They are omnipresent, quite inescapable, and — let’s face it — growing in number. As more people gain access to social media platforms and discover their voice and amass followers, influencers as we call them, have exponentially increased digital content and, ultimately, changed the way we interact with brands.
Marketers and consumers alike have obsessed over personalities whose social media activity opened up room for discussion, inspiration, and affinity. The public’s regard for these personalities has definitely shifted over time — but perhaps no shift has been greater and more relevant than that which happened during 2020, when the pandemic struck out of nowhere, rendering many of the frills and fluff of social media nearly obsolete.
Filipinos have been spending more time online and seeing different people’s pandemic experiences through the window of social media. It has thus far been a time of distance and uncertainty, and people are looking for inspiration and guidance when it comes to what to buy into and what to believe. More than the diversion that the otherwise “fluffy” type of influencer marketing used to provide, audiences are in search of what mirrors their own realities. Rather than glitz and glamor, the pandemic has led people to a greater appreciation of grit and authenticity from those who dominate the numbers on the wide variety of social media platforms made available to us today.
Appreciation has risen for influencers that exhibit qualities of being socially aware and socially responsible. The paradigm shift in online content creation is not anymore about #goals, but rather about genuine expression.
Due to the heavy blows of the pandemic, numerous natural disasters, and even waves of global political change, influencers are now held to a higher standard as their followers demand more accountability and responsibility from them. Brands are also challenged to make messages that should be mindful of the hypercritical and hypersensitive consumer landscape. It is no secret that one of the most effective ways to create brand awareness and trust is the use of influencer marketing. Organic and relatable content is becoming a trend, making online brands heavily dependent on honest reviews from the people that their consumers not only admire but trust.
However, with the rise in numbers of influencers, how can you choose the right one for your brand? Where do influencers stand in the midst of different consumer mindsets?
EON, in partnership with Tangere, conducted a study called “Influencers: Eye Candy or Eye-Openers?” that revealed the different types of influencers in the age of COVID-19 and how social media users perceive their content. The team has identified three types of influencers:
THE INSENSITIVE INFLUENCER
These are the ones who exhibit apolitical stances, are ignorant of what’s happening in the country and in the world, and show little awareness or desire to take action on societal issues. In the age of cancel culture, this type of influencer tends to be the type brands need to steer clear of. American TikTok star and influencer Dixie D’Amelio is an example of this cohort. She has been accused of being transphobic and racist, and lost over a million of her TikTok followers. Off-White and Louis Vuitton designer Virgil Abloh was also the subject of controversy after his comments on the protests against police brutality were seen as insensitive and, at best, tangential to the real issue.
THE TOTAL PACKAGE INFLUENCER
Funny, creative, likeable yet still credible; these influencers mix comedy with social commentary to engage people in pressing issues. The Total Package influencer tends to resonate deeply among millennial and centennial audiences, reflecting the meme-able humor and wit in which they find much relief during these trying times. With most influencers limited to the confines of their home, followers would still look into how they strike a balance between entertaining and informing them. Vlogger Mimiyuuuh, everyone’s favorite Dalagang Pilipina, is a total package. Aside from creating viral, hilarious content, he has been very vocal about several hot button society issues and he praises other influencers who are willing to voice their opinions while being sensitive about what they post online.
THE ONLINE CHANGE-MAKERS
Opinionated, charitable, and genuine — they take a stand for the betterment of society, and are persuasive in promoting causes and advocacies. Though deemed controversial by some, social media users turn to these influencers to amplify the needs and voices of the many. With their courageous stances on pressing issues, the Online Change-Makers seem to have gained not just likes and followers, but genuine respect. Kakie Pangilinan is one change-maker who inspires her audience to speak their minds. Her brave and well-thought-out opinions have drawn praise and respect from social media users and have caught the attention of the powers-that-be and have inspired many others to stand up for what they think is right, however unpopular.
These are the “new-breed” of influencers who are authoritative figures coming from all walks of life, disrupting and molding consumer mindsets. Brands today need to catch up with these influencers who have a captive organic audience as they focus on consumers and not on client briefs. Therefore, brands are left with the demand of considering the congruence of their messages with the influencer’s personality to remain authentic and relevant.
According to GWI’s report on the age of influence and how to personalize on social media, the chosen influencer and their opinions on a product affect the purchase choice of consumers where 67% of respondents say that they are more likely to consider a brand/product if their favorite influencer has promoted it, 56% of respondents look to them for honest reviews, and 37% of respondents say they valued the greater authenticity seen in their recent content. The top industries that have recognized this reality at an early time and are actively utilizing influencers include fashion, cosmetic, and e-commerce brands.
Recently, big name influencers have made it to the headlines and just about every coffee corner conversation. Their actions (or inaction), and behavior (or misbehavior) are being put on the stand as more and more people are being made aware that their status and lifestyles are — in one way or another — a result of the trust that their followers put on them through millions of views, clicks, and shares. Content is the biggest differentiator among influencers, and accountability is what provides the check and balance.
More than a brand name, people trust real people. Influencers are real. The aim now is to be an inspiration through actions taken with a sense of purpose in mind. The criteria for choosing influencers has now changed and the drive for influencers to reevaluate their content shows how this pandemic has helped us see more of what truly counts in this world: a two-way relationship, not a one-way sales channel.
These days, the time-tested adage still applies — tell me who you follow, and I’ll tell you who you are.
This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Junie Del Mundo is Chair of the MAP Health Committee, Vice-Chair of MAP the CEO Committee, and Co-Founder and CEO of the EON Group, a fully integrated communications consultancy with expertise in consumer and corporate PR, reputation management and public affairs, digital marketing and creative technology, and experiential marketing.