I believe that the social affordances that make up Instagram encourage me to not only regularly use the platform, but to stay engaged, and further immerse myself into influencer culture. The photo-centered design of the Instagram feed streamlines the process for creating a personal-brand, as Instagram incorporates the ‘like’ system that leverages more targeted advertising for one’s profile.
Influencers play a large role in shaping Instagram into a consumer-based platform. Influencers are people with a large number of followers on Instagram that in essence have the capability to influence their audience. Influencers are able to partner with companies who in turn target individuals that the influencers appeal to. I personally engage with the content of lots of influencers when I am on Instagram. I enjoy that the content is always new and exciting whether it be fall trends, fall home décor, this week’s best sellers, recipes', new workout routine, and the list continues. But why am I so drawn to influencer's content? I know the products are sponsored. Why am I willing to trust the opinions and testimonies of total strangers?
They are legally required to tell me if something is #ad or if it’s just something they personally enjoy. For example, my favorite influencer, Brighton Butler was showing off new Artis make-up brushes in her recent social media post. In the caption, you can see that she has added a hashtag with the words “#ad” and “#artispartner” which indicates to all of her viewers that she has partnered with the brand Artis to endorse product. This gives me some piece of mind knowing that I will always know if something is an advertisement or authentic and I trust these influencers to only partner with brands they align with their values and will positively represent their own brand.
They are real people not just celebrities or supermodels you might see in an advertisement. As such, they tend to be less polished and more authentic. Authenticity means that these people put their lives on display and share the good, the bad, and the ugly by showing what goes on in their everyday lives, not just airbrushed photos. This gives me a lot of respect for influencers because I know for many people, it can be incredibly difficult to post something that doesn’t just highlight the best part of your life. I can imagine as an influencer it doesn’t get any easier. In fact, I would speculate that it gets more difficult because you are in the public eye and your career revolves around what people think about you and if they like your content or not. I would like to share a hyperlink that an Instagram influencer, Kristy Wicks, posted both on her blog and Instagram story. In this link, she bravely discusses her experience with IVF, a method of assisted reproduction, a very intimate part of her life. As an influencer, she makes no financial gain by sharing this. Rather, she will likely receive some mean comments and messages from people who don’t believe in IVF. So, why would you post about such an intimate part of your life? because Wicks really does want to connect with and help her viewers, maybe at her own expense. Wicks is not alone; there are countless examples of brave influencers who are sharing their lives with their viewers.
Influencers tend to put out new content daily, so their information is always current. Influencer content is always current in part because Instagram makes it so easy for users to quickly share new content. The timeliness of the content really makes me feel like what they are sharing has more relevance. Some current content I have viewed from the last week includes influencers' daily outfits, dinner recipes, workout routines, and various discussions surrounding social issues.The inclusion of social issues in daily content shows the humanity of influencers. Where a brand might push out a polished campaign to show corporate social responsibility, influencers take time to discuss their personal viewpoints and issues that matter most to them.
They post content that appeals to my values. I think appealing to someone’s values can build relationships and trust. For instance, I am Christian and follow influencers that also post religious content. In turn, I feel a lot better buying a sweater from someone who leads my weekly bible study than I do from a television ad. Further, I believe in ethically sourced products and find influencers more credible when they value this as well. Therefore, I trust that when these influencers partner with a brand, they are only partnering brands that align with their values and are ethically made products.
I have the ability to interact with a real person, not just a brand. Through comments, direct messages, and live stories I am able to directly communicate with influencers which feels more personal than interacting with a brand. Influencers who actually respond to my messages, while most brands do not. These interactions build a certain level of trust and community that makes me believe I really do need whatever the influencer is trying to promote.
In my experience, the most successful influencers do not just center their content around things or simply have good content. What makes a successful influencer is the ability to create a community. A community of not only consumers, but of regular people who come together to share ideas, experiences, and values.
Ivy Walsh is a senior at Texas Christian University studying Strategic Communication and minoring in Writing. She is the account planner for the Blue Team at Roxo and loves discovering creative insights about clients. In her free time, she enjoys photography, reading, cycling, studying at coffee shops, and playing with her puppy, Lady. Follow me on LinkedIn.