The world is now divided between ad agency marketers and social media influencers. And there is little love lost. The Mad Men branding the influencers as ‘sad and pathetic’, describing the role as posing, twitching in your seat as you continually check your social media feeds. Whilst the influencers hit back, branding their pay masters as ‘out of touch soap vendors’.
So, what is the job of a social media influencer? The job of a social media influencer is to write, analysis trends, interview and meet deadlines. While the business model itself is not that complex, brands pay you. And if you’re really good you get yourself an avatar and an agent who negotiates on your behalf. Plus, you get to call yourself an expert. And if you’re like me the dress code is low key, jeans and a black sweater, with hair in a bun. Plus, it helps if you read newspapers in English.
At that moment, your life plan becomes build a brand along the lines of Chiara Ferragni, who has built a personal brand worth an estimated £10m.
Then being an influencer is easy. Brands pay you to endorse their products. An agent negotiates fees. Basically, they look at what a regular model would get paid, and at what a top celebrity would get paid, and pitches you somewhere in the middle. A brand will send you images or samples of a new products – it could be a mascara or a piece of jewellery – and if you like the brand and it fits aesthetically you will select pieces your happy to endorse. But many posts are unsponsored, these reinforce your aesthetic and voice, and build following.
The resistance of the establishment to you as an influencer is one part anxiety (the salesman always fear becoming obsolete), and their ethical suspicion that there is something compromised or false about the influencer role. This last part is tricky? How to unpick what authentic means for you.
A tiny example: halfway through your day, a post appears on your account of you in a cafe, captioned “much-needed coffee between interviews”; but you haven’t stopped for coffee. In the run-up to busy periods, you will often prepare posts so as to have appropriate content ready to go. That the photo wasn’t taken on the day doesn’t strike you as in any way fake. Your social media isn’t a logbook of life events, it’s a contemporaneous brand-strategy document. And that means it’s authentic.
But being independent of commercial alliance is not aspirational. A generation who have grown up dreaming of becoming personal brands do not treat brands with suspicion. Now that every man and woman is her own brand, The Man is the bogeyman no more. If the designer of a dress you like will pay you to wear that dress, that’s not a compromise, it’s win-win.
Your business model is resolutely digital, and it’s a numbers game: if an influencer has to choose between talking to the thousands of people who are with her on social media or the three people in her taxi, you will naturally prioritise the thousands.
But I’m not going to pretend it’s glamorous. What you don’t see of influencers is the behind-the-scenes effort: the months of meetings beforehand, the Google doc full of contact details for journalists, agents and intermediaries. And shoving protein bars into your mouth between appointments.
I love understanding the effect and cause of events. So, as a wanna be influencer, you simply look at events and emerging trends, and you decide what you think people would like. Becoming a social media influencer is about being independent. It’s not about the brand. It’s about you as a journalist.