The Rise of the Influencer


What is an Influencer?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines an Influencer as:

Someone who affects or changes the way that other people behave or A person who is paid by a company to show and describe its products and services on social media encouraging other people to buy them

Over the past decade, the influencer industry has snowballed. From lifestyle bloggers to TikTok stars, the influencer market is constantly changing. Social media influencers have become their own brand and many have become worldwide sensations. Influencers aren’t a new thing; there is evidence of influencers going back to the early 1900s.

Pre-Social Media Influencers

In 1920 Coco Chanel became one of the first fashion influencers and is famously credited as the designer who popularised trousers, making them a key piece in women’s wardrobes. Trousers suits broke a barrier between men and women’s fashion, and by doing so, Coco Chanel changed women’s perspective around the globe about how they dressed.

The first celebrity endorsement deal came about in 1984 between professional basketball player Michael Jordan and Nike when they jointly designed Air Jordan trainers. The contract was deemed very lucrative for Nike as they made $70 million in sales in the first year.

Introduction of Social Media Platforms

On the 16th of July 2010, the first-ever photograph was uploaded to the new social media platform, Instagram. Instagram gave its users the ability to connect to the world by sharing pictures of what they enjoyed. Influencers could use this platform to communicate with their fans in a completely different way from before.
Lifestyle influencers could now share their lives, and their followers could take note of the products they were using. In 2013, Instagram started showing paid advertisements to its US users. This allowed influencers to connect to brands more easily.

It was reported in July 2021 that Cristiano Ronaldo is earning $1.6 million per sponsored post (as of November 2021, he has 364 million followers on Instagram.) Fitness influencer, Kayla Itsines despite being one of the first fitness influencers, is still one of Instagrams most influential people with over 13.5 million followers.



Influencers Today

In 2020, the Influencer Marketing Hub surveyed businesses about content marketing, and the results were astonishing. 59% of companies responded that they had a budget allocated to content marketing, and 75% said they intended to have a budget for influencer marketing in 2021.

Over the last couple of years, there has been a trend toward ‘everyday influencers’ rather than celebrities. Consumers feel most connected to regular people whose content, even when sponsored, is more authentic and relatable. Popular’ everyday influencers include Em Sheldon, who started her influencer journey as a fitness and lifestyle blogger; Alice Liveing, a fitness influencer from London who gained a large following as Clean Eating Alice. Dr Hazel Wallace is an NHS doctor who worked in the Covid wards during the pandemic and a food, fitness and lifestyle blogger.

Influencers in the Fitness Sector

Influencer marketing has proved to be highly successful for sports and fitness brands because of the rising popularity in wellness and health. Influencers in sports and fitness do more than promote a product; they tell the consumers that this is the thing they need to achieve a specific fitness goal. Additionally, these fitness and sports influencers themselves are trendsetters with their diets and exercise regimes.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated existing trends in fitness, leading to a rise in a need for home fitness inspiration. Many of the brands that have benefited the most from influencers shifting their fitness content to adhere to social distancing are those that already catered to at-home workouts. For example, Caroline Girvan, a Northern Irish Personal Trainer, became an internet sensation with her home workouts. Since launching her Youtube channel in April 2020, she has amassed over 1 million subscribers.



The future of Influencer Marketing

It was recently predicted that by 2022 video content will dominate all online content by 82%, with video marketing increasing by 41% since 2016. In financial terms, The influencer marketing business was worth $9.7bn in 2020 and is expected to grow to $15bn by 2022.



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