Nathalie made a living promoting fashion brands and products on social media. Initially, she found her work as an influencer liberating as it allowed her to express herself. However, over time, the responsibility and pressure that came with having her whole life displayed online took a toll on her physical and mental health. The constant need to churn out fresh, digital material for mass consumption, often by sharing intimate details of her life, had a significant psychological impact.
As Nathalie accumulated a large following on her platform, she began to feel constrained by the types of posts she should create. She believed she had to portray a fictionalised version of her life that became increasingly inauthentic, leaving her torn between the need to produce beautiful content for social media and the desire to be true to herself.
Moreover, Nathalie faced the challenge of dealing with constant scrutiny and criticism. This included abuse in the form of violent threats and verbal cruelty from some of her followers, which had a detrimental effect on her self-esteem.
Despite her success, Nathalie often questioned why her followers were inclined to buy the products she recommended. What made her work, or influencer marketing in general, so special? Platforms like hers have transformed the way potential consumers access content in the same way technology has revolutionised the way people interact with one another.
The psychology of influencing
In her efforts to get close to her audience, Nathalie recognised that she had become a role model to many of her followers. But what subtle psychological forces were at work to make her influencing activities so effective?
1. Expert power
To establish a strong connection with their audience and make a real impact, influencers must showcase genuine knowledge and expertise in the subjects they engage with. Establishing credibility becomes an indispensable requirement for being an effective influencer. Nathalie had developed a deep understanding of fashion, was authoritative in the matters she discussed and, as a result, her followers trusted her recommendations. This is because people are conditioned to follow individuals they view as authority figures, believing them to possess reliable and accurate information.
Influencers build personal connections with their audiences, almost bordering on a kind of “pseudo-intimacy”. Nathalie utilised every aspect of her personality to connect directly with her followers, inviting them in with strong eye contact, sharing personal photos and videos and promptly responding to their reactions and comments. By relating to her audience in this way, Nathalie presented herself as more relatable and approachable than celebrity influencers. The advantage of this seemingly personal emotional connection was that her followers trusted her like they would real friends, as she was willing to share life experiences and private moments. With this perceived lack of distance, her followers engaged more with the brands or products that she was endorsing.
3. Trust through repeated exposure
From a psychological standpoint, the frequency of exposure has a direct impact on the loyalty towards an influencer. Through her posts, Nathalie established herself as a constant presence in her followers’ lives. The more she exposed her followers to specific content, the greater their acceptance and trust in the information she presented. Over time, her followers started internalising her perspectives, aligning their beliefs and preferences with hers. As a result, they were more inclined to make purchasing decisions based on her advice and endorsements.
4. Overcoming information overload
When it comes to making a decision about buying a specific product, people often suffer from information overload during the research process. Many find it difficult to sift through all the information needed to make an informed decision and following the suggestions of others becomes a way to navigate through this. In this way, Nathalie acted as a “filter” of sorts, using her perceived authority, expertise and trustworthiness to streamline the information for her followers. Her display of knowledge gave credibility to her advice and helped her followers shape their decisions.