It is obvious that social media influencers have some kind of influence over their followers’ purchasing decisions, but how much? More than that, What makes a person worthy of being a successful influencer? A study was done on influencers as opinion leaders in the fashion industry, and they found that “…aspects such as creativity, or being one of a kind, seem to be crucial to becoming an online influencer in the fashion industry” (Casalo, Flavian, & Ibanez-Sanchez, 2018). There are a lot of fashion influencers on Instagram that seem to have the same exact feed. Their posts are so similar because they are part of the same niche and that crowd of followers likes those kinds of posts. However, they all have a unique quality that draws followers to them rather than others. Influencers that post about their personal lives tend to gain more of a following than those who don’t because followers feel like they really know them. It feels like you’re following a friend. Other influencers gain popularity because they are doing something that other influencers aren’t. Instagram influencer @snitchery is known for posting interesting makeup looks, and then FaceTuning her hair and her background to be the same bright color. Her whole food put together looks like a gathering of paintings and is quite eye-catching. The more unique an influencer is and the more they personally engage with their audience, the more opinion leadership they will have over followers. Research shows that originality and uniqueness have a positive correlation with followers actually purchasing the products that the influencers promote (Casalo, Flavian, & Ibanez-Sanchez, 2018).
Followers aren’t just trusting influencers, they are beginning to distrust big brands when they advertise for themselves. Consumers are well-aware that brands are going to say their products are the best no matter what. A video made by The New York Times claims that “Chinese consumers are typically skeptical of brands and instead rely on peers, influencers, and celebrities to inform their purchasing choices…” (The New York Times, 2018). This is true elsewhere in the world, as well. Distrust of companies and brands is common and consumers would rather turn to influencers that are more likely to give their honest opinion of a product.
Social media influencers are a valuable source of marketing for brands and are nothing to be scoffed at. Brands would greatly benefit from forming good relationships with influencers and using them as supplemental advertising. If not, they could get lost behind popular brands that are taking advantage of our social media-obsessed culture.