What do ‘influencers’ bring to the fashion sector?
17 December, 2015
Fashion bloggers, influencers, Instagramers and a long list of names refer to the same thing, i.e., fashion-world professionals who use the internet to create their own communication channels and set themselves up as trendsetters.
Although they emerged more than 20 years ago, today they are a topic of discussion, analysis and scrutiny among experts in the fashion PR sector and for advertising strategies. But they are also a recurring topic of conversation amongst teenagers, other young people and the not so young who are trend followers and who turn to the internet for inspiration and guidance on their purchasing decisions.
Generally speaking, influencers are fashion professionals who, usually on a recreational basis, decided to open an online social-network profile – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest and, increasingly, YouTube – or begin a personal blog. The content of these spaces, most of which is very similar, is based on a carefully designed mix of photos and texts that convey their authors’ personal fashion and lifestyle preferences. However, these new communication channels are increasingly virtual windows through which followers can see part of the authors’ lives and personal tastes. The goal is to create a bond with the public – to dole out small fragments of their private lives in exchange for gaining their trust. It is a delicate balance, but fashion influencers are experts in keeping it all afloat and growing their target public.
In most cases, we are talking about women aged 20 to 30 who are passionate about fashion, have good communication skills and are astonishingly gifted at selecting labels, clothing and designers which the public applauds. “It’s nothing new. With the digital revolution that is taking place, they have become the 21st century’s version of the film or music critic, or food or art reviewer,” explains digital strategy and branding expert, Gemma Vallet.
“I opened my Instagram profile when I was 18. It was a new social network and I didn’t have a blog or a photoblog, I went straight onto Instagram. Now I am 21 and my profile is not a book about me but rather a reflection of what I am up to at any given time,” says Inés Arroyo, an influencer who has 264.000 internet followers. The figure is surprising if we compare it with, for example, the Oréal Spain profile on the same channel, which has 61,000 followers, or Desigual, with 350.000. To reach this many followers, Arroyo says, “it is very important to transmit what you are doing and wearing at the time you upload your photo”. Her followers, she claims, especially value knowing what she is doing at any given moment. “You must be very consistent,” she says. “It’s like a job. I owe a lot to my followers. If I can only post one photo, which is what happens when I have exams on, I feel bad about it. I don’t take photos on the weekends and dole them out bit by bit over the course of the week. I upload one every morning before I go to work”. Arroyo combines her online activities with her business studies and work experience at a prestigious Catalan jewellery firm.
In addition to an online profile, influencers are usually involved in other projects related to the fashion sector. Such is the case of Claudia Albons, who has 14.000 followers on Instagram and a personal blog that she began as a hobby. She has worked as a model for years. “The difference between models and bloggers is that bloggers are behind the whole of the process. We have decision-making power over everything. I publish what I want, when I want. You could say that when you have a blog you have the power of saying what you think and when you model you don’t, because you have to adjust to what the customer wants.”
However, setting your own personal style and maintaining it is a challenge for influencers. Labels of all types send them samples to wear in the photos they publish and which thousands of people will see. “If an influencer is impartial and respects the ethical principles of communication, he or she is a good professional. Brands need them to gain a foothold in the market and society needs to trust in the brand,” says Vallet, who is also a director of the La Salle master’s degree in Social Media Branding and Strategy. In practice, she is referring to the need to uphold an identity and one’s own true style and not become a showcase for all sorts of brands or even products.
For example, Arroyo prefers to say no to non-fashion brands. Plus, she says, she will stop doing something, even if it is well paid, if it doesn’t fit in with her style. “I always choose the brand and say whether I like it or not. I never wear labels that I don’t like and nor do I wear one single firm from head to toe. I mix and match in line with my tastes. I don’t want any brand to cramp my style. Right now the appeal and power of influencers is so great that they are getting very good proposals and you think ‘why not?’, but I have to stay true to my style and keep it up,” she says.
Steps and intermediaries
What does she mean by “very good proposals”? Fees in this sector are still a taboo, for two reasons: firstly because they vary greatly in accordance with the brand and secondly because they will always depend on the influencer’s number of followers. Cases like Lovelypepa or Dulceida, which are among the top Instagram profiles in Spain with one million and 500.000 of followers respectively, might receive the highest paid offers for brands communication activities they perform. Yet, this would not have into account the profiles of film, television, sport and music celebrities who collaborate with fashion companies and have the highest number of followers. As far as the rest go, Vallet says, “Rates are being established. They aren’t being published but thanks to the work and influence of advertising agencies and the purchase of media space, people are taking a more common-sense approach and are using analytics to establish a fee, i.e., influencers are getting paid for the results they deliver.”
Arroyo isn’t surprised when asked about the price of her communication activities. A fair amount of thought has obviously gone into her answer: “I always pass the responsibility for agreeing prices and types of activities on to my agent”. It is becoming increasingly common for influencers to draw on experts to negotiate the terms of their brand collaborations, because they have become brands in themselves and the agencies are responsible for putting a price on their ability to influence the public that follows them.
“I get paid for everything I do. Well, not everything. If there is a brand that searches me out and I like their product, I will wear and share it. I do it because my main goal is to be a fashion industry benchmark. It’s true that you should be paid for your work, but I have other priorities and I want my agency to help me build a powerful profile and become better-known. That’s the most important thing for me,” Inés Arroyo says candidly.
Trust, renown and access to a broader and more diverse public are some of the things that influencers can bring to fashion labels. Bridalwear firm Rosa Clará recently invited a select group of bloggers to try out her latest collection and spent a few days with them at Caves Cordorníu. Only the company knows the specific outcome of this activity, but to measure it we know from the experts that it is important to convert activity produced on the internet into digital marketing indicators after the content on the channels run by the influencers has been published.
“These are measures that can also be used in other digital communication and branding activities. For example, you can measure success by the number of internet visits generated to the label’s website or the number of pages people log onto. You can compare the cost of this action with the cost per click or by the acquisition of followers. You can also determine conversation rates of visits to clients or visits to subscribers of an information bulletin. Finally, you can compare the number of likes or engagements that an influencer generates with respect to those produced by the publication of a post on the label’s profile,” says Vallet, who took part in the second BCN Bloggers Meet Up networking event in November.