For many young people, social media influencers are their go-tos for inspiration, tips, and trends. Influencers often provide fun, engaging content and recommendations, and can feel more real and relatable than celebrities. But, how can your child tell what's a real life recommendation and what's an ad? Helping your child navigate the world of social media influencers will help them make social media a more fun and healthy place.
What is an influencer?
If you’ve found yourself wondering ‘what does a social media influencer do?’ – we’re here to explain. Influencers are online personalities who share their lives and experiences on social media. And the images, captions, hashtags and videos they share have the potential to shape their followers' attitudes and behaviors. They often have large audiences who actively engage with what they post through comments, likes, shares and follows. Over half of teens watch influencers on YouTube, with millions also following them on multiple platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Snapchat.
Authenticity on social media
Research shows that young people see social media influencers as credible, authentic and trustworthy sources of advice, inspiration and recommendations. They‘re more accessible than the traditional ‘celebrity’, so it’s no surprise that many young people see them as peers, forming emotional connections to them as they follow their daily lives online. This can also lead to them wanting to buy what the influencer is wearing or using in an effort (conscious or unconscious) to look like them and adopt their lifestyle.
The influence of social media on our shopping habits is massive. Influencer marketing is now big business – with 86% of companies now using social media influencers to promote or endorse their brands and products. To do this, influencers might create dedicated videos talking about sponsored products. Or, they might post a selfie of themselves using a product (and tag the company that pays them) alongside their usual non-sponsored content. Despite it being so popular, influencer marketing is a largely unregulated industry. So, unlike traditional billboard and television ads, it can sometimes be challenging for young followers to spot an advertisement.
Many social media influencers post images that are digitally distorted with photo editing apps and filters so that they conform to beauty stereotypes. Looking at unrealistic beauty ideals, without knowing the images are altered, can negatively impact young people’s self-esteem and body confidence, especially if they see them as relatable and aspirational.
Spot the ad
You can encourage your child to develop their critical thinking and social media literacy skills by creating conversations about influencers and advertising. ‘A Selfie’ is our short film showing all the behind the scenes techniques that sometimes go into creating influencers’ posts.