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How millennials are using Instagram celebrity status to build multi-million dollar empires

Influencers continue to re-shape the media industry as an increasing number of businesses enlist them to fuel business growth and customer engagement. As the director of a PR agency, I have recognised the power of influencer marketing to reach client’s target audiences and start real conversations with consumers. 

The rise of influencer marketing can be attributed to social media platforms, where millennials socialise, connect and consume. In fact, ION found that “71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference”*. The social media giant, Instagram, boasts over 700 million active users and is a powerful platform to reach consumers due to the high level of influencer-user engagement.

Having been raised in a digital age, millennials are not reliant on traditional media; instead, they gravitate toward social media as they want to consume information quickly and view brands on social platforms as approachable personas. (That said, I’ve found that a mix of traditional and new media methods are essential for maximum campaign reach).

Millennials, being predominately visual learners, want their engagement with a brand to go beyond a traditional advertisement or purchase – they want it to be an experience. This is where influencers come in. Influencer networks are enabling brands to reach their audiences in much more engaging and authentic ways through the use of a growing breed of online ambassadors. Influencers have an established and meaningful relationship with their audience, as they have cultivated a high level of trust. With this, consumers will deem influencer’s content authentic if it is consistent with their personal brand and image. Therefore, influencer campaigns need to be creative and organic, as influencers are native to their channel and know what content their audience will engage with.

With this in mind, influencers have the ability to carefully curate, filter and edit their lives in order to reach their audience or a particular target market. The ability for an influencer to share a story in a manner that is both inspiring and relatable to the average consumer allows them to market products, through authentic storytelling, to a community of followers that trust them. Influencer agency, Theright.fit found that “92% of people trust recommendations from individuals over brands”. Social media influencers have a celebrity status that is unique as any individual has the ability to simply follow them in order to gain access to their community and form an ‘intimate’ relationship with them.

A study by TapInfluence found that “social media influence marketing is 11 times more effective than banner ads”. With this in mind, a new breed of smart Millennials have taken advantage of the trend and have created multi-million dollar empires by harnessing influencing marketing capabilities.

Nik Mirkovic and Alex Tomic are two Millennials from the Gold Coast who had an idea, pursued it and launched it via social media. With no entrepreneurial experience, the co-founders launched their teeth whitening product, HiSmile, in December 2014 with a meagre start-up capital of just $20,000. They turned over $10 million in the space of 18 months. So, how did they achieve this exactly?

Their entire marketing budget was allocated to influencer-led social media campaigns through Instagram. Identifying a gap in the oral hygiene market, they wanted to offer their product as highly accessible, convenient and results driven. Their aim was not a hard sell but to create a global movement by presenting a lifestyle of positivity and culture that is unique to their brand. By sending products to influencers and bloggers, their message and idyllic lifestyle was spread to a wide reach of their target market.

Now onto a millennial that found fame solely by publishing photos of herself wearing designer clothes in a range of desirable locations. Chiara Ferragni boasts 10 million followers on her self-titled Instagram, and she is deemed as one of the cult celebrities in the social media realm that you must follow. Her worth is estimated at $12 million, making her a role model to a generation of digital natives who aspire to establish a career as a social media influencer. Through collaborations and partnerships with major fashion houses and designed brands which she promotes on Instagram, Chiara has made her fortune. Through this fame, Chiara launched her own shoe collection in 2013 which is sold in more than 300 stores worldwide today. She also runs the lifestyle and fashion blog, The Blonde Salad, that has evolved from a purely outfit blog to a digital platform that offers a complete lifestyle experience.

Quintessential Australian sweetheart, Natasha Oakley, has become a social media sensation by creating an enviable lifestyle that essentially consists of bikinis, travel and photography. She rose to fame through one of the world’s largest swimwear platforms, A Bikini a Day, which she co-owns with best friend, Devin Brugman. The platform boasts 625k followers on Instagram, whilst she shares the most intimate and desirable highlights of her life with 1.9 million followers on her personal account A Bikini a Day have collaborated with some of the biggest swimwear brands, Tory Burch and Vix Swimwear, in the world whilst Tash has found fortune through collaborations and ambassadorships with iconic brands such as Bonds, Seafolly and Bondi Sands. Their pages encourage friendship, entrepreneurship, travel and style which they hope is an inspiration for their followers.

So, what is the future for influencer marketing? Although some think that this influencer bubble will pop, I believe it is here to stay and we will continue to use influencers to deliver our client’s message. You will most likely see a rise of micro influencers and the growing need for a symbiotic, strategic and long term relationship between influencers and brands. Even though many brands believe influencer marketing resonates mostly with millennials, you can use it effectively for Gen X and Baby Boomers.  Older generations are utilising social media platforms as a way to communicate and share content as, “71% of adults who are digitally active use Facebook and usage among seniors continues to grow”**. So don’t rule anyone out if you are thinking about influencer marketing!

See also: Success in a smile: the young Queenslanders who grew a $10m business in under two yearsInfluencer marketing: the Kardashian #ad crackdown and disclosure laws in Australia and The art of finding and attracting the right social media influencers to your brand.

About the author

Sharon Zeev Poole is  the director of boutique agency Agent99 Public Relations. She has grown it from a one-man show to a full service, award-winning PR agency located in the thriving creative hub of Surry Hills, Sydney. The agency specialises in launching or relaunching brands in the food, beverage and travel spaces, as well as working with corporates and individuals to raise their profile in the B2B space.

* https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomward/2017/06/26/this-is-the-future-of-influencer-marketing/#7a1da308142c

**    https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/288624

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Sharon Zeev Poole

Sharon Zeev Poole

Sharon Zeev Poole is the Founder and Director of highly regarded boutique PR and communications agency Agent99 PR. The agency specialises in launching or relaunching brands in the food, beverage and lifestyle spaces, as well as working with corporate clients, thought leaders and authors to raise their profile.

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