Influence’s coming of age means more than you think

The influencer has well and truly evolved. The days of the transactional, in-authentic, pay-per-post parts of influence ­­– the traditional parts ­– are over. But don’t be alarmed, the medium of influence isn’t dead, it’s actually more powerful than ever, writes Sharyn Smith.

There has been a significant shift in not only how brands think about influence and influencers, but how people do as well. What we are seeing is a much more authentic connection between influencers and their communities. That means a real opportunity for brands that do their homework and understand how to navigate the space.

What’s driving this? Creativity has exploded off the back of the uncertainty of the pandemic. People have changed the way they think about the world, the way they communicate and how they express themselves. It has become increasingly digital, meaning now more than ever, social media is inherently intertwined with the fabric of our culture and is here to stay as part of modern communications. As a result, people are demanding what’s best for them in the digital space: open, honest and authentic content and communication.

The world of influence in 2022 is built on connection, collaboration and creativity. It was born from millennials and is now strongly championed by Gen Z, who are coincidentally also coming of age. Both Gen Z and the creator economy they are thriving and in need, purpose and accountability at the moment, because they are setting the tone for the shifting expectations and behaviours of how influence fits into the future.

The explosion of TikTok and video-first platforms is providing a desire to feel something real after a time of intense uncertainty and there’s the lingering expectation that diversity and representation are paramount to fundamentally dictating how consumers want to engage with brands ongoing, and how we want them to respond. This is a global expectation, and it is particularly prominent in Australia.

Australians are increasing their time spent on apps which are video-first, with TikTok seeing a 40% increase this year according to We Are Social and Hootsuite’s Digital 2022 report. It’s not just about communicating with friends anymore sure the personability is there, but there’s so much more than that. These platforms are becoming a standard means of gathering and searching for information. People turn to social platforms for specificity and for general browsing. This has become apparent based on the fact that just last year TikTok dethroned Google as the most popular domain worldwide, ending the latter’s 15-year reign.

In this environment, influence has been democratised. Influencers have evolved and the realm of content they are able to cover has vastly expanded. They have become more than influencers, they have become creators. What we once knew as the influencer economy has now become the creator economy, encompassing a multitude of different ways to promote, review and market content.

A whopping 50 million people globally now self-identify as a creator. Of those, 93% do it part-time, while the other 7% have dramatically monetised it to be considered professional. Right now, there are 111 jobs on Seek looking for content creators in Australia, a job title that didn’t exist not that long ago. Influencer rates are also dramatically rising. US agency The Motherhood reports rates have risen 45% from 2021 to 2022 because of market demand, transparency around rates, and a rising trend on TikTok focusing on “know your worth”.

Rising rates should not be a sign for brands to disengage with integrating creators into their strategies, but it does mean they need to make extra effort to understand what they’re paying for. In this emerging economy, reach is not always the key metric; even a creator with under a few thousand followers can influence the right community. To maximise ROI and deliver serious results, marketers must seek creators who will best represent their brand. Perhaps more importantly, they need to understand the nuances and differences in content strategies across platforms, ensuring they engage those that align to their own overall content narrative, tone of voice and brand strategy.

What’s the risk if you don’t? In June this year, cosmetics megabrand Revlon filed for bankruptcy after choosing to forego the initial use of creators and therefore missing the social media make-up boom. Revlon didn’t invest until it was too late, meaning it was unable to keep the pace with rivals who effectively used video bloggers and Instagram and TikTok personalities to fuel greater connection and growth.

Influence as a medium is truly coming of age. Over the next year we will continue to see the democratisation of content as a direct result of the quality of creators paving the way. Right now, the creator economy is an industry tipped to be worth around $US104 billion, and just last year investor capital tipped about $US5 billion into the sector (source: Influencer Marketing Hub). All the while influence, creators and the creator economy now have more set standards and benchmarks than ever before – a tell-tale sign of any industry projected for significant growth. Influence has grown up. It’s not just walking on its own two feet, it’s running marathons. Now is the time for your brand to invest, learn and capitalise on the medium, or risk losing out to those that do.

Sharyn Smith is AiMCo chair, a director of The Influence Group, and founder and CEO of Social Soup


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