the future of influencers

This week on the blog I’m so pleased to share with you that I have a guest writer Chloe Hill. Chloe is a 3rd year English student at Royal Holloway, the lifestyle editor of Orbital Magazine & freelance online fashion writer for Debut Magazine.

By 2017, the internet was saturated with hundreds of influencers – many who had made the difficult decision to commit full-time and rely on it as their only source of income. The recent soar in digital influencers is not surprising considering the current fashion climate, as not only are they incredibly important to the progression of brands, but are also a popular commodity for consumers, playing a massive part in their buying and shopping habits.


2018 marked a fundamental year for the growth of influencer marketing. The Digi Fairy’s Instagram page devotes a highlight to this and features a survey carried out by Mediakix. The survey forecasts a predicted growth of $2 billion by the end of 2019 for the Instagram influencer economy. Digi Fairy’s prediction of such a dramatic advance comes as no surprise, considering how quickly the influencer community is growing. Yet, in order for influencers to continue to thrive they will inevitably need to evolve, and we – as marketers and consumers, will need to evolve alongside it.  


Digital influencers are gaining momentum by the minute, offering us someone new and different every day to fit our wants and needs. Considering the recent disillusionment towards certain brands and the ideology that they are strictly profit-orientated, it seems only natural that we would turn to influencers for our fix – whether this is in terms of fashion, cosmetics, gaming or cleaning. Social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram and blogs, are relentless in assuring that we have a range of influencers to choose from and connect with, subsequently enabling us to build a virtual relationship with them.


Brands wasted no time in catching on to the power of the digital influencer and how much their decisions impact our decisions. Take Kylie Jenner as an example – an integral step towards her status as Forbes’ youngest self-made billionaire was the success of her cosmetics empire, which she built upon the premise of utilising social media’s new era and regularly anticipated new releases on her Instagram account. The universal influence that she has was made painstakingly clear after posting a single tweet, where she essentially dismantled Snapchat’s popularity by claiming the app to be officially cancelled – resulting in Snapchat’s market value catapulting into an approximate $1.3 billion decline. 


The future of influencers often leads to discussions regarding the rise of robots and the idea of the digitalised self. The majority of us are familiar with @lilmiquela and @shudu and these are only two examples of the recent surge in computer-generated characters. Both Miquela and Shudu are completely digitalised, yet have been endorsed by cosmetic pioneers such as Pat McGrath and Fenty Beauty. With the rapid advancements in technology, the rise of robots would definitely open up a Black Mirror style virtual platform, where our realities sub-exist as online avatars, potentially even one where we have virtual clothes and virtual friends.


When it comes to the power of the influencer, this digital utopian world isn’t necessarily viable. Consumers rely on the trust that they invest in influencers, and it would be difficult to find digital influencers’ recommendations or endorsements authentic. Shudu may model Fenty Beauty and make the products look beautiful in the photos, yet there’s no way to truly learn about the longevity and formula of the cosmetics in the same way that we would from a human influencer. Instead, these digital influencers would more comfortably slot into the category of brand ambassador’s, keeping the endorsements and collaborations in humans. By generating these brand ambassadors online, it allows for an entire spectrum of models to be created and manipulated to present all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, skin tones, etc. This approach would inevitably invite greater traffic to the brand, due to their efforts to provide inclusivity to all consumers.


As the future of influencers progresses, the approach has taken a slight turn away from strictly aesthetically-driven content and now also offers life lessons and values. Categories like education, finance and politics are even receiving greater traction. YouTuber Patricia Bright often shares details about her finances and mortgage, which is a very apt topic considering today’s difficulties when it comes to entering the property market.


Regardless of the topic concerned, influencers ultimately have to get paid. For some reason, this has almost become a taboo subject, due to the growing contempt towards monetisation, e.g. affiliate links, banner adverts and brand partnerships, despite often being offered discounts and giveaways as a way of the influencer showing their gratitude. Live broadcasts also offer the consumer an opportunity to feel more connected with the influencer, as it offers a more personal approach whilst reaching widespread audiences. Similarly, the majority of influencers will not be willing to promote a brand under false premises unless it has their complete approval. In the same way a magazine wouldn’t hand out free advertising, neither should an influencer.


Throughout all aspects of the influencer market, correctly crediting sponsored content remains absolutely fundamental and consumers can rest easily in the transparency of recommendations. Instagram is especially strict in this field and is cracking down on those who fail to meet adequate sponsorship requirements.


The future of influencers will naturally either sway towards pro-digital or anti-digital. Time will only tell if the future holds an avid surge in virtual activity, or a complete and utter disenchantment from all forms of media, resulting in an amass of private rather than public social media profiles.