of business, advertising, culture and beyond.
A social media influencer is someone who uses online platforms such as blogs, YouTube channels or a myriad of life sharing apps, from Facebook and Twitter to Snapchat, to build and connect with an audience.
Mitch Joel, both an author and the President of the global digital marketing agency Mirum, explains that it was the advent of blogging and easier ways to build websites in the early 2000s that gave life to this new breed of influencer. “Back when I was a journalist,”says Joel,“if I wanted to write an article about something there were gatekeepers, an editor and a publisher, who had to allow me access to their audience. Suddenly, with blogging, those gatekeepers were easy to bypass.
What technology facilitated was the ability for anybody who had a story or something they wanted to share to be able to broadcast it and publish it on a worldwide scale, instantly and basically for free. Organizations and businesses took notice, and increasingly, they’re tapping into the marketing power of the new influencers.
Linkedin, the popular career networking site, recently launched “Linkedin Influencers”a curated list of experts with large followings in fields including finance, tech, marketing, leadership and media. These individuals post their thoughts on various topics, helping Linkedin to provide informative content with members in a more engaging manner while also boosting the site’s profile and reach.
When it comes these new influencers, Montreal has bred quite a few.“They exist across a whole bunch of different industries, verticals and niches, from tech and science to art and music and retail, that has been completely fascinating to see blossom,” remarks Joel, describing the local scene. As companies increasingly turn to social media influencers to help market their products, some of our city’s influencers have managed to turn what was previously their side project or hobby into a full time gig.
Eve Martel is a local influencer who’s behind the life style blog Tellement Swell, which has 50,000 monthly users, and two YouTube channels with 6,000 subscribers. Eve left her director role at an ad agency when she found she could make a living posting about her unique take on food, fashion, restaurants, travel and her life. “When people started to offer me money to talk about stuff, inviting me to launches, and to be a judge on cooking competitions, that’s when you realize that you do have an influence and that you’re part of a new media,”explains Eve.
If Eve says yes to money, she has to love the product or the brand. She also always discloses when she receives payment to talk about something and puts a cap on her number of paid activations at no more than ten per month.“You have to keep an authentic voice, that’s when people really trust you,” says Eve, on why she often turns down work from brands she doesn’t believe in.
Carrie MacPherson is another Montreal influencer. She’s behind Eatdrinkbecarrie, a lifestyle blog geared towards women in the city. In addition to doing social media work for fashion retailer Holt Renfrew, Carrie is also an ambassador for the Nespresso coffee brand.“They approached me to do a partnership,”says Carrie on the Nespresso deal.“It’s natural, I already use the product and I’m a big fan. So its super easy to talk about.”
The business of influence
As influencers like Eve and Carrie increasingly become an attractive and lucrative channel for brands to click with a target audience, a Montreal-founded talent and modeling agency is helping to build bridges between influencers and companies, so they can collaborate. Duceldo Management recently added influencers to their roster and is seeing rapid growth in demand from clients to hire them.
“Brands realised that someone who has that many followers brings them value in terms of their sales and PR,” says Dulcedo’s president Milad Sahafzadeh. “They’re willing to spend a little bit more money having an influencer become the face of the brand, versus spending the dollar on advertisements or radio.”
Dulcedo helps to manage the careers of influencers by opening up opportunities and helping them to build their own brand.The agency represents Montrealer Mark Fitt,who,with 5 million followers on Facebook alone, is considered one of the leading health and fitness icons in the world. Mark was able to turn his influence factor into a position as a sponsored athlete for Canadian brand Rise.“The reality, like any other profession, is that if you don’t build that brand it doesn’t sustain for a long time,”says Sahafzadeh on staying relevant as an influencer.
We’re still in the early days of this new world of influence and it is constantly evolving.The popularity of online platforms can go out of fashion as quickly as new technologies are deve- loped, so influencers will need to constantly adapt to keep and attract followers. What is clear is that these movers and shakers in the virtual world will increasingly influence our lives in the real world.
TEXT: Dave Lank