What is going on behind the filter? Lifting the veil on influencers
“If you look at it without the implications, it just means that you are a key thought leader in your field. “
For too long, the role of influencers has been ridiculed and undermined. It is often the public figures that we love to hate, whether out of jealousy, unease, or a perceived lack of authenticity. The online community shows its sinister side in the comments section, but the industry is on track to hit a global valuation of $ 7.4 billion this year.
I’m not perfect; I, too, shared these views, but years in the PR industry have changed my perspective. Even Melbourne-based designer Kristy Wu echoes my original sentiments. “The term ‘influencer’ was something I was really embarrassed to call myself five or six years ago because the social media industry was so foreign to most people back then.”
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Times have changed, understanding has increased and credibility has increased. Influencers are obviously vital today; brands rely on them for virtual word-of-mouth, product sales, and ambitious status building. They are more than models, gift givers and ring light fanatics (although these things often come with business too), but for the most part, they are an extremely hardworking, creative group of individuals. and talented.
Influencers are also expected to be accessible and increasingly authentic, as indicated by the rise of ‘genuinfluencer’, a term coined by WGSN. Along with Kristy, I spoke to three other local women in the fashion and beauty industry to clean the air once and for all. What do they do? Does influencing a job? And how do they make money?
Is “influencing” real work?
Let us all take the recent learning of Samara Weaving as a gospel. When questioned by Magazine W on her role as an influencer in Nine Perfect Strangers, she concluded that “you have to be a real businesswoman to move forward in the influencer space”.
As content creator Lauren Burns tells me, it’s “seven jobs in one! “. The comprehensive list of tasks includes planning the creative direction, scouting locations, hairstyling and makeup, styling, modeling, photography, and then editing.
Balancing that with a full-time job requires intense organizational skills, which Hannah English, a pharmaceutical scientist, beauty consultant and influencer, knows all too well. “I integrated everything by micromanaging my Google calendar, otherwise I would be constantly overwhelmed (or… more overwhelmed than I already am…),” she says.
Then there is the dedication required for community and relationship management. “The most important part of my job is researching and creating content for my community, engaging and interacting as well,” says Hannah. Add to that the need to maintain customer connections and deliver, and you have a very full plate.
The field of beauty has a crucial additional layer: testing products. Skinfluencer Roj Torabi notes that this is the most time consuming part of her online business (she is also a day lawyer). First, she needs to find out if a product is worth it, if not “you’ve just wasted three to four weeks on a product that you ultimately can’t get back”. To give subscribers honest and useful feedback, intense trial periods are essential.
It is not just a job but an intense responsibility. Influencers are our custodians of defining taste and purchasing products; they are our parasocial friends and often lead us to make changes in our lives.
For example, Hannah talks about solar safety and her experience with neurodivergency, which has led followers to make changes in their lives. I started wearing sunscreen on the backs of my hands when Hannah advised me to do this, among many other lessons. Is it a real job? Absolutely yes. They are creative business women who challenge our ideals and improve our lives.
How does an influencer make a living?
Regarding money, prices and agreements vary depending on the client, budget, experience and number of followers. At the same time, there is the rise of micro and nano-influencers, who frequently sell more products and speak more closely to their narrow and very loyal customer base.
For many Instagram influencers, being online isn’t their only job, as previously mentioned. They may take on other full-time positions or self-employment opportunities as an additional way to support or supplement their business. It also offers more stability.
Some months it drizzle, others it rains. This means that creators like Roj can be selective with their clients, arguably adding to the overall authenticity and value provided to his followers. “I say no to more brands than I say yes, because I believe in quality and not quantity,” she explains.
Valuing yourself is difficult in any industry, especially when there is no minimum wage or guideline, as Lauren pointed out. Although perceptions change, it can still be difficult to ensure a fair wage.
Gifts feed the industry and are used to replace monetary payments. Lauren uses the analogy of working in a cafe. “At first, if you get paid for coffee and breakfast, it might seem convenient because you don’t have to shop or spend time cooking, but you quickly realize that the value of the meals you get is less than what you would get if he were paid normal wages.
Lauren and Kristy both say they accept gifts from brands they really love or believe in because those relationships are important. But, at some point, how many “things” can a person receive before it becomes a burden or even a waste?
Crunching the numbers means considering fairly the “time that has been invested in the back-end,” explains Kristy. According to Lauren, “It’s a sliding scale based on deliverables. Consider publications, stories, reels, etc.
With no definitive numbers due to the fluctuating nature of the role, I guess the big question then is: can you live off an influencer salary? “You can definitely support yourself financially, you just have to be prepared to invest the time to take it seriously,” notes Kristy.
Is it time to become an influencer, then?
So it might be possible to enjoy it and live a life surrounded by beautiful products. Personally, my fragile mind and fear of instability couldn’t muster the motivation for the role, let alone the need to be original, inspiring, and “always active.”
Not all of us are made to influence, in the same way that not all brains are made for accounting or hands for carpentry. It’s time to let go of the lingering ‘ick’ factor and take the business seriously, which Hannah explains perfectly: “If you look at it without the implications, it just means you are a key thought leader in your domain. “
What is an influencer? A leader and an inspirer. The one who starts conversations, introduces new products and different ways of thinking. There will always be a thin veil over the industry; after all, isn’t that part of the plot? That’s why we keep coming back to their stories day after day. Indeed, not everything is positive on Instagram, but there are genuine users who deserve our respect and repeated heart emojis.
To learn more about what it’s like to be an influencer, try this.