Social media and technology have taken a dominant role in how consumers interact and engage with brands so much so that many are today leveraging social channels and corresponding metrics to influence sales and thought leadership. Focusing on digital makes sense given younger generation’s use of devices and penchant for immediacy.

Photo credit: Olivia Hutcherson

Influencers are people (or their pets) who leverage authentically-built followings to highlight products and services that make sense for those devoted to their channels. They establish unique connections by thoughtfully engaging with followers. Brands have taken notice of that engagement and will pay to secure relationships with influencers they perceive not only as authentic brand ambassadors but real people with personal opinions that resonate with large audiences. These influencers take their time to produce engaging content for their channels and do so, with passion and purpose.

Many within the micro-generation of zillennials are fond of influencers and respond well to influencer marketing tactics. I myself am a member of this demographic that holds an immense amount of spending power, and one that makes conscious decisions on how we spend our money. We also spend more time on our laptops, streaming shows and movies, surfing the internet, and watching vlogs on YouTube.

I have been asked, more than once, what makes watching someone else’s life experience so interesting? My response is that YouTube-fascination can easily be likened to “spectating.”

People have for years flocked to theaters, car shows, sporting events, churches, music venues and ballparks to capture the essence of what they find enjoyable.  Zillennials aren’t all that different. Rather than travel to an event or location, we can instead bring the essence of those experiences to where we and whenever we want.

The vloggers I follow tend to have similar values and experiences, allowing me to relate to overall themes and ideas they discuss. Through them, I gain insight and tips on anything I’m interested in—be it fashion, make up tips, style or decor. Moreover, I appreciate that influencers have complete control over what they post online. It hasn’t been sanitized, watered-down or censored, which empowers influencers to craft their own stories while promoting bands, resulting in thus delivering a more authentic experience.

To capture the attention and loyalty of a zillennial, there exist a few guidelines to keep in mind when developing an influencer marketing strategy:

  • Being authentic is key. We all want someone to connect with and look to for inspiration whether our goals be related to fitness, style, life or profession. Rather than focus exclusively on followers, brands should first determine whether or not the influencer has authentic engagement. Look at the comments section to see if the influencer answers questions and regularly posts and engages with their audience. Are they trusted and credible? Are they likeable and friendly? Are they honest when reviewing products/services? If the feeling in your gut is positive, their followers likely feel the same.
  • Appealing aesthetics (and vibe) matter. Lighting, tone, music, and content flow should match and make sense. The entire experience and interaction a follower has with an influencer should be similar to watching their favorite show. Strange editing of vlogs or over-editing of images can create unexpected disconnects. Audiences value the structure and regularity of content —just as one would with a daily routine. Too broad a shift can upset audiences, resulting in follower loss or disengagement.
  • Choose influencers with care. Too many “so-called” influencers leverage paid bot technology to cushion and grow follower/subscriber numbers. When selecting influencers, dig deeper than the topline numbers and carefully examine engagement. One-word responses or emoticons can be obvious signs of bots. Be leery of large follower numbers tied to low engagement. Authentic followers will engage by adding personal notes and may even tie-in historic vlog history, proving they watch regularly. When content aligns with audience, it shows not only in the metrics, but in the style of engagement as well.

Influencer marketing offers one path to directly reach targeted audiences, much like a reference from a trusted friend. Should your company have interest in influencer marketing, contact CGPR to learn how to go about crafting, building and managing an influencer program for your brand.  Beware of imposters as they litter the digital landscape, with several brands having been caught in their crosshairs.

This piece was written by Ryan Lavery, a graduating senior at Endicott College (Danvers, Mass.), a self-proclaimed zillennial, follower of lifestyle and fashion vlogs, and a fan of “haul” and unboxing videos.