Opinion piece by Vamp Co-Founder Aaron Brooks as published on THE DRUM.

With the latest influencer marketing stats revealing the industry’s impressive growth into a channel that is steamrolling traditional advertising, we are seeing many new agencies cropping up. With more noise in the space, it’s more important than ever that the industry isn’t misrepresented.

At Vamp we have been working with Influencers since the concept of influencer marketing took off; we have loved seeing our creatives grow and flourish in their business.

In light of the recent backlash against a “pet project” video produced by Faves, a new Influencer agency in Asia – which misrepresented the Influencer community in their promotional content – we feel that it is more important than ever to protect the Influencer community. We don’t want an entire industry to be dismissed because of one misstep.

Let’s get one thing straight: Influencers are not wannabes. They are sincere and relatable content creators who are successful because their creative content is changing advertising.

Influencer Marketing agencies need to work with Influencers, not against them. We need to support the talent and respect the creative work – not undermine their legitimacy. Influencers have become sophisticated marketers in their own right in a channel that is growing increasingly complex.

While we are proud of the part that Vamp plays in helping our Influencers to grow by aligning them with amazing brands like New Balance, Park Hotels, Bvlgari, Samsung, M.A.C, and more, we also 100% recognise that we are only one piece of the pie.

Influencers are professionals who create content for their followers because they genuinely love doing it. It’s not always easy, however swish it might seem to someone who doesn’t understand the industry. Just like any expert in their field, they make it look so easy, disguising the real effort that goes into creating the content.

Make no mistake. The reality is that Influencers spend up to six hours a day on their social feeds, engaging with their community and constantly creating new, exciting, point-of-difference content to keep their followers interested. They can spend up to three hours on any given Instagram post and now with the introduction of Instagram Stories, constantly feed their audience engaging content in real-time.

While some Influencers are also now full-time creators, for many their work as a social media Influencer is alongside their career in neuroscience, engineering or marketing – to name a few! They spend their mornings, lunch hours, evenings, weekends and holidays creating content. Digital is 24/7 and they are right at the forefront. Being an Influencer is one big commitment, requires a lot of proactivity as well as a savvy business mind.

The Faves video was met with varying levels of outrage by media websites and netizens – and for Influencers and those of us in the industry, it was pretty hard to watch. Of course, Faves never meant the video content to have these repercussions and apologised for how it was perceived.

However, the damage was done, as a single video did not only discredit the entire industry but also undermined its sincerity and professionality. Portraying Influencers as the get-rich-quick type of online scam, although unintentionally, alarmed not only the Influencers themselves but also the brands they represent.

With the intentions of defending the micro-influencer community, a spokesperson at Faves, said: “Micro-influencers are not ‘wannabes’, they are sincere people who want to grow. Today, acting and singing are two huge dreams that are out of reach for many people. Gaining popularity on Instagram is something within reach, and is a smaller success that we can work hard towards.”

However, it’s simply inaccurate to take the attitude of “those who can become singers or actors; and those who can’t become Influencers.”

On the contrary, Influencers are changing the definition of what it means to be a celebrity. The influence of traditional celebrities is diminishing to make way for individuals who are respected and loved for their creativity and sincere engagement with their communities.

Vamp recently hired another talent director in Asia to grow and foster deep relationships with its Influencer community. As an Influencer herself, Tasha Lam @itsjustasha shared her thoughts on the matter.

“Influencers are real people who create genuine and honest content, not celeb wannabes. For me, as an Influencer, it all started off with wanting to share what I love with the world. Gradually I grew a community of like-minded individuals. Traditional celebrity avenues like singing or acting might be big dreams for many people but these are completely different to content creation.”

There’s a reason why Oroton didn’t renew Rose Byrne’s contract, favouring engaging social media Influencers instead. There’s a reason why 84% of marketers judge influencer marketing to be effective and 67% are planning to increase their budget over the next year. The success of the Influencer is no mean feat. Influencer marketing is now on track to grow to a $1.7 billion industry in 2018 and between $5-10 billion by 2020.

Influencers have well and truly proven themselves as a powerful force to be reckoned with. They understand that the Instagram community deserves to be respected. Now, it’s up to brands and agencies, like us, to work alongside Influencers to ensure we all do what we do best: crafting stunning content.

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Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is the co-founder of Vamp. Aaron and Ben McGrath co-founded the company on the principle that influencer marketing is key for brands to succeed in today's digital economy. An advocate of Vamp's talent, Aaron believes that influencers are their own brands and product placement in an influencer's channel is most effective.

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