Influencers in 2017

Dutch Influencer The Avantguardian

Amsterdam, The Netherlands


column | 19 December 2016


Much has been said about influencers this year and not all entirely good.

Influencers are supposed to be living the perfect life and they have their instagram feeds to show for it. From the latest clothing collaborations, to waking up in a beach villa on the other side of the world before jet setting off again to the next destination.

I have always disliked the term ‘influencer‘ because it suggests we hold a certain sway over our followers. The degree to which is in my opinion open to debate and does not always correlate with the amount of followers, likes or comments you have. I much rather like the term content creator – but this term doesn’t apply to the whole group. Influencer or not, I am part of the group no less. I am enjoying the benefits of collaborations like aforementioned and because of that, I may be the last person to start the discussion.

But it needs to be addressed. The current influencer state of affairs is one I would like to distance myself from. The stories I sometimes hear about influencers and have experienced myself are at times disgraceful and completely lacking of professional ethics. Influencers who demand sky high fees for a photo without knowing their audience; influencers who will take any job just because it pays the bills; influencers who want quality photos but refuse to pay a photographer. 

It puts in danger an otherwise beautiful profession that is practiced passionately by creatives all around the world. And you’re contributing to a world where influencers are merely used as laughable marketing tools.

Brands and PR agencies aren’t contributing positively to this either. More than enough do I see brands and PR agencies who fail to recognize the talent among their group of influencers. Who would rather look at numbers than quality; who can’t justify the difference of budgets between traditional and social media anymore but will rather choose for the former.

So to influencers and brands, here’s to a new year of challenges. To changing the influencer landscape and taking it to a new level. Here’s what I hope influencers in 2017 can do better.


1./ Act like a business

If you want to turn your social presence into your profession, don’t just demand to be treated as a business, act like a business as well. That means, responding to your business inquiries (within reasonable time), making a business plan and strategy, publishing deliverables before deadlines and pushing it on your social channels. When you commit to a collaboration, it is your task to reach and engage your audience. Which brings me to the most important point – know your audience. If you don’t know who your followers are, how can you expect to sell your services to brands or PR agencies? Lastly, actively collect your collaboration data – learn from it and always be transparant about the results.

2./ Influence with positivity

Use your ‘influence’ to feed positivity. Instagram may be all about beautiful photos and showing the good side of life, the downside is that it blows up reality to immeasurable proportions. Consider using your ‘influence’ as a voice for positivity and inspiration to your followers. You have an audience – speak to it about your thoughts, positive or negative. Be personal and engaging. Don’t let it be all about sponsorships – that’s when you’ve become no more than a marketing tool.

3./ Create and add value

Only publish something if your post has an added value to the web. I’m talking about being original, creative and new. If we ever want the shift from traditional to social media to really happen, we need to start thinking and creating professional content like traditional media (and better!). That means investing in camera equipment or hooking up with photographers to collaborate with. Don’t confine yourself to the boundaries set by previous blogging generations. Instead, look for more opportunities outside of your current field. Try drone photography, do videos and dive into graphic design to up the ante on your blog lay-out.

Brands / PR agencies

1./ Find authenticity

Distinguish authentic influencers from the rest. With authentic influencers, you look at their following, the quality of their work, their focus and the amount of engagement they have on socials or exposure they have on other media. Don’t just look at the numbers because influencers will find ways to spike their following and comments. Look at the bigger picture before you decide on a collaboration. And find influencers who are speaking to an audience instead of those who are doing it for commercial reasons. With the latter, you’ll find that the level of ‘influencing’ can be disappointingly low, even if they have the numbers for it. It’s better to have an influencer of 1k followers with captivating and engaging content than an influencer of 10k with none at all.

2./ Recognize influencers

I don’t believe in paying influencers just because they in turn need to pay the rent. I do however believe in paying influencers for the amount of time and effort put into their work and for the brand awareness they’re creating for your brand or client. Offering free food and clothes is a degrading way of paying for an earnest man’s job. You wouldn’t accept clothes and other trades from your clients either. If influencers send a decent proposal, take the time to look at it and take it seriously. Social media campaigns can work better with this generation than ads do in traditional media so don’t deny the impact it can have. Brands or PR agencies that fail to see the significance of exposure on social media, are missing an opportunity to connect with this generation.

3./ Fight for budgets

And in that regard, fight for budgets. One of the most used arguments for not being able to pay for an influencer’s work is that there is no budget. There is always a budget and if there isn’t a budget in 2017, you should be fighting for it. A large cut of marketing budgets go to ads and sponsored content in magazines and their blogs. But with influencers building up bigger audiences on social media, and the quality of their work moving more and more towards that of magazines, how are you justifying your current budget allocation? If anything, I see a trend of old media lowering their quality just to be able to compete with the fast pace influencers are moving at. How do you argue yourself out of that? How do you validate that? I’d love to hear!

It’s an important subject for the industry so I’m calling my fellow content creators, influencers and other people from the industry to give me your thoughts! I’d love to hear from you!