The power of influencers

Back in the old days, if you wanted people to buy something, you included a celebrity in your commercial and it boosted the credibility of what you were selling but also made it cool and desirable (remember these iconic “Got Milk?” ads?). Fast forward to 2019 and we still love celebrities, but they’re not the only ones that have power. In an age ruled by social media and the internet, we have more access to people we look up to, and those people have power and influence over not only what we buy, read, and watch, but how we live. And it’s not just about celebrities; those are just one category of influencers.

“Influencer: a person who is able to generate interest in something (such as a consumer product) by posting about it on social media.” — Merriam Webster

Categories of influencers include:
- Celebrities
- Popular social media users
- Bloggers and content creators
- Industry experts
- Micro Influencers

Let’s talk about social media influencers. One of the biggest places on the internet for social media influence is YouTube. YouTube has over 2 billion registered users that visit every month. That is almost one-third of all internet users. The power in those numbers is unmatched by any other social media outlet. According to Forbes, there are 3 levels of influencers:

Micro: 5k-100k followers
Mid: 100k-1M followers
Macro: 1M+ followers

Obviously more followers = more influence. Channel Crawler is a website where people can filter and search for channels on YouTube. According to them, at the beginning of 2019, there were only 5,000 channels with over one million followers. Now, in August, there are 7,200! That’s about 10 new channels everyday hitting the one-million mark. The speed at which this is growing, and the availability, makes it appealing to all types of creators.

In addition to the growth of macro-influencers, the new, more attainable level is micro-influencer. These are people who are just starting to attract a following and usually have a very niche market that they cover and cater to. For example, my brother has a YouTube channel, Hayder Hype, where he covers the popular videogame Borderlands. His channel has grown to 36,000 followers and over 12 million total views in just a few years. He’s made enough money to put himself through college and has even had some brands reach out and send him free controllers, gift cards, and other merchandise to help them advertise their products. Brands are more and more attracted to these people because they seem more relatable and reachable to consumers. If followers have questions or comments, those micro-influencers usually have more time to respond and create more of a tight-knit community. People trust what micro-influencers say because there is a level of authenticity behind it. If you’re anything like me though, you probably have some questions.

How are people making money?

Well, first, with Google AdSense. These are the ads that we see every time we watch a video; we can choose to skip the ad after 5 seconds, or watch the whole thing; the longer we watch, the more money the video creator makes. Because YouTube is under the Google umbrella, this comes as a standard ad choice for YouTubers. Making money strictly off ads usually isn’t enough though. This leaves channels to work on brand deals, partnerships, and collaboration videos, to keep diversified streams of income.

Is this a sustainable method of income?

Depends on how you play the game. Social media doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. For all entertainers, staying up to date with popular culture and having diversified content is key. Some influencers have predicted that instead of new social media platforms, the ones we have will be constantly evolving. For example, Instagram users used to only be able to upload pictures; then it expanded to include video, and now it’s also possible to share live videos and stories. Although Instagram stories have only been around since 2016, there are over 500 million users who upload stories daily. As long as you are a flexible person and willing to constantly evolve your content, this type of industry can be sustainable.

Who is doing this?

Individuals aren’t the only ones riding this cash train. Businesses, celebrities, and experts are jumping on to further market their brands, sell products, and keep in contact with consumers.There are electronic brands like Playstation that have videos of gameplay and behind-the-scenes game creation, and TV shows like The Ellen Show that post clips of shows and exclusive content. But even companies like Walmart and Redbull have YouTube channels with huge followings, even though most of their videos aren’t about their products but are about building their brand.

Influencers are growing in number, and there will only be more of them in the coming years. We touched on only a small part of a social media influencers, but the number of people who are and will be affected by this trend is monumental.

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