There is a reason influencer marketing has dominated the traditional marketing industry. When done right, the pairing of a brand and an influencer can create more awareness for a cause, increase sales for the brand, and even expand the reach and audience of the creator.
But what constitutes an influencer, and how do you get it right?
Well, there is no perfect recipe for an influencer. An influencer on social media can be anyone who has created their own name and reputation with those who follow them based on their knowledge or expertise on a topic, relatability, and connection/engagement with their audience.
Being a social media influencer was not an attainable goal or career choice even ten years ago because it did not exist in the form we now know it. While influencers in the general sense have been around for centuries, the creation of social media influencers is a newer branch as social media has only come to be in the last two decades. It is now a job that can be traced back to YouTube.
When people first started making YouTube videos back in the 2000s, most were creating funny videos for friends, staying connected with others, and creatively expressing themselves. The term influencer did not arise until some of these creators started to notice their followings growing massively. Soon their audience of 100 from their hometown turned into 1,000 from their state watching, and then millions across the country. Eventually, viewers from around the world were watching, sharing, and connecting with creators. It allowed like-minded individuals to find entertainment outlets outside of traditional media with an aspect that regular TV shows and movies couldn’t provide: two-way communication and connection.
This phenomenon only expanded as new social media sites started to pop in the 2010s with Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine. This was also when the advertising and marketing worlds started to notice these content creators’ power (2021, Weinstein). By partnering with them, they could increase their brand’s awareness and reach, increase their own following on social media, and drive their sales by having an influencer talk about their product or service and endorse them.
A perfect example of this rise in status is in the beauty community. Many people started on YouTube and Instagram, creating new makeup looks, sharing techniques and advice, and providing reviews on companies. Artists like NikkieTutorials, MannyMua, and JeffreeStar all built their social media accounts around their love and passion for makeup and the artistry that came with it. As brands noticed that their followers listened and responded to their content and advice, they quickly realized they could team up to help their brand and image. These collaborations led to sponsored posts, advertising deals, and even partnerships creating makeup products with that influencer for their mutual audiences. And this worked. Today, we now see that most brands have relationships with multiple influencers to gain more notoriety in the beauty industry (2019, HBV).
However, this can be a fine line. With influencer marketing taking off, the industry has expanded faster than rules, regulations, and even best practices can be implemented and recognized. Many have had to go through trial and error to determine what works to receive positive, genuine reactions from their target markets. Since this type of marketing expanded so quickly, it began to take over social media, and many became turned off when they would be scrolling through their platforms and run into a sponsored post or a caption that started off with “#Ad.” This has meant that brands need to be careful who they choose to partner with and how that influencer discusses their product. Authentic engagement and similar values are key indicators when looking for influencers to connect with.
An example of an ideal partnership would be with content creator Khaby Lame and sports brand Nike. Khaby skyrocketed to stardom after he was laid-off during the beginning of the global shutdown in March of 2020 due to COVID-19. He had lost his factory job and started creating videos to pass the time and entertain himself (2021, Horowitz and Lorenz). He quickly became known for his comical and satirical posts mocking over complicated “life hacks” and showing the more common and arguably useful way to these hacks. People began to create videos that were extra absurd just to get a response video from Khaby. In his most popular videos, he does not speak but simply uses the same hand gesture over and over to motion towards the action or concept he just showed, implying how easy and obvious it was.
These simple in-concept videos took off and created great laughs and entertainment for people around the world. As his popularity grew, so did others’ insights into his life. He began sharing more videos, particularly on Instagram, based on his various interests, such as sports. He was connecting his “hack of hack” videos to soccer, basketball, and even dancing. His love for sports and making the world a better, easier place is a great example of why his partnership with Nike would be a perfect match. While his blank stares into the camera with his signature hand movement embody the Nike slogan, “Just do it,” his passion for his community also tracks with Nike’s social and community impact.
Khaby is Senegalese and currently living in Italy, and Nike currently has a campaign to celebrate Black Culture that is kicking off in the UK. Khaby’s connection with the European audience would be a positive connection for Nike. Nike typically uses celebrities for endorsements. However, having an influencer such as Khaby would bring a better sense of relatability to the brand and help it bridge the gap with its average customer by showing someone they feel they may connect with.
His 120+ million followers on TikTok and 57 million followers on Instagram are nearly unmatched, particularly at the speed at which he has amassed his audience. Additionally, his engagement is exceptionally high for someone with a reach this large. With 4.8 million authentic engagements on Instagram, this puts him at a 12.75% engagement rate which is beneficial for a company when looking at social media influencers to join forces with.
Khaby’s love and passion for sports are clearly seen on his social media. This collaboration would open him up to a more serious and official side on his social media status while maintaining his goal of spreading happiness worldwide. Both Khaby and Nike are known worldwide and can be mutually beneficial for their respective audiences to connect and gain new insights into their respective worlds.
HBV. (2019, December 13). “How Influencers Are Making Over Beauty Marketing.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2019/12/13/how-influencers-are-making-over-beauty-marketing/?sh=52e1ec771203
Horowitz, J., and Lorenz, T. (2021, June 6). “Khaby Lame, the Everyman of the Internet.” New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/02/style/khaby-lame-tiktok.html
Weinstein, G. (2021, July 26). “A History of Social Media Influencers.” Find Your Influence. https://findyourinfluence.com/a-history-of-social-media-influencers/