SANTIAGO – The digital age has changed people’s lives in numerous ways, including the ways in which they consume advertising. This is why, for a while now, the influencers have installed themselves as the new kings and queens of digital content, and, at the same time, as the new advertising channels for brands. Chile, of course, has not been left behind, and just as the digital world continues to grow, the world of influencers has grown with them.
We are surrounded by advertising. Everywhere. On television. On streets. In music. In movies. In magazines. In apps. But for a while now, social networks, in all their manifestations, like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have become the communication and connection media par excellence worldwide, and digital advertising has come to reign this world.
And although advertising is present in social networks in a conventional way, there is a new way of delivering these messages which has become the star of marketing in the digital world: the influencers.
The influencers, all over the world, including Chile, have come to stay, and they have become the monarchy of social networks. With millions of followers, they have been installed as opinion leaders and pioneers of new communications. But do we know what an influencer is? Do we understand how this industry works? And lastly, do we understand what is the work of these digital characters?
A hyperconnected world
We live in a hyper-globalized world where digital connections have become indispensable components of development. Currently, there are more than 4 billion people using the internet, which means about half of the globe’s 7.5 billion people.
More specifically, by January of 2019, the number of people active in the internet reached 4.388 billion. They mainly entered these platforms through mobile devices or mobile phones, the latter having a total of 5.235 billion users in the world, according to data provided by the Digital 2019 Global Digital Overview made by We are Social and Hootsuite.
In Chile, the numbers are just as high. The penetration of the Internet in the country in 2018 reached 78% of access within the population, which means almost 14.11 million Chileans had Internet access, according to the 2018 version of the study above.
In addition, the study notes that 77% have active profiles in social networks, that is 14 million, which are accessed mainly through mobile phones, which have a penetration of 141%, which translates into 25.54 million (i.e., people with multiple phones).
It is in this online global village that the influencers penetrated with strength, made names for themselves, and became the great digital movement that they are today.
What is an influencer?
But what is an influencer? According to Pixlee, an influencer (or social media influencer to be exact) is a “user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry,” a person who “has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.”
Digital media journalist Francisca Opazo told Chile Today there are two types of influencers “those who do it naturally and those who have worked to become one.” She also specified that “true influencers recommend products because they believe in them and that’s why brands look up for them . . . otherwise, it’s just another celebrity doing business and advertising.”
Opazo also explained the communicative function that influencers fulfill as a media for advertising: “an influencer speaks of what he or she knows,” that is another reason why brands choose them to “hide advertising,” in the different digital platforms.
Tomás Collados, a digital expert and founder and CEO of Frisbi, an influencer marketing company, told Chile Today that the functions of these characters depends on what the brand wants with each person. As he explained, they might “increase the scope and generate knowledge of a product or service,” or “generate content (photos and videos) that are closer to the people,” or even “make focus group and surveys to understand in a better way how [people] think and what they think of the brand and its products or services.”
Collados also said that the idea of work for the influencers is different, or at least with those who he works, because they see it as “entertainment”: “they simply must continue with their daily life, consume their favorite products and continue uploading content to RRSS.” This way of generating advertising is in order to achieve an “organic, super real content” so “the ideal is not to take them out of their day to day.”
As for, why we need influencers, Collados explained that “people are ceasing to believe in brands,” so marketing is changing. “It is no longer enough for the brand to show us how good their products or services are, now it is necessary that people do it.” Moreover, Collados added, “we only have to look at the reality of the top 10 accounts in Instagram followers in Chile and see what brands are there, and the answer is none.” Worldwide it’s essentially the same.
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Chile as an industry
Regarding the industry, Opazo explained that Chile is far behind in digital and, specifically, in terms of influencers, because “actors and people that appear on TV are used, rather than ‘less known’ influencers, who influence much more in the population.” For example, she said, “in the category of gamers, you can pay an actor to advertise something, but a youtuber like German Garmendia is much more influential in that area and age,” so the use of this influencer would be better and more effective.
“People are not stupid”
In addition, Opazo said that when Chilean industries are looking for “an influencer, they pass products to them,” and ask for their recommendations, “often without mentioning that it is advertising, to make it look organic,” and without knowing if those people are interested in the brand and/or product, because, she explained, the ideal would be “looking for an influencer who will use and truly love a brand and promote it; people are not stupid an, increasingly, they realize what is mere advertising and the youngest do not believe them anymore.”
Opazo said that this is a problem because “Chile has not been able to identify the true influencers from the frauds.” As she commented, “the truth is that many people see it as a possibility to earn money. How? inflating their accounts, buying followers, falsifying the engagement, something easy to do,” which has become a stone in the shoe for brands since it is increasingly difficult to “identify the real engagement from the fake” causing “big brands to fall in the farce.”
Someone to follow
It is one thing to analyze what it means to be an influencer. Quite another to experience it. That is why Chile Today pulled up a chair with Jonatan, better known in the digital world as “Yayo del Rey,” an influencer in the world of books and literature, who to date registers almost 8,000 subscribers to his YouTube profile, which is his main content support.
For this “BookTuber,” being an influencer means being a person “whom your audience sees as someone to follow or someone who encourages you and promotes or guides you in a particular taste,” which causes those who follow you “to do the things that you said, they see what you said, they read the books that you recommend, etc.”
Yayo said that it is very “strange” to refer to him as influencer, because all this happened in a fortuitous way. It all started with a YouTube channel in 2013, where he made video reviews of book, just for pleasure. Over time, he gained more and more followers, and then came the brands—what he describes as an “uncontrolled” event—and from that point on he became and influencer.
More honest and patriotic
Regarding the Chilean industry, Yayo commented that he feels that the Chilean influencer is different from the rest of the world because he believes “that they are more honest,” that is, they dare to give their opinion “independent of if they like it or not.” He also detailed that everything is published on the networks, “we are very good to talk.”
Complementing this idea of the characteristics of the influencers, Collados explained that after a study done with experts from Silicon Valley, they reported that Chilean influencers are characterized as being “very patriotic,” even more he commented that the people of Silicon Valley “were very surprised that many put the flag on the profile.” The general characteristic of the Latin influencers, with lower quality photos, but much higher rates of engagement with their followers, also applies to Chilean influencers.
Regarding the contact with the public, Yayo said that he always seeks to be as “transparent and direct” as he can and “as human as possible,” because the best part of this work is the relationship with people, since the content generators or influencers deliver the content “but do not know who is behind the screen,” but when this changes, for example in talks or when they know each other in person, Yayo explains that connection with people “is very rewarding.”
This is how the influencers have arrived and why they are not leaving. Installed as the new royalty of the digital content generation, they are also the pipelines to direct advertising, often as close to the public as one can get . . . through a screen.
Nelson Quiroz is Chile Today´s photographer. He also writes about youth culture and fashion, and often contributes with photo series during marches and protests.