Social media influencers are turning their "insta-fame into "insta-fortune through the newest weapon of marketing. Influencer marketing is the relationship between a brand and an influencer, and it exists to promote a product or service through social media to generate publicity. This new marketing technique has taken social media by storm in recent years creating a new advertisement outlet for companies to utilize.

Data from Klear concluded that the number of worldwide influencer posts on Instagram hashtagged "ad" and "sponsored" amounted to more than 1.5 million posts between 2016 and 2017. The catalyst is the increasing prominence and quantity of influencers, which has stimulated a dramatic increase in advertisement posts.

So, what is it that specifically makes influencer marketing such an effective tool for brands?

The difference between TV commercials or celebrity endorsements versus marketing through influencers is engagement rate and audience. "When a TV show switches to an ad break, consumers no longer sit still and watch. They pick up their phones and start scrolling. It's a weighted effect and while traditional sources of marketing are still somewhat reliable, they won't get the relatability, accessibility and undeniably, the attention that influencer marketing does through social media," said Instagram influencer Bonnie Collis (@bonniecollis on Instagram) who has over 13,700 followers.

Influencers give brands access to an audience they previously were never able to reach in a way they never were able to reach them. Historically, celebrities have appeared in commercials and attached their name to a product, but now, smaller influencers are being paid to promote products to an engaged and loyal following.

Micro-influencers have between 2,000 and 50,000 followers and tend to have higher engagement rates. According to Chris Gonzales, CEO of Gnack, micro-influencers get an average of two to five more organic engagements per Instagram post in comparison to larger influencers with more than 100,000 followers.

This is why the game of advertisement has been changed. This is why companies are choosing to invest in small influencers who have an active following on social media platforms, rather than solely celebrity collaborations and billboard signs.



Influencer Michelle Reed promotes a Kopari Beauty product with her own creative flair.

"One of the biggest shifts in marketing today is that the brand's message today doesn't have to come from the brand… Brands are utilizing influencers not only for their audience but for their creativity," said CEO of Pixlee, Kyle Wong, in an interview with Forbes.

Oftentimes, influencers are trusted figures in a community that relates to the type of product they are promoting. This serves the brand on two fronts: content creation and advertisement. They maintain a loyal following containing an audience who would be more inclined to trust the influencer's opinion and purchase the product being promoted. Influencers work independently and create their own personalized promotional content achieving authenticity within their own brand, and reaching a specific target audience. It's all about finding an influencer who can advocate for a brand in a way that helps to tell their story more effectively.

While people value the highlight reels of influencer's lives displayed on social media, there is still a demand for some level of authenticity, and this is why influencer marketing is so effective.

It is common for brand deals to be initiated by the brand, but sometimes influencers will pitch themselves to brands, explained Kallie Atkins (@coolstorykals on Instagram), an influencer with just over 2,400 Instagram followers. When proposing a partnership, most Influencers use a media kit to highlight why they love the company and how advertising through them would be a beneficial investment. Brands also often send free gifts to influencers in hopes of receiving social media exposure, trading free products for possible promotion.

"Social media should not be a one-way street. In order to build a successful platform, you must form a relationship with your audience and build that necessary trust and communicate with them while being open, honest and genuine. Those who consistently like and comment on my posts are loyal and whenever I do a brand deal, they are the first to care and look into the brand I'm working with," said Atkins.

For some influencers, brand deals open doors for their own product line collaborations with clothing or beauty companies. For Youtube personality, Instagram influencer and blogger Katy Bellotte, a brand partnership helped launch her career. She previously did brand work with Loreal while pursuing her undergraduate degree, then after graduation, started a job as a social media coordinator at Loreal Paris in New York City, she explained in a Youtube video.

This marketing strategy, when executed well, has the potential to benefit both the brand and the influencer in a financial sense as well as building a network for potential employment. Influencer marketing is a new trend, but it's not going out of style anytime soon.