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It feels contradictory to say that influencers have an image problem.
Meticulously controlling their content output, they are experts in perfecting their personal brand. And yet, a sour reputation seems to have been built up around them.
While influencer marketing has soared in popularity, influencers themselves haven’t enjoyed the same level of celebration. Instead, a steady stream of clickbait stories implies influencers are work-shy hobbyists, entitled and freebie-grabbing.
Unsurprising then, that a survey, which found ‘influencer’ or ‘YouTuber’ cited as some of the top career aspirations of children in the UK, was met with outraged headlines. However, I’d argue, having worked with influencers closely for the past four years, that they could do far worse.
Social media is an incredibly competitive space. For an influencer to be in a position where brands will actually pay them for collaborations, they will have great content creation skills, whether that’s in photography, videography, styling or illustration. They will have also amassed an audience, steadily building a connection over the years, adding value to their followers’ lives, fastidiously replying to their comments and DMs. It will have taken time, dedication, skill and often a fair amount of kit.
Once those brand collaborations come, it doesn’t get any easier. An influencer will wear many hats. Handling negotiations, monitoring trends, creating custom content, deciphering analytics and constantly reinventing themselves to stand out in an increasingly crowded market. Should they take their foot off the pedal, there’s a queue of creators behind them, eager to take their place.
To carve a successful career as an influencer, individuals must be consistent, passionate, punctual and dedicated. These are skills that are required for all types of occupations, but curiously disregarded when it comes to influencers.
Even if the social account began as a hobby, an influencer will reach a point where they realise their platform is valuable and seek paid work. Or a brand will beat them to it and reach out to them directly. With influencer-created content outperforming branded assets, it’s little wonder they’re in demand.
This work often comes in the form of sponsored posts, which is where a lot of the disdain comes from. Their barefaced ambition to create revenue or be paid for the work they do! For many who want to take the leap from being a part-time hobbyist to a full-time creative, brand collaborations give them the financial freedom to follow this passion.
It doesn’t always come easy though and influencers have to fight for their worth, even within the industry. Some platforms have attempted to exploit them, asking hundreds to buy a product and create content for free, then only paying the handful that the brand chooses at the end of it. Or brands will gift a product, instead of paying an influencer for the time taken to create the content.
For creators to be treated fairly, the misconception around their content creation is a hobby, rather than a career, needs to be addressed.
Moving with the digital times
With 59% of marketers intending to increase their influencer marketing budget in the next year, the demand for social creators won’t slow down any time soon. In a world that is continuously becoming more and more digital, businesses not keeping up with the digital landscape risk wasting their marketing budgets, losing customers, and shrinking their market share. Likewise, our career choices will evolve in today’s digital age and we must adjust our perceptions accordingly.
One of the reasons influencer marketing works so beautifully is because it is aspirational. It presents a life we all wish we could have, where every outfit is perfect, holiday destinations are deserted and houses are immaculately tidy. Making it seem effortless when really it’s far from it, is all part of the appeal. Perhaps public perception interpreting this content the outcome of a hobby, rather than a skilled full-time job, is further testament to their ability to sell the dream.