Today’s generation of powerful influencers is more accessible than ever before. Fans and followers can interact and converse with their favorite social media stars in ways that feel highly intimate and personal. But what is it like for influencers in this position, and what do brands need to know about connecting with these increasingly popular individuals?
In an attempt to answer these questions, Ze Frank, president of Buzzfeed Motion Pictures, led a discussion with influencers including Hannah Bronfman, Instagram personality and beauty expert; Essence Gant, senior Buzzfeed beauty editor; Vaughn Vreeland, creator for Buzzfeed Tasty videos; and Jonathan Steuer, chief risk officer of Omnicom Media Group.
At the core of the conversation was the idea that influencers have evolved dramatically in the past ten years. As Steuer explained, influencers used to focus on becoming untouchable celebrities who were far removed from their fans. While this behavior completely discouraged conversation and interaction, today’s influencers are quite the opposite. That is, having conversations with fans is desirable and oftentimes used to expand an influencer’s online presence and reach.
For Bronfman, this shift comes with its share of challenges. In the past few years she has struggled to define the line between public conversation and personal privacy. According to Bronfman, as fans receive more detailed information about their favorite influencers, they begin to believe they know everything about them and their lives.
“There are certainly things I don’t share with my audience, but people kind of forget that part of it. They think that everything you put out there — that that’s the only thing that’s happening in your day,” Bronfman said.
To combat this, modern influencers often strive to find a balance between connecting with followers and preserving the intimate details of their personal lives. In Gant’s opinion, perhaps more important than this balance is sharing her experiences in a relatable manner. Without honest thoughts and feelings, fans are unlikely to engage with content because they fail to resonate with it.
After discussing their various attempts at connecting with fans, Frank shifted the conversation to the influencers’ thoughts on working with brands. From their point of view, brand partnerships are only successful when an influencer’s passion for what they do shines through in their content. If they fail to do this, it is unlikely that the most relevant brands for their platforms will ever reach out.
In terms of what advice the panel had for brands looking to partner with influencers, three key elements emerged: brands need to listen to the young people in their offices, learn to trust the influencer’s knowledge of their audience and always listen to underrepresented groups.
In Gant’s experience, brands tend to underestimate how much influencers understand their fans and the relationships they share. She encouraged brands to give more freedom to influencers when collaborating in the future.
“Trust whatever influencer you’re working with. Trust what they have to say. [We know] our audiences best, [we know] what they respond to, [we know] what is going to feel real to them, what is going to feel like it is definitely an advertisement,” Gant said.
Social media influencers, love them or hate them, are clearly here to stay. What remains to be seen is just how much more interactive they will become and whether brands will continue to utilize them in their marketing strategies.