The Rise Of Influencers In Media

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By Kat Shee, VP of marketing at GROW and 1/2 of Shee Sisters, lifestyle and golf creators.

Influencer culture has officially taken over the world. And… has kind of changed what it means even to be an influencer. Gone are the days of making it big on a reality TV show, garnering a fan base for your 15 minutes of fame or eventually launching a clothing line before drifting off into the sunset. Now, if you want to be an influencer, you’ve got to earn it.

As social media continues to evolve, consumers appear to take a greater sense of ownership over their feeds than ever before. Meaning, they follow content that they actually want to see regularly rather than the latest Love Is Blind or The Bachelor franchise contestant. This could be due in part to a new generation of users having an “I could do that, too” mindset—with one in four Gen-Zers saying they plan to become an influencer celebrity. Or it could be because our idea of what an influencer needs to bring to the table has completely changed. Now, they’re lobbying in D.C. (paywall) on behalf of TikTok, landing movie roles for their comedic chops and raking in millions off any product a brand can stick their face on.

Influencers are taking up a new space in media—and brands need to take notice for successful marketing partnerships.

Say goodbye to traditional marketing.

It’s no secret that digital marketing has changed over the past decade. It seems that when digital ads first started inching their way into consumers’ social media feeds or online publications, brands had the luxury of buyer unawareness. A celebrity they liked said milk was good, so milk must be good!

Well, as Gen-Z continues to take the forefront of online buying through digital channels, brands have to get more creative. They’re too media literate to be fooled by an unauthentic sales pitch.

As David Yovanno, CEO of put it, “With consumers, especially Gen-Z, becoming less tolerant and frankly more tuned in to the tactics used in interruptive marketing and advertising techniques—like pop-up ads and retargeting—creators are becoming more integral in brands’ marketing strategies… Brands are no longer relying strictly on traditional paid advertising channels, they are tapping creators to create content that is tailored to reach new audiences.”

Going forward, I believe brands need to shift their strategy from hiring influencers to read what they write to creating authentic partnerships. Influencers know what their audience wants to hear. If they back your product, they’re going to create content that resonates with them in a way that actually drives conversions better than your brand’s marketing team—mostly because audiences are too smart for fake sales pitches anymore.

Say hello to partnerships.

So what can brands do? Two things: One, allocate paid marketing funds to influencer partnerships; two, build partnerships with influencers who you trust can replicate your voice and mission. Remember that influencers know their audience better than anyone. They do the work to hijack the algorithm, produce content that lands and, most of all, change it up enough to keep themselves new and fresh in the “for you” pages of the web. Allow them the space and creative freedom to do this. When your brand aligns itself with an influencer, you’re aligning yourself with their voice and their content creativity abilities (and then hoping to grab some of their audience along the way). Say goodbye to the traditional power dynamic that’s your teammate.

Brands should also recognize and prepare for the change in the power dynamic between brands and consumers. Consumers can choose what content does and doesn’t perform and who is worth paying attention to. If Zendaya drinking SmartWater just doesn’t cut it, they can unfollow or hide the posts with the click of a button. Ultimately, that plays into their retargeted ads, algorithm and future as a potential SmartWater consumer. Brands must be conscious of consumer agency and look to their influencer partners to cater to this behavior. We’ve come a long way from flipping through a People magazine and seeing whatever ad they wanted in there. So trust me when I say, you’ve got more consumer power than ever before.

Your influencer can do more.

The role of influencers in media is becoming more prominent. Consumers are weeding out those who are just made of one viral video in favor of influencers that can write, perform, entertain and probably juggle, too (who knows!). It’s 2023—brands need to start embracing the power of influencer marketing and furthermore, the power of influencers 2.0.

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