Are Influencers Actually Less Influential Than We Think?

photographed by Erin Yamagata; produced by Sam Nodelman; modeled by Victoria Gomez.
If you're sometimes unsure whether an influencer's Instagram post is #sponcon or not, you're in good company. According to a new survey, 82% of us think it's not always clear when a social media celebrity has been paid to promote a product.
But despite this confusion, 54% of millennials who buy beauty products said they were influenced by the recommendations they see on social media.
Alastair Lockhart from Savvy Marketing, who conducted the survey for BBC Radio 4, said of its results: "The shoppers of the UK are a knowledgeable lot and tend to be pretty wise when deciding how much to trust an influencer's recommendations.
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"However, we can see from the research that it's not always clear and a lot of younger people in particular are influenced by their suggestions."
In September, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) launched a new guide to help influencers adhere to Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) rules and make it absolutely clear when a post has been paid for.
The guide states: "The main thing to remember is that you need to make it obvious – any label (or other means) you use to highlight the ad needs to be upfront (before people click/engage), prominent (so people notice it), appropriate for the channel (what can you see and when?) and suitable for all potential devices (it needs to be clear on mobile too!)."
The guide also recommends that influences use tags such as "#advert" or "#ad" as opposed to "#spon" or "#sp", which could be more ambiguous, to mark content which has been paid for.
The CAP said that in recent years, posts by well-known influencers including Louise Thompson, Millie Macintosh and Marnie Simpson "have been subject to ASA action".
Though it's estimated that Kylie Jenner can pocket a massive $1m (£800,000) per sponsored Instagram post, potential earnings are more modest for the vast majority of influencers.
An influencer with between 3,000 and 10,000 followers can expect to earn £50-£100 per post, it was reported in September 2017, while an influencer with between 25,000 and 50,000 followers can expect to earn £180-£250 per post.
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Calum McSwiggan, a writer, digital content creator, radio presenter & LGBT+ advocate with 47,500 Instagram followers, told Refinery29 earlier this year that "there are some wildly disproportionate ideas about how much influencers actually earn".
McSwiggan began his career as a YouTube content creator, but said that the video platform now constitutes a "tiny fraction" of what he earns.
"The majority of my earnings come from other work like collaborations with brands, working as a presenter, and freelance writing. Like all creative jobs, you have to create content for the love of creating content," he said.
"No matter how hard you work and no matter how many hours you put into it, there’s absolutely no guarantee that it’ll pay off or become something you can monetise. Building an audience isn’t something you can control – some people get lucky, that’s all."
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