The year is 1996, Girl Power is about to take over the world and the divorce of Charles and Diana is imminent. Across the pond however, band directors across the United States are experiencing an influx of people looking to learn to play the saxophone. Why? Because of little Lisa Simpson, of course. The New York Times spoke to a local music teacher who saw an influx of girls asking to learn the instrument because of the spiky-haired genius.

Moving forward in time, pretty much the entire back-catalogue of Gossip Girl (2007 – 2012, or 2002 – 2009 if we’re looking at the books) is an addictive introduction to influencer marketing. The show, in a nutshell, has its own form of social media in the form of a text subscription service (aka Gossip Girl) – people send anonymous submissions, recipients get gossip, drama ensues.

The core characters know their influential powers and often use it to their own commercial or personal gain; The Spectator (a newspaper) gives Serena her own blog as they launch their online news site so people can get the gossip straight from her instead of Gossip Girl, Blair uses her prestigious Constance school uniform and cohorts as inspiration when launching a fashion line specifically for teenage girls, and Chuck Bass throws his name around wherever he chooses to go.

Chances are you’ve heard the term ‘influencer marketing’ buzzing about, with increasing frequency, over the past few years. The fact of the matter is it’s nothing new; it has existed since the dawn of time and can be simplified to good old fashioned ‘word of mouth’.

Social media has existed in one website or another for more than 20 years, and has taken word of mouth to a whole new level. Humans have always been influential, and given the power of keyboards/the world wide web/social media we can shout as loud as we like, IN FULL CAPS, how much we love or loathe a product, service or certain world leaders.

These days, influencers are often people who fall into one of three categories:

  1. Micro-influencers; small following (500 – 10k), likely to have good engagement stats but they’re ‘normal’ people like you or I.
  2. Macro-influencers; this covers most bloggers (10k – 1m followers) and engagement can be anywhere from 5% to 25%. These are usually specific to a sector e.g. beauty or fashion.
  3. Mega-influencers; basically Kim Kardashian and Ko., we’re talking celebrities, athletes, actors etc. A very high following but engagement rates are typically lower and audiences are generally put off by obviously branded content.

There are two ways to go about playing this game:

  • Influencer advertising; generally no prior relationship, short term metrics, looking purely at reach and is more of a one-off transaction than a partnership.
  • Influencer marketing; works over a longer term (therefore likely more investment) but looks at the ongoing engagement and brand advocacy.

In terms of the advertising side of things, look no further than today’s blogger scene. Many will be willing to work with a brand on a one-off article in return for payment or a freebie, or a freebie and a payment depending on what you’re asking them to do.

Some brands can be really lucky in that what they have to offer is something that the blogger wants and will accept it for free, but more often than not you will need to consider having a budget for working with influencers. This is a job for them and freebies don’t pay the bills. Consider how your brand could work with influencers and where possible try to work on a strategy instead of a flash in the pan, throwing something at the wall and hoping that it sticks.

It’s an ever-developing scene and will continue to change, but foray into this new world with an open mind, creative thoughts and a bit of a budget and everything should go according to plan.


Image sources: Lisa Simpson, Gossip Girl, Spice Girls.