Persistent Barriers Influencers Face to Stay Relevant

With multiple social media platforms and millions of people flocking online every day, it’s no surprise that so many people want to become digital content creators, or better yet, influencers.

An influencer is someone whose online videos, photos or podcasts are followed, listened to and approved by a significant audience. They promote brands as well as new products and services.

The influencer marketing business, which Bloomberg says is a $20 billion growing industry, began in 2011 on YouTube when the social media video giant made the move to attract more viewers. premium advertisers and improve the quality of its programming, according to the Atlantic.

Koen Pauwels poses for a portrait. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

This prompted YouTube executives to seek out a growing class of users who were attracting large audiences to the social platform. These users later became known as “YouTube stars,” the very beginning of the influencer marketing business.

Even today, an important step to becoming a successful influencer is to be one of the first users of a new social media platform, according to Koen Pauwels, distinguished professor of marketing at Northeastern and co-director of the Digital, Analytics, Technology and Automation initiative. .

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok joined YouTube in the influencer arena a long time ago, but the same strategy applies now as it did ten years ago. The fewer people doing exactly what you do, the better, says Pauwels.

“There’s a pioneer advantage, as we call it,” he says. “And then in marketing, we have the approach of segmentation and targeting. You need to be in the channels where your customer is. Having a multi-channel approach helps you reach people who otherwise might not. »

Amy Pei, assistant professor of marketing at Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, agrees that influencers should always stay one step ahead of their competition, both in content and platform.

“When TikTok first appeared (four years ago), it wasn’t like a big deal. People were mostly still on YouTube or Instagram,” says Pei. “So if you, at at the time, made the right judgment or made the right bet, you migrated to TikTok and then you became big.”

Each social media platform has its own demographics which include age, gender, and number of active users. This includes TikTok, the hugely popular video app which has more viewership than YouTube, according to BBC News.

But since it was first made available outside of China in 2018, TikTok has received backlash from politicians around the world who fear user data will end up in the wrong hands or viewership will be shaped by Chinese propagandists, reports Economist.

In 2020, the platform was banned in India, whose government claimed the app “steals and surreptitiously transmits” user information. Two months later, former President Donald Trump issued an executive order requiring TikTok to be sold to a US company within 45 days or face a ban. The executive order was later revoked by President Joe Biden.

For this reason, Pauwels says cross-channel marketing is especially important for TikTok influencers.

“Just a few years ago, it was possible that TikTok would be banned,” says Pauwels. “It’s always important to remember that as an influencer you are really dependent on the platform, which can change at any time.”

Social media influencers make money in a number of ways, including offering sponsored content, serving as brand ambassadors, and getting part of the advertising on the website. But it’s not as easy as it seems.

Alexandra Morales is a student from the North East studying business marketing and graphic design. She has over a million followers on TikTok, but says it’s not the best decision to rely on social media as her main source of income.

“I think each to their own, you can definitely earn a steady income from this, but it might not be as rewarding as you think,” she says.

Pei suggests starting slowly with low expectations.

“For anyone who wants to do this as a full-time job, as a career, maybe they should give it a go, do it as a hobby, but a more serious hobby, or maybe try to do it part-time for a while, and see if they have what it takes or if that’s the lifestyle they’re looking for,” she says.

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