Those of us of a certain age will no doubt be fascinated to hear about these so-called celebrity bloggers and vloggers who have similar followings today as Fawlty Towers and Morecambe & Wise did in the 1970s.
Yet our kids will be perfectly well acquainted with people like Zoella, Logan Paul, Tyler Oakley and Jay Versace. In fact, they spend so much time watching these people that they’re watching less and less television - a recent report into how children consume media shows a tipping point away from watching programmes together.
But it’s not just kids who are following these new online influencers. A large majority of us will be following at least one or two people online who we believe have something interesting or pertinent to say.
They could be industry leaders, politicians, celebs, thought leaders, journalists or just experts in their field. They could be posting on news sites, Facebook, LinkedIn, company blogs, YouTube or Instagram.
The rise of these influencers and the power they exert over us is starting to change fundamentally how the media works as it is starting to shift the balance of power away from traditional news publishers and agencies to individuals.
The ultimate aim for most brands and organisations is to get in front of as many potential customers as they can for the least amount of investment. This traditionally was done through direct advertising, public relations, sponsorship and of course celebrity endorsement.
With powerful online and social channels like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram we’re seeing a morphing of the best route to market for brands. Advertising, PR, sponsorship and celebrity endorsement are merging into a new form of Influencer Relations.
Let me give you an example of how this works. Let’s say Mark & Spencer were launching a new range of summer dresses aimed at women in their early 20s - classic Millennials. Traditionally they would have advertised in magazines like Grazia, Prima or Red plus some TV ads showing models wearing the clothes.
Whilst they may still do this, they will also turn to ‘power influencers’ in the young female fashion world. People like Emma Rose Thatcher, Alex Stedman or Lucy Williams will have millions of followers. M&S, or more often than not their creative agency, would approach these bloggers asking them whether they would be willing to write about the new dresses.
Samples would be sent over to them - just as PR ‘freebies’ have been for decades - and they are then at liberty to write about, film or take selfies with these clothes. Of course, most of these influencers expect to be paid to endorse these products in a similar fashion to celebrities.
Some charge eye-watering amounts of money. However, if one well-crafted video showing the vlogger wearing the dress means they sell out, then the investment will have been well worth it. Not only that but a whole new generation of women will have been exposed to the M&S brand, helping to cement their long-term future as a retailer.
There are now even products like Influencer which act as a combination of online directory and broker, enabling brands to place their products or services directly in front of these ‘creators’. Part ad agency, part PR consultancy and part talent pool, this company espouses how media works in 2018.
So when you are planning your next product launch or you are trying to get in front of all the right people, then think about who your influencers are. At a very basic level, perhaps you could engage with them on Twitter or LinkedIn, regularly comment on their Instagram posts or speak to them after they’ve presented at an event.
You never know, one key influencer could be the catalyst which transforms your business!