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Ditching the rules of engagement

Katie Smith

Lately I, and frankly thousands of others, have been mulling over the evolution of online influencers. A recent project found me interviewing a series of Amazon Influencers - people whose social followings Amazon deems large enough to join its Influencer Program. These approved influencers earn commission on curated lists of products shopped through their 'storefronts'.

I went in cynical - yet another tactic the retail behemoth has to embed itself in our lives... But what I found from my conversations were smart and empowered individuals, from a whole ecosystem of niche communities, who were making money pretty simply. I chatted to an organic homesteader, a learning-through-play mom-preneur and a fashion influencer in her mid-20s, Colette Prime.

It was Colette who really blew my mind - from her Instagram account she looks like your typical fashion influencer, with a real editorial look and fashion-forward styling. Except everything she wears she finds on Amazon. And you can buy it all through her storefront - a veritable department-store of curated lists. Not only does her commission support her full time, leaving behind a career in accounting, she now hires an assistant to help her out. All from an online following of 35,000, landing her slap bang in the middle of the 'micro' tier of influence.


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In fact, Colette purposefully keeps that audience small - she doesn't let males follow her ("the product isn't for them and I want my community to feel it's a safe place") and she has always let her content be driven by the needs of her audience. There is little difference in engagement rate between influencers with 20k (1.62%) followers to those with 1m followers (1.54%), while those with 1-5k have 4.3% engagement rate, and under 1,000 followers get 10.6%.

We're often told lately that the future of influence is micro, but I'd say we need to go even tinier, and more subcultural. A recent stat revealed some 52% of 16-24 year olds follow international influencers. That didn't surprise or particularly interest me - it's pretty hard to consume media these days without stumbling upon an influencer. It's the 48% I'm incredibly curious about. Where are their tastes forming, how are they spending their time and money?

The IndieWeb, as discussed in this excellent article, is a movement gaining pace with those who distrust the mass social platforms and their data-laden servers. IndieWeb social sites like Mastodon and micro.blog. are democratic, self-owned and will likely be the next hives for authentic influence.

It's the 48% and the IndieWebbers that I'm keeping my eyes on.

Katie Smith, Retail & Trends Strategist, IFAB Contributor.

Katie Smith