Forget  banner ads. Forget pop up ads (who doesn’t use an ad blocker?). Influencer marketing is the heart and soul of a budding advertising industry that’s as lucrative as it is effective. In 2018, more brands are collaborating with influencers than ever before. Out of the $83 billion the advertising industry pulled in last year, an estimated $1 billion was given to those with the gift of good content – and it’s only growing. By 2021, brands are expected to spend $120 billion on digital marketing, and influencer spending is supposed to double by 2019.

Despite the hefty paychecks, influencers sometimes get a bad rap – especially video influencers who are seemingly perpetually criticized for vlogging about nothing (Jake Paul is too busy chilling in his mansion to really care).The general public has been very unwilling to give credit to the whip-smart, marketing gurus whose only seeming claim to fame is posting nice photos on Instagram – but they couldn’t be more wrong. Good content is wildly valuable and well worth the $100,000 price tag some of the top influencers charge per post. Don’t you think it’s time to start considering these creators actual businesses?

Influencers may work with brands, but they’re also a brand themselves. If you want social media success, it’s time to start thinking of yourself as a brand, too. Here’s why influencers are the new brand, and everyone’s buying in.

Influencers Are The New Celebrities

Most of us think if celebrities as brands, right? We know Jennifer Lawrence by her candid, gal-next-door humor and willingness to chow down on a cheeseburger two seconds before hopping on the red carpet. We know a Seth Rogan film by its stoner humor. We know that the same poised, elegant persona held by Anne Hathaway wouldn’t ever be caught dipping into Rogan’s specific brand of raunchy humor. They have their own identity and so do influencers, except influencers arguably more powerful when it comes to collaborating with brands.

Simply put, celebrities don’t have the same buying power as influencers. About 92 percent of consumers trust an influencer more than a regular advertisement or celebrity endorsement. Some influencers have about the same online following as your favorite celebs, and some of your favorite celebs are influencers themselves (hello, Selena Gomez, Kylie Jenner and the cast of Teen Mom). All of these people are brands.

Every Influencer Is Selling A Figurative Product

If you want a burger, you go to McDonalds. If you want a healthy salad, you may hit up Panera. If you’re looking for a new computer, you’re going to go to Best Buy. There’s no way you’d hop into a McDonalds looking for the latest model Macbook. These brands are selling specific goods, and so are influencers.

Every successful influencer has a niche. Take Atleeeey for example. This beauty-minded influencer has over 176,000 Instagram followers, and she’s hyper-focused on makeup. You’d be hard-pressed to find her promoting camping gear in the midst of her many makeup tutorials. On the other hand, Forrest Mankinsamassed 383,000 Instagram followers by documenting his travels across America. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him promoting camping gear because he regularly camps. As an influencer, your followers are coming to you for a certain product (which means you are, in fact, a brand). Once you know what that product is, you can give viewers exactly what they want.

Every Influencer Has A Very Specific Aesthetic

Brand recognition is an important thing. When you think Netflix, you think that blinding red screen. When you think Apple, you imagine their iconic half-bitten fruit logo. Influencers are recognizable in the same way and many play with color and image to create a patented aesthetic. Lifestyle blogger Zoe London, who regularly collaborates with some of the most recognized high street brands, is instantly recognized by her bright blue hair.  Phoenix Hayley, a micro influencer with over 52,000 Instagram followers, fills her feed with shades of yellow and orange. Even Taylor Swift pretty much revived blonde hair and bright red lipstick after it was Marilyn Monroe’s trademark. Your aesthetic is important because people will associate it with your personal brand, and they’ll see you everywhere. Admit it: when you see red lipstick, you think Taylor Swift. When you see bodacious booties, you think Kardashian. It works.

Some Influencers Are Selling Literal Products

If you have merchandise, you are a brand. There’s no way around it. Influencers everywhere have taken to selling their own merchandise, whether it’s web show host Philip Defranco, who supplements YouTube’s unreliable monetization with t-shirts, or music photographer Ashley Osborne, who sells original Lightroom presets. Looking strictly at the definition, if you create a product for consumption, you are indeed a brand (and hey, sometimes that product is content). Get used to it!

Not every influencer is selling t-shirts on their own website, though having an ecommerce store is definitely a major signal that you are, in fact, a brand. Some influencers are actually collaborating with the biggest retail stores in America to create tangible things people can buy at the mall.  Who sells stuff in stores? Brands! If you have a clothing line in Nordstroms like Cupcakes and Cashmere or Aeropostale like Bethany Mota, you are indeed a brand.

The truth is, if you collaborate with brands and monetize your social media accounts, your posts are your product. That makes you – your beautiful mind, your quirky personality and your awesome sense of style – a brand. That’s really worth something special.



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