Girl Online: What Zoella has taught us about successful influencer marketing

Since Zoella started her first YouTube channel in 2009, she has amassed over 664m views, 11m subscribers, and helped propel the rise of what we now know as 'influencer marketing'. And this week, she added to that list of achievements with the launch of her third book: 'Girl Online: Going Solo'.

The ordinariness and relatability of Zoella is what has made her so appealing to fans who trust her advice and follow her every recommendation on beauty and fashion. It is precisely their sense of authenticity that fans attach to them that make influencers so attractive to brands who are looking to engage their target audience through the earned influence of celebrities like Zoella.

While the digital world is in a state of constant change, little has evolved when it comes to who we trust when pushing our on or offline shopping cart. In study after study, year after year, the people we know and those just like us online — are who we trust when making purchase decisions.

We have identified three types of influencers:

  1. Celebrities, or those paid to endorse a product
  2. Category Influencers, usually paid to share their expertise in a category to online followers
  3. Everyday Influencers, people in every part of the community surrounding you in-person and online

All types of influencers are important, and each plays a unique role in a brand marketing strategy. There is no doubt that celebrities and YouTubers with millions of followers offer brands an unprecedented reach and awareness, but the effectiveness of influencer tactics depends directly on the degree of authenticity. Consumers can easily sniff out contrived posts or inauthentic content.

Zoella herself is no stranger to the backlash over seeming disingenuous, as when it was revealed that her first novel, Girl Online, used a ghostwriter. Even though the book was still a financial success, many Zoella fans felt that they had been duped by the star. This is just one instance in which celebrities and influencers have faced backlash from fans after not disclosing they had been paid to promote particular brands or products.

Trust is the most important factor in purchases decisions. Every study has proven that, but it’s also common sense. Would you trust a product review from a celebrity or anyone paid for a review over a friend? Or someone you don’t know, who’s like you and shares your interests? Trust drives results. Of the three types, everyday influencers will be the trust winners every time.

So what can brands do to capitalise on the unique intersection of video and everyday influencers?

Brands need to join the conversation that their consumers are having on and off-line with their friends and families. The true, authentic content that is moving the dial for big brands is not content created by them, but by their consumers, authentic every day real people, who are creating and sharing entertaining, branded experiences with their friends. This person-to-person media is the most trusted form of advertising a brand can and should participate in.

Johanna Jones is a director at BzzAgent

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