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Are Influencers this generation’s “Mad Men”?

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By Lauren Howe

Influencer relations have permeated public relations and social media marketing to a degree that cannot be ignored. The days of traditional advertising made famous by the idea of the Mad Men are long gone. Now, the idea of a simple commercial or billboard touting a catchy tagline is no longer enough motivation for consumers to purchase a product or engage with a brand. As younger Millennials have had the instant access to information and technology for the entirety of their lifetime as a consumer, to truly engage with a brand or a product, there is a demand for a personal touch that goes past even the best company website’s “About Us” page.

This need for that extra recommendation from friends has brought in the new form of advertising through social media influencers. However, when there are so many people claiming to be an influencer, and saturating the marketing place with #sponsored content, what does it really mean, and more importantly what does it take to be a successful voice in the industry while still holding onto the individual voice that brought you to where you are? Colangelo & Partners team members had the opportunity to sit down with fashion/lifestyle influencer Isis Louw, a.k.a @TheSmartFashionista, who, despite her substantial following of over 235k followers, says the key to success is a subtle brand partnership with a strong emphasis on originality and realism.

Isis differentiates herself continuously in this increasingly crowded field through multiple strategies. No exorbitant filters or editing tools are used. A simple edit with Adobe Lightroom for brightness is more than enough; she recommends taking pictures outside and with the help of a photographer (or even her husband). When it comes to partnerships with brands, she recommends establishing a long term relationship with a brand that, as the influencer, you are also passionate about. This means there are no one-off posts that seem insincere; for brands connecting with influencers it needs to make sense to reach out to an influencer whose personal brand and fans would relate to your product. Consistency through message, content, brands as well as a dedicated platform is key.

Although Facebook started the social media boom, the community around it, Isis has noticed, is now more negative and a space to share complaints, and Twitter is now for sharing news. Her medium of choice is Instagram. In regards to the recent changes to Instagram hiding the likes of each post, Isis is not too concerned. Genuine followers who have a relationship with Isis, and the brands she sponsors, will continue to engage as long as the content and messaging stay transparent and real. This change will not make a difference for reputable companies like Colangelo & Partners in terms of hiring influencers. Insights and back end information will still be available and can be shared with PR and Marketing agencies when determining payments.

As the ad execs knew back in the 1950s and (sometimes) took advantage of, with this great power of controlling the message comes great responsibility. It is a delicate balance for influencers to share the suggested and appropriate brand messaging, while still integrating into their personal voice that their followers and fans have come to know and trust. Many question what will be the “next thing” when it comes to online advertising and marketing. For now, the strength of the social media world that public relations and marketing execs alike should take advantage of is this niche area of a mass marketer, with the trusted relationship like that of a friend.