Cutting Out the Middle Man – Direct to Consumer Influencer Marketing

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The concept “celebrity” is ever evolving, but the effect it has on fans has remained unchanged. Just as before, we view celebrities as influential, inspirational and most importantly, marketable. Celebrity ambassadors continue to act as driving forces across advertising and marketing platforms for brands wishing to successfully communicate with their target demographics. However, in the last few years, the phenomena of social conversation and the culture of content consumption are expanding the notion of “celebrity” to include a new wave of talent known as ‘social celebrities’.

Digital platforms have launched careers of a number of these social celebrities. Chrissy Tiegen tweeted her way from Sports Illustrated model to a pop culture icon, author and philanthropist, and, Isabel Bedoya instagramed her way from small-town makeup artist to global beauty ambassador for brands including Urban Cosmetics, SmashBox and many more.

With the world having gone completely digital – brands have turned to these social influencers to reach their target audience. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Vine, Snapchat, Twitter, and other platforms have allowed people to transform themselves into fashion stylists, fitness experts, designers and music artists. The paradigm of what was once understood to constitute a celebrity has shifted from solely on-screen actors and singers to social influencers.

In fact, studies continually show that consumers look to these social influencers for inspiration and guidance. As such, the influence they wield on their audiences continues to grow exponentially.  Many of these influencers have much higher aggregate reach through social media channels than their traditional counterparts have through the established media channels. This has obviously prompted brands to take notice and begin focusing on their social media presence, growing and connecting with their customer base, and generating online ROI through the use of these new social celebrities.

In a recent survey by Accenture, it was found that millennial shoppers spend about $600 billion each year, and by 2020 that amount is expected to grow to $1.4 trillion. It is certainly no secret that the average consumer, endures digital ads because they often don’t have a choice in the matter, and considers them to be a necessary evil. Nevertheless, millennial audiences have become somewhat immune to this type of bombardment. This is why social celebrities allow brands to market to them indirectly and organically by building on a connection and leveraging established trust. This is because millennials look for product recommendations from trusted sources like family, friends, and their go-to social influencers.

Fans consume influencers’ online content for the same reasons they engage with others face-to-face; they want a personal connection. People are attracted to the stories of “average” (or at least ‘relatable’) people’s lives. These are people that they understand and can relate to or that they aspire to be like. Fans feel a connection with the influencers, a personal bond, that’s more like a friendship to them than following.

As such, building upon the one-on-one connection with their fans is essential for influencers to maintain an increasingly loyal audience. Fans no longer have to connect with a talent manager or agent to reach their favorite celebrities.   With the help of innovative platforms, influencers are now able to generate genuine 1:1 relationships and further strengthen their connection. The omnipresence of social media has created a sense that if we’re not connected, we’re simply not keeping up.

Whether a brand needs to catapult awareness for “15-minutes” or influence consumers over the long term, the use of social celebrities keeps them front and center in a rapidly shifting consumer marketplace. Social influencers will continue to grow in importance as they are the easiest way to pair the on-demand economy, supporting relationships and the brands wishing to reach their audience in a more organic way.

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