To sway the public and sell an image, some North Bay businesses seek social media influencers
Their pictures, videos and words are designed to entice people to stay at a certain hotel, dine at a particular restaurant, drink a particular bottle of wine or wear certain clothes.
Their work, which is a multibillion-dollar social media effort to promote a certain product or lifestyle, is as influencers.
Clover Sonoma, the Petaluma-based dairy company, works with paid lifestyle influencers. They are willing to be paid in product. Some even write about recipes created with that product.
“Our target audience ranges, but mostly includes moms, dads and household decision-makers. We’ve also been focused on working with a more diverse group of influencers that offer a unique use of our products and that represent our diverse consumer base,” Kristel Corson, chief growth officer, told the North Bay Business Journal.
“Consumers are increasingly turning to social and new platforms like TikTok to engage with unique content that not only entertains, but educates and inspires.”
Some influencers blog, but others abound on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, and sometimes Facebook and Twitter, to share words, photos and videos about products and places. Usually they have either been financially compensated or received something in trade for their positive promotions.
Brands paid influencers $1.7 billion in 2016 to promote their goods, and that number skyrocketed to $13.8 billion in 2021, according to Influencer Marketing Hub (IMH).
That number is expected to increase 19% to $16.4 billion this year. IMH is a private media company based in Copenhagen, Denmark, that specializes in producing how-to guides, courses and research reports in the social media and influencer marketing industry.
The largest audiences for these content providers are millennials (ages 26-41) and Gen Z (ages 10-25). Gen X (ages 42-57) and baby boomers (ages 58-76) follow influencers, but not to the extent of younger generations, who were essentially brought up with social media as a normal way to get information.
“Influencers are not that new of an idea. Basically, the idea is similar to an endorsement,” explained Apollo Demirel, assistant professor of marketing in the Barowsky School of Business at Dominican University of California in San Rafael.
“Influencers are people on social media platforms and most are not celebrities.”
The business of influencers
While influencers are paid spokespeople, it’s not always obvious in the way that a commercial is on television or an advertisement shows up in print and online media.
Still, the law states that if an influencer is paid or received something for free, she must say so in the post. The Federal Trade Commission is the overseer of such things.
“If you endorse a product through social media, your endorsement message should make it obvious when you have a relationship — material connection — with the brand. A material connection to the brand includes a personal, family, or employment relationship or a financial relationship such as the brand paying you or giving you free or discounted products or services,” the FTC website says.
The FTC says disclosure through hashtags like #paid or #sponsored is not good enough. It should be in the video as well as on a post that makes it clear the opinions were paid for.
The FTC goes on to say, “If you’re paid to talk about a product and thought it was terrible, you can’t say it’s terrific.”
Even so, people need to realize what they are reading and watching could be a pack of lies.
“Social media is a really interesting platform for young people. Anyone can say anything without having credentials,” said Demirel at Dominican University. “Many of the influencers do not have any credentials and that is important to realize.”
The Marin County college does not teach influencing as a career path. Influencing is part of the curriculum to educate students about another tool in the world of marketing.
Demirel says a social media site like Facebook is more about connecting with people you personally know by accepting them as a friend. People on Facebook are more likely to have privacy settings that limit who can see what they post. Facebook also has an older demographic.
Whereas Instagram and TikTok users — those putting up content as well as content consumers — are often engaging with people they don’t know. That is how they have thousands of followers; they aren’t friends.
Millennials are the predominant Instagram users, while those in their 20s are on TikTok and Snapchat.
The 2022 Influencer Benchmark Report by Influencer Marketing Hub revealed that in 2021 influencers were mostly on Instagram (79%), then Facebook (50%), TikTok (46%), YouTube (44%), Twitter (23%), LinkedIn (20%), and Twitch (8%). Most influencers use multiple platforms.