Influencer Marketing may feel like a new phenomenon but the concept dates back hundreds of years, which seems obvious when you consider that the term can apply to anyone in the public eye who uses their status to promote a product or service.
Some historians even consider kings and queens to have been amongst some of the first influencers. However, since the 2010s, the word “influencer” has come to be associated with celebrities-turned-social media personalities, with the Kardashian/Jenner clan, footballers and pop stars becoming some of the most high-profile influencers around.
That being said, the use of Influencers in mainstream marketing strategies is still a fairly new concept, and is also no longer limited to big celebrities. Everyday people are supplementing their income or even making the jump to becoming a full-time influencer, thanks to advertising revenue and sponsorships making influencing a lucrative career choice.
However, with the general lack of regulation and questions about some influencers’ authenticity, navigating the world of influencer marketing can feel like the Wild West to aspiring influencers and brands alike. So we’ve fact checked for you and put together a handy list, where we bust some influencer and content creator myths to set the record straight!
MYTH: You can only be a successful influencer if you look like a Love Island contestant
It’s true that some of the most prolific “normal people” who have become successful influencers over the last few years have come from Reality TV shows. Dating show Love Island has launched the careers of influencers such as Megan Barton Hanson and Dani Dyer, and has catapulted the profiles of already-successful influencers such as Molly-Mae Hague into the stratosphere.
However, the programme has received significant criticism even as recently as January 2023 for its lack of body diversity in the selection of its Islanders. And with so many former contestants going on to become prominent in the public eye, it’s natural that aspiring influencers may feel that they need to look a certain way in order to become successful.
The good news is that this trend is slowing, and there are an increasing number of of influencers who encourage body positivity; indeed, at the time of writing there are 11.4M posts containing #bodypositivity on Instagram. Audiences are calling out influencers who use filters and Photoshop for retouching their photos, with more social media users wanting to see people who represent their gender, race, sexuality and lifestyle on their feeds. The followings of plus-sized influencers and persons with disabilities continue to grow as audiences demand to see more content creators that they can actually relate to.
Another point worth noting is that when you step outside of the typical lifestyle, beauty and fashion categories that reality show contestants tend to promote, influencers start to look very different. In categories such as gaming and technology, the focus is much less on how the influencer looks and far more about what they know. This is even more obvious when it comes to thought leadership on platforms like LinkedIn, where business expertise and industry insights are prized more highly than a pretty face. Elsewhere, it’s not even humans who are the stars of their own channels; pet influencers such as JiffPom and Grumpy Cat have followers that some content creators could only ever dream of. Choosing the best influencer for your brand all comes down to the audience that you hope to resonate with.
MYTH: Influencers are just in it for the money and freebies
Let’s face it, everyone likes a freebie, and those hoping to become a full-time influencers will need sponsorships to make it work. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that influencers will do anything to make a quick buck. Whilst there are indeed some who will promote anything that they are paid for whether they are ethical or not, there has been an increase in backlash from consumers who feel that the item being promoted is misleading or the influencer unscrupulous.
A classic example of this is when Khloe Kardashian came under fire in January 2020 for promoting diet shakes, with a large number of social media users pointing out that not only is the rhetoric harmful, but the products themselves come with a long list of potential dangerous side effects. Users were further enraged that Khloe admitted in the very same posts that she also has a personal trainer and nutritionist, not to mention that the rumours circulating were that PhotoShop and cosmetic surgeries allegedly had a large part to play in any potential weight loss.
This change in attitude is being driven largely by Gen Z; currently the largest demographic on social media and often categorised as a socially-aware group who demand authenticity. This has put pressure on influencers to display more trustworthiness and consider the reaction of their audience, as it would be counterproductive to accept sponsorship for a product which will ultimately lose them followers and undermine their credibility.
The good news for brands is that if a creator has a bond with their audience based on authenticity, they will only accept paid partnerships that will be of genuine value to their communities. Many influencers already have their own rule that they won’t promote something that they wouldn’t buy themselves, and at AFK we encourage our creators to maintain their integrity at all times.
Additionally, with social media influencers now having to adhere to laws and regulations set by the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK, the Federal Trade Commission in the USA and as of next year, The Digital Services Act package in the EU, the need for transparency is greater than ever. Put simply, influencers must disclose in their social media posts (whether in the caption or by the use of hashtags) that the post is sponsored, or that they are being paid to promote a product or service. This prompts creators to put more thought into their sponsored content, since their audiences will know that it’s a paid promotion.
MYTH: You can’t build a following outside of Instagram, YouTube and TikTok
It’s well known that Instagram and YouTube are two of the most popular social media platforms available, but what might surprise you is that TikTok - the current darling of the social media world - doesn’t even make the top 5 when it comes to global users. Having significant Instagram and YouTube followings will doubtless be important to an influencer, but other platforms can be more effective for different types of content creators.
For instance, some of the gaming creators that AFK represent - including Mande, Sirhcez and GTAWiseGuy - have more followers on Twitch than all their other social media accounts combined, largely thanks to Twitch’s propensity to attract video game fans. Some of our other creators - such as Shan Hadden, who currently has 2.3M TikTok followers - successfully use other social media platforms in conjunction with their main platform to reach different audiences and supplement their income.
This means that brands shouldn’t discount influencers with a smaller number of Instagram, YouTube and TikTok followers; an influencer who is highly engaged with their community across all platforms is going to be more valuable than a creator with a large following on one but is out of touch with their audience.
MYTH: You need to have a huge number of followers to be successful
There’s no denying that if you’re like MrBeast and have 144M YouTube subscribers, you probably won’t have much difficulty finding paid partnerships. However, influencer marketing isn’t always a popularity contest, as is demonstrated by the rising demand by brands to work with Nano influencers (1K–10K followers) and Micro influencers (10K–100K followers). The fact is that a “smaller” influencer who has a very targeted and engaged community will provide better ROI for a brand than an influencer with a large following but no well-defined target audience. Nano and Micro influencers also often take more time to reply to comments and encourage discussion amongst their communities, making their followers see them as more of a trusted peer than a businessperson.
AFK creator FanHOTS demonstrates this perfectly; whilst he’s firmly in the Micro influencer camp, he has worked with huge brands like Reebok and Intel due to the fact he has an extremely loyal fanbase. Similarly, “Mummy bloggers”, pet accounts and fitness influencers often see more success with certain sponsorships due to the vast majority of their audience being inherently interested in a very specific element of their lives, as well as having high engagement rates and presenting themselves authentically.
Where brands can capitalise is successfully matching their product or service to the right influencer, which is what AFK will do when we work together. We provide insights to brands on the audience demographics of our creators as well as information about previously successful campaigns, so both the influencer and the brand know that they have the best chance of making the partnership a success.
MYTH: It’s easy to make money as an influencer
Anyone who thinks it’s easy to make money as an influencer…hasn’t tried to make money as an influencer. Firstly, thanks to the misconception that influencing is easy and the knowledge that it can be very lucrative, there’s a whole load of competition out there. That dilutes the audience and can make brands wary of working with smaller content creators if they think that campaigns won’t have the ROI they’re looking for. For influencers, even the most creative, hardworking people out there can struggle to build connections and find brand partnerships. That’s where attention marketing agencies like AFK come in.
All the talent that AFK represents is handpicked because they produce exciting content and have engaged, loyal followers, no matter the size of their community. Because we put our creators first, we won’t steer them into accepting sponsorships from brands that we believe aren’t the right fit for them or their audiences. This benefits the brands we work with too, as it prevents them from spending money on influencer marketing that is less likely to work for them. The result is happy creators and happy brands!
Are you an awesome creator who’s looking for representation? Or are you a brand who wants to work with some of the most exciting creators for your influencer marketing campaigns? You’re in the right place; contact AFK to get started!