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Under The Influence...

It's 2019, and we are well and truly in the age of “try before you buy”. In some cases, quite literally. You'll find now that some of the biggest global brands offer buy now, pay later schemes in their online stores. But we also now seem to only want to buy what we see someone else with. It's not enough to see generic, face-less models(sorry) wearing or using products of interest on a website, in a magazine or catalogue. Now we want someone to wear it, demonstrate it and tell us the pros and cons. 9 times out of 10 we don't really want or need the product, but because they said buy it, we'll buy it. It's kind of like QVC on steroids, and they call this trend, Influencer Marketing.

So what is an Influencer and why are they so popular?

Oxford Dictionary Definition
a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.

What started as a trend of popular Celebrities endorsing the latest slimming tea or waist trainer, has quickly taken over the world. You no longer need to be a Celebrity to be an Influencer. You can be an Industry Expert, Blogger or Micro Influencer. The latter becoming the go to career of choice for a number of Millennials. And why not? You get paid to wear the latest fashions, eat in nice restaurants and attend events in exchange for documenting it all on social media. Billions of people use social media now, so companies are relying on this method of marketing to promote their goods and services. But why does it work? People want to know that someone that looks like them, maybe even from the same place as them, wears the same affordable brands, uses the same brand of toothpaste and goes to the same popular night spots as them. There's no harm in that, surely?!

Well, here's where things get sticky. The opinion of someone with 10,000 followers is more valuable than the opinion of someone with 500. A YouTube video with 500,000 views will earn more money than a video with just 1,000 and it would seem, in the world of Influencers, people aren't always patient when it comes to growing their popularity organically. Video content becomes more and more controversial and sometimes dangerous. Pictures become more provocative or embellished. All in the hope of gaining followers. But for those even less patient, there are apps that will allow you to buy “fake followers”, computer generated profiles that don't belong to a real human. Some say you can tell the difference, but can you really? And if you can't, are you blindly following someone whose opinions have been authenticated by a computer program?

There's nothing wrong with Influencer Marketing when done ethically. However, more and more the lines are becoming blurred and I question how far this trend can go. Consumer reviews have been around for years and for the most part, are impartial and unbiased. But how likely are you to be honest about a bad experience or product when you're being paid for the privilege? You also have some that will demonstrate the latest skin care trend, telling you how amazing it has been for them, whilst editing their pictures with Face Tune. Separating the real from the fake doesn't come easy to most. Personally, I've come across some real authentic Influencers who aren't afraid to be controversial and brutally honest in their views and opinions. If they tried something they didn't like, they'll say and recommend alternatives. If they've been gifted items to review, they'll tell you and not imply otherwise.

As with most things, popularity breeds saturation and imitation. I say all this to say, when it comes to being INFLUENCED, honesty is the best policy. Use your own judgments and seek authenticity, but at the end of the day, the only opinion that truly matters, is yours.


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