Social Influence: The New Celebrity Endorsement?

Published January 16, 2018
Last Updated August 2, 2018
Jask Creative

Social influence is currently one of the hottest topics.

The marketing landscape is still saturated with celebrity endorsement, that’s undeniable. However, the rise of the digital age has opened up a whole can-of-worms’ worth of questions about celebrity endorsement and its place in the new age of social media marketing. Is celebrity influence in decline?

Or better yet, what sorts of benefits – or issues – do social influencers open up for brands?

The considerable influx of ‘famous’ bloggers and vloggers gives rise to a whole new scope for marketing.

YouTube, for example, gives access to millions of viewers. Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie currently has over 59 million subscribers, making him one of the highest-ranked vloggers to date.

That’s not to say that celebrity endorsement is being left in the past – perhaps, in time it will be – but even more interesting is the way social media is redefining influencer marketing as we know it.

Social influence

Celebrity influence was once one of the most powerful marketing tools, but just how much influence do celebs wield today?

51% of consumers have recently stated that celebrity endorsement has little to no influence over their purchasing decisions.

YouTubers, by comparison, are being approached more and more by marketers to increase brand visibility and exposure.

English fashion and beauty vlogger Zoella rapidly rose to fame after creating her blog in 2009, which later expanded into a YouTube channel.

From a blog with just over a thousand followers to a YouTube channel which currently holds over eleven million subscribers, Zoella has become one of the biggest social media influencers.

Influencers and the network of platforms

Marketing a product through vloggers can appear subtler than traditional celebrity endorsement, feeling less interruptive and less overtly commercial.

Not only this, but social celebrities also have the added benefit of expanding their content across a selection of media platforms.

Domonic Smales, Zoella’s manager, spoke about the resonance of online influencers for the Guardian last year: “The audience that engage with these guys has a kind of tangible relationship with the talent.

“It’s a much more engaged relationship than what Nicole Sherzinger will have with her 3 million followers.”

Why? Because social influencers gain the core of their following from their social channels, a key differentiating factor between themselves and celebrities. Their level of influence exists, fore-mostly, in the context of online platforms.

Whilst celebrities in the traditional sense can also be susceptible to using Twitter, social influences benefit heavily from integrating their content within the online community.

Issues and grey areas

While blogger and vlogger advertising comes with its many advantages, it’s still very much a tool in its infancy.

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) are still amidst a phase of identifying advertising issues and grey areas with online content.

Not only are there censorship issues, but there are also grey areas that brands are faced with when it comes to authenticity.

Recently, Zoella received negative press because of the £50 price-tag of her advent calendar.

As a result, press reviews were laden with criticisms about her choice of pricing, leaving fans uncertain about her commercial intentions.

This leaves brands with a whole host of potential risks when it comes to influencer marketing and how to do it right.

Traditional celebrity endorsement is still a ubiquitous marketing technique, but the rise of social media is changing the way brands approach marketing.

Considering this, is it that brands are shifting away from celebrity endorsement itself, or just that the definitions of celebrity and celebrity endorsement are changing?

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