Further Down the Rabbit Hole

Through our last discussion about Forbes’ social media top influencer list, it’s evident that social media marketing is a firm reality that companies need to consider. In fact, the intimate, personable nature makes it a great candidate for companies looking to build relationships with consumers. In a way, online communities are “echo chambers” of thoughts, and the ability to penetrate these echo chambers and join the conversation is infinitely beneficial (Shayon, 2017). 

A company that has been ever-present in the social media marketing world is Amazon. My last blog post discussed social media Influencer Zoella providing affiliate links in her video’s description boxes. Those links were by Amazon. When a viewer clicks through to buy the product, the affiliate receive a commission on those sales (Perez, 2017). Just a few weeks ago, Amazon released its new phase in affiliate marketing, the Amazon Influencer Program, combining affiliate marketing with the growing influencer culture. The new Influencer program differs because of its exclusivity. You may apply to become an official Influencer, however Amazon will only accept those with “large followings” (Perez, 2017). Amazon also considers metrics such as fan engagement, quality of content, and the level of relevancy for Amazon. After being accepted, the Influencers are given a unique vanity URL that is easy for customers to remember and find. On their personal Influencer page, they may create a curated selection of products that their followers can scroll through. 

For example, the YouTube channel “WhatsUpMoms” has been one of the first Influencers invited by Amazon. WhatsUpMoms is a collaboration among a group of parents who share parenting tips, recipes, life hacks, and they have over 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube (Perez, 2017). Their new Influencer URL is amazon.com/shop/whatsupmoms. You will be led to a page featuring thumbnail images of the suggested products, their pricing, their Prime status, and a brief description.

Screenshot of WhatsUpMoms' new Amazon Influencer page
WhatsUpMoms’ new Amazon Influencer page.

“We are really excited to be a part of this new program. As the #1 Parenting Network on YouTube, we are constantly asked by our community for product recommendations and about the products used in our videos. Now that we have our own Amazon store makes it much easier to have a curated collection all in one spot”. – Liane Mullin, President and COO of WhatsUpMoms

Through this program, Amazon is not working directly with the Influencers on product selection, nor are the brands working through Amazon to speak to Influencers. Amazon is simply providing the platform. Although brands often have separate relationships with the Influencers outside of Amazon. Perhaps, the next step is for Amazon to also provide this “middleman” service. 

Screenshot of comments
On a news article announcing Amazon’s new service, a reader leaves a comment, calling Influencers “better than sales people”. And in terms of online sales, it is true.

It will be interesting to see the new Influencer program unfold and watch for Amazon’s next moves. For consumers, it is important to grow more discerning as well. There is a high level of trust between consumers and the influencers they respect (Hall, 2010). Knowing that companies highly covet these relationships and are willing to pay, consumers should grow even more aware and consciously alert of their purchasing decisions. On the other hand, companies have the opportunity to explore the possibilities of social media and affiliate marketing. If utilized correctly, they will gain access to pre-defined new markets of passionate consumers. And these consumers are willing to listen. 

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References

Shayon, Sheila. (April 11, 2017). Forbes Announces First Class of Social Media Influencers. BrandChannel. Retrieved from http://brandchannel.com/2017/04/11/forbes-social-media-influencers-041117/.

Perez, Sarah. (March 31, 2017). Amazon quietly launches its own social media influencer program into beta. Tech Crunch. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/31/amazon-quietly-launches-its-own-social-media-influencer-program-into-beta/.

Hall, Taddy. (2010). How consumer attitudes and behaviours are shaped in social media. ARF Experiential Learning. Retrieved from https://www-warc-com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/SubscriberContent/Article/How_consumer_attitudes_and_behaviors_are_shaped_in_social_media/97460

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Down the Rabbit Hole

I thought it would be fitting to start off my first blog post with a bit of recent news. 

Just two days ago and for the first time, Forbes released what it called its “Top Influencers” list, ranking the top thirty global social media icons. The 30 “influencers” span three categories – beauty, fitness, and home – and they garner more than 250 million online followers (Shayon, 2017). This doesn’t merely entail thirty kids sitting at the cool table during lunch; these influencers currently earn up to thousands of dollars per sponsored social media post (Perez, 2017). 

For instance, in first place for the beauty category is British Influencer Zoella. Online, she has over 11.6 million YouTube subscribers. In real life, her popularity has allowed her to have her own line of candles, lotions and beauty accessories (Shayon, 2017). But online is still where she makes most of her money. On YouTube, companies pay more than $300,000 per video for a partnership (Shayon, 2017). This could entail Maybelline paying Zoella to create a makeup tutorial featuring exclusively Maybelline products. A Forbes spokesperson explains that highly visual platforms like YouTube and Instagram are coveted by companies seeking brand partnerships (Shayon, 2017). 

Screenshot of Zoella's Instagram post
An Instagram post by Zoella promoting a single company.

Screenshot of Zoella's YouTube video

 A YouTube video where Zoella talks about her favorite products. In the description box, there are affiliate links where viewers may purchase the same products. 

If we define an “influential user” as someone who’s sharing action results in at least one additional site visit, then the average amount of influential users on a site at a given time is only 0.6%. Yet, these influencers regularly generate up to 50% of site traffic (Hall, 2010). Moreover, they cause a signifiant share of conversions. 

“It’s time to recognize the influencer economy as a legitimate entrepreneurial pursuit.” – Christina Vuleta, VP of Forbes Women’s Digital Network.

Social media influencing works well because the influencers have already built entire communities of like-minded members. These influencers go beyond the mould of the traditional brand sponsor – they’ve curated a careful market around their passions and lives. Their audience has genuine affinity for the words they say. 

Nowadays with the younger generation in the western world, there is a decreasing sense of nationalistic patriotism. Especially compared to decades past. A young person today may feel much more connected to their community on YouTube, for example, and much less connected to their physical neighborhood community. The influencer culture is born from this phenomenon. In fact, the entire industry has been created by brands that leverage these influences to reach the most passionate, relevant markets. The value of a “like” or a “follower” is intangible, but the results are very much real. 

~ Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll talk about Amazon’s recent innovation in influencer marketing and what it means for consumers. ~

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References

Shayon, Sheila. (April 11, 2017). Forbes Announces First Class of Social Media Influencers. BrandChannel. Retrieved from http://brandchannel.com/2017/04/11/forbes-social-media-influencers-041117/.

Perez, Sarah. (March 31, 2017). Amazon quietly launches its own social media influencer program into beta. Tech Crunch. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/31/amazon-quietly-launches-its-own-social-media-influencer-program-into-beta/.

Hall, Taddy. (2010). How consumer attitudes and behaviours are shaped in social media. ARF Experiential Learning. Retrieved from https://www-warc-com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/SubscriberContent/Article/How_consumer_attitudes_and_behaviors_are_shaped_in_social_media/97460.