The Rise of Social Media Influencers - Boon or Bane?


The past couple of months, my clients has been pushing me to engage more and more "influencers" to help them drive traffic to their events and products. Going through all this process, some made me wonder, what or how do you define them as influencers? For me, an influencer is someone that can create an impact, that can create changes. Names that will automatically pop to your mind when you mention a certain thing or certain subject. But in this digital age, the term influencer has been greatly distorted, which bring me to this article I came across.

Continue reading, and let me know what you think of the article below.



Fake news. It’s a phrase that really didn’t gain serious traction until recently. Despite certain politicians using the term to reference an unflattering report or any news they don’t personally like, ‘fake news’ actually refers to phony or inaccurate ‘news’ articles that are purposefully placed to confuse, deceive, or just create a fog of misleading information. Today’s digital era facilitates this with shocking ease, and the consequences of intentional, coordinated ‘fake news’ campaigns can be dire.

However, lately it’s become clear to me that what’s also pretty fake these days is what’s being peddled by this new breed of would-be advertisers: the so-called ‘social media influencers’. What began as PR agencies tying up with bloggers and even sending them a few free samples in hopes of some positive word-of-mouth has mushroomed into an industry now valued at over a billion dollars. Now these same PR people are handing over thousands of dollars (in addition to free products and travel) in exchange for a pretty picture and a few hashtags.

On the surface, it might make sense. A brand engages with a self-styled ‘influencer’ who has tens (or hundreds) of thousands of followers on social media – Instagram is probably the most popular platform, but Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are all heavily used, too – with the idea that a shot of their product or service will translate into engagement or, ideally, sales. It didn’t take me long on Instagram to see just how prevalent this is – and how potentially devious. You start following someone because you like their posts. Over time, they build up a huge following. Sometimes this happens organically, but there are far less scrupulous ways to amass thousands of Instagram followers, too, seemingly overnight.

Too often, these so-called followers are not even real people, but merely bots, purchased in bulk in a bid to drive up the number of followers. In fact, photos and reports freely circulate of actual vending machines in Russia where you can buy followers and likes on social media!

There are admittedly some pros (and plenty of obvious cons) to buying ‘followers’ in bulk. But as long as the numbers are there, once this person has so many followers – real or not – it’s not that hard to monetize it because marketers are lining up to throw money at these self-styled ‘social influencers’. And lest you think it’s just a fad, consider that in 2016, over US$23 billion was spent on social media marketing, a figure that doesn’t even fully take into account the estimated $1 billion-plus paid to private influencers (as opposed to being paid directly to the platforms themselves). And in 2017, there’s been only more growth, with no signs of it stopping any time soon.

Show me the money

How lucrative can it be? One jet-setting couple in the United States with over a million Instagram followers won’t even bother for anything less than US$3,000, a fee that’s paid on top of all the expenses being covered for the vacation that they’re posting about. In Singapore, one influencer with over 300,000 followers charges S$1,800 per Instagram post. Another, with around 20,000 followers, gets a more sedate S$500 per post, but S$2,000 for a YouTube feature. Anything over 100,000 followers seems to be the magic number; that’s the level where the coin can start really adding up. Currently, the average cost for a post by someone with that many followers is about US$600.

There are admittedly some pros (and plenty of obvious cons) to buying ‘followers’ in bulk. But as long as the numbers are there, once this person has so many followers – real or not – it’s not that hard to monetize it because marketers are lining up to throw money at these self-styled ‘social influencers’. And lest you think it’s just a fad, consider that in 2016, over US$23 billion was spent on social media marketing, a figure that doesn’t even fully take into account the estimated $1 billion-plus paid to private influencers (as opposed to being paid directly to the platforms themselves). And in 2017, there’s been only more growth, with no signs of it stopping any time soon.

It would be easy to write this off as mere jealousy on the part of naysayers, but what really frustrates me is how some influencers – especially the fake ones – are taking advantage of that precious, short time between an industry’s emergence and its maturity. These marketing people who are forking over such large sums of money at Instagrammers and YouTubers are just stumbling around in that ill-defined gray area when the metrics for this industry are still being determined. And when even Facebook estimates that up to 11% of its users are fake, it makes defining the parameters for the market all the more challenging.

Beyond that, even if the followers are real, how deep does the actual influence really go?

Read the rest of the article at http://www.expatgo.com/my/2017/11/24/real-fake-rise-social-media-influencers/


While real influencers will become a permanent part of the marketing landscape, fake influencers are not engaged in a sustainable business model. In some parts of the world, we are approaching the end of the time when you can just fake your way through it and dazzle people with a cursory knowledge of social media that only barely exceeds that of the average person on the street.

But what about clients that does not take up the tools available to help them weed out the fakes? How are professionals in the Advertising and PR agencies helping the clients? Or we just succumb to the fact that clients want this and that person because they think those people are real influencers even when a little search will tell us otherwise and we just go with the flow? Because in most cases, the ones that will be questioned when the "result" does not reflect the need is with the agencies. In such situation, the repercussion is sometimes huge even though the initial fact is that the engagement of the certain individuals are what the client wanted and what they needed.

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