"Social influencer” may not yet be a household term yet, but its usage is growing exponentially. This is especially true in the world of digital, social media, and influencer marketing, where many top brands are teaming up with social influencers in order to effectively market to consumer audiences online. Social influencers are also referred to as digital influencers (digital superstar Bethany Mota recently referred to herself as such during her speech at BeautyCon 2015), creators (as termed by YouTube), or social media influencers.
According to a Nielsen report, “92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising—an increase of 18 percent since 2007.” With the rise of social media sharing and video publishing platforms including Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, online consumers follow select social influencers for the latest news, trends, and lifestyle recommendations. Interest from today’s biggest brands is growing, too—60% of marketers are upping their spending on social influencer marketing, according to a recently published AdWeek article.
Lifestyle blogs cover categories that portray a blogger's everyday life; often including style, travel, food, and decor. A lifestyle influencer curates and produces content that is specific to their own interests, as defined by Kissmetrics, "Influencers are people who are active on social media and blogs. They also are brand advocates and niche promoters."
Top social media influencers can have a reach of hundreds of thousands to over a million followers. Total audience reach coupled with high levels of social media engagement (see our post here on "Why Social Media Engagement Matters For Sponsored Content") makes top influencers and digital content creators especially attractive to companies seeking to brand and message to their dedicated audiences.
In order to elicit the maximum levels of engagement and brand affinity in a successful influencer marketing campaign (see our post here on "How To Measure Influencer Marketing Campaigns" and access our checklist), brands allow influencers to retain creative control in order to maintain authenticity. Brands must also understand the top lifestyle blogger, their audience, and how they interact with their audience in order to ensure the proper brand message integration.
Ever since first released to the public in October of 2010, Instagram has been poised for real success. The app’s acquisition by Facebook in 2012 gave it the kickstart it needed to reach mass market appeal, growing 20% more than its parent company Facebook that year. According to Forbes, Instagram now boasts over 400 million monthly active users as of this week, and, “this year, eMarketer forecasts Instagram’s global ad revenue will be $600 million.” Yes -- Instagram is surpassing most other social media channels in popularity, and the trend isn’t likely to slow down.
As brands and advertisers, heading into 2015 Q4, strategize on the best ways to leverage Instagram marketing, it is helpful to reflect on the successes of last year's top Q4 campaigns. In Adweek's article "Brands' Next Big Celebrity Deals May Be With Social Media Stars," the advertising site details how Dick's Sporting Goods partnered with several social media stars to create branded and sponsored content generating "more than 130,000 clicks to Dick's website, 6.2 million engagements, 27.5 million impressions, and 4,000 new Twitter followers."
As told to Adweek, Jay Basnight director of digital at Dick's notes the following with regards to executing multiple year-long influencer marketing campaigns,
"It's not just one and done -- it is a relationship that we've developed with social media influencers."
Clearly, there’s never been a better time than now for today’s top brands to focus on developing an airtight Instagram marketing strategy, and partnering with social media stars can be the key for seeing measurable success.
As illustrated by Forrester's research above, Instagram was the only network that fared well with an engagement rate of 4.21%, 58 and 120 times more than Facebook and Twitter, respectively. In order to capture Instagram's high rate of engagement among its now 400 million monthly active user base, brands of all industries are taking to the social sharing app to market their brand and latest product/service offerings with top Instagrammers and social media influencers.
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What Is Sponsored Content?
Several factors have contributed to the rise of sponsored content as an effective and powerful way for marketers to reach online audiences amidst advertising overload. The overabundance of advertising forcing itself upon consumers has caused a significant uptick in ad blocking software. Apple's iOS9 (released earlier this month) gives mobile Safari users out-of-the-box ad blocking capabilities and was seen by many as the final "nail in the coffin" for display advertising. As such, brands and advertisers are proactively exploring marketing alternatives including sponsored content, native advertising, branded content, and influencer marketing (see our post "Adblocking Wars: Advertiser Alternatives To Ads").
Sponsored content/native advertising appears in many ways. There is no single form, but rather a continuum from banner ads to social media content to large microsites with articles and videos. It is better to define sponsored content by what it does than by what it looks like.
Influencer Marketing Offers Advertisers An Adblocking Solution
Apple's new operating system, iOS9, launched last Wednesday with adblocking tech capabilities. On Thursday, adblocking apps top Apple's app store leaderboard. Although speculation continues to mount on the exact extent of advertising revenue fallout (a recent Pagefair and Adobe joint study currently estimates a 2015 loss of $21.8 billion with close to double that figure, $41.4 billion, for 2016), initial results are indicative of an impending ad block war between brands, publishers, and readers.
The adblocking crisis will undoubtedly hit online publishers the hardest. Some, including the Washington Post (see BuzzFeed's post "Washington Post Declares War On Ad Blockers"), have begun blocking or restricting access to content for readers who have ad blockers installed while others (CBS, Hulu) shut down user functionality when detecting ad block software. Like the common display ad, fancier online video ads are also not exempt from ad blockers -- SecretMedia's recent study illustrates how more than a quarter to two-thirds of video ads are not monetized due to ad blockers. Both CBS's video player and Hulu won't work for viewers with ad blockers on (Ad Age).
The Streamy Awards 2015: All The Winners From Last Night, Here's Everything You Missed
Similar to the exponential growth of VidCon, BeautyCon, the genre of online video and its social media influencers, The 5th Annual Streamy Awards 2015 hit a milestone last night when it aired for the first time on VH1 television (see select excerpts of their live stream playlist here). 2015 marks perhaps a year where the mainstream public and traditional forms of entertainment are beginning to recognize the vast scope and potential of these video (vloggers or YouTubers) and social media creators (Snapchatters, Viners) who are far more influential than blockbuster movie stars or chart-topping singers (see Variety's 2nd annual survey of American youth here).
This year's winners and award categories featured the very best nominated in online video and social media from brand sponsored video campaigns with top YouTubers (Nissan, Purina, DanceOn, Totino's, and Pizza Hut), social good campaigns, music, performance, and much more including performances by Hailee Steinfeld, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and OMI (see all the music performances here).
Hosts Tyler Oakley and Gracie Helbig are joined by presenters Paula Abdul, Mel B., Natasha Bedingfield, Ciara, Philip DeFranco, Ricky Dillon, GloZell Green, Kat Graham, Hannah Hart, Mamrie Hart, Sean Kingston, NeNe Leakes, Jenna Marbles, Brooke Mahan, Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell, Shay Mitchell, Harley Morenstein, Ingrid Nilsen, Pauley Perrette, Michelle Phan, Jillian Rose Reed, Smosh and James Van Der Beek (via Heavy).
Here are the categories and winners for this year's Streamy Awards 2015 along with samples of their best or most popular work:
In the world of YouTube, beauty reigns supreme as one of the platform's top categories. Sharzad Kiadeh is a Los Angeles-based YouTuber who produces content on YouTube and on a personal blog. She hosts the YouTube channel The Mom's View which centers around women's issues and parenting. Her personal blog, LuxLyfe, covers everything from beauty, food, travel, and other such lifestyle categories. Recently, Kiadeh has embarked on a new initiative as a co-host on SASS, a brand new beauty series on Mixed Makeup, a YouTube beauty channel. Here she takes on offbeat beauty trends and treatments in the Los Angeles area.
In the following interview, Sharzad shares how she started on YouTube, a wealth of insight on being a YouTuber, and how she transformed her passion for beauty to reach hundreds of thousands of followers.
Read Sharzad Kiadeh's interview to learn her outlook on the YouTube influencer marketing industry, tips and advice for bloggers, and brands looking to partner with influencers for sponsored content campaigns.