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A slight caffeine addiction, spending hours a day on TikTok, only speaking to the same three friends, and excessive online shopping. Relatable, right?
There is nothing more comforting than seeing your own slightly questionable behaviors in other people, especially the ones we follow online. Through their social media pages, influencers often give viewers a more intimate look into their lives. The relationship formed between influencer and audience is usually one of trust and connection, and more often than not people choose to follow influencers that they feel they can relate to.
What is a relatable influencer?
With social media, people might create a deeply curated image of unattainable perfection that can look and feel kind of exhausting. Relatable content lies on the opposite side of this scale. It is pictures of unmade beds, messy hair, no makeup, videos of boring days that include grocery shopping and doing your laundry. It ditches the photos on private jets and gorgeous beaches for more normal content, poking fun at how boring life can be. Some might see it as a more realistic picture of what everyday life potentially looks like for your average person.
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A survey done by Cassandra, an insights and cultural strategies group based in the UK, found that 89% of Gen Z and Millennial respondents prefer to follow people they perceive as generally good people, and 86% like to follow people who make their day better. This survey points to trends across social media, a push towards providing more casual and laid-back content.
Who are these relatable influencers?
No one does relatable content better than Gen Z influencer Emma Chamberlain, who has built a YouTube platform of over 11 million people and over 14 million Instagram followers. Chamberlain’s brand was built around her relatable content, which focuses almost entirely on her daily life. Chamberlain’s “day in the life” vlogs regularly get millions of views. Her podcast, Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain, is one of the top 10 podcasts in the USA according to Spotify.
“She feels like your best friend and therapist all in one,” writes Emani Powell, “I feel like most YouTubers try to make their lives seem so perfect all the time and it’s so unrealistic. Emma tells it like it is, which is why I think she is so likable. She doesn’t sugar coat things, she opens up about depression and anxiety and feeling lonely. She doesn’t get caught up in the private jets and the glitz and glamour, which I appreciate.”
why is Emma Chamberlain’s podcast so comforting and relatable and literally my favorite thing to listen to how did I get here
— emma (@emmaqueengirl) December 27, 2021
Chamberlain is a digital best friend to her followers. She regularly posts pictures of herself without makeup and is open about her own mental health struggles. In recent years there has been a push, primarily from Gen Z, to “make Instagram casual again,” longing for the days when Instagram was just a place to post whatever you wanted, no need for filters or planning an aesthetic. Chamberlain has mastered the art of appearing effortlessly relatable and still looking good. Her success is proof that an approachable and relatable brand works on social media.
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But are you really relatable if you are trying to be?
Relatability is seemingly an easy thing to achieve online. Just be yourself, right? Well, an audience can smell disingenuous behavior a mile away, and brands have to consider this when making content or attempting to partner with influencers.
Rebbecca Jennings of Vox writes how relatable content might seem easy to produce, but the work that goes behind making it look that easy is harder than many think. Jennings says that most influencers who are often seen as relatable “are acutely aware of their personal brands, their engagement metrics, their career growth…coming across as relatable online takes far more work and self-awareness than perfecting a TikTok dance or filming high-budget YouTube pranks. It is, I would argue, almost a form of art, one that the term “influencer” can’t really convey.”
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Want to know more about creating transparent ad campaigns for Gen Z? Read more about the importance of relatability in TikTok campaigns here.
Chamberlain herself often receives criticism for trying to purposefully be relatable and quirky. As Chamberlain has grown in popularity, and gotten partnerships with luxury brand Louis Vuitton and getting invites to the Met Gala, and in turn made more money, people claim her content is no longer relatable because she is wealthy.
Beauty YouTuber Jackie Aina has spoken about the criticism she had received for no longer being relatable to her audience because she has made more money through her social media.
“A lot of times there’s a curse that comes with relatability, in that people are very familiar with you, overly familiar with you at times, and they get too comfortable,” Aina says. “When people really related to me, they started setting expectations that I didn’t ask for. They started putting me on a pedestal that I could not keep up with and that, again, I didn’t ask for.” Aina explains that her content has always been geared towards authenticity and that if people feel they can’t relate to her, then there are other influencers who they can follow.
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As Aina’s success grew, so did the comments about lack of relatability, similarly to Chamberlain. Is it then possible that influencers lose relatability as they become more successful? Loyal audiences will likely stick with people as they become more popular, but criticism from non-fans is likely to continue.
Are micro-influencers the real relatable influencers?
Micro-influencers have grown in popularity recently, as their smaller audiences prove to be more engaged and more likely to try out product suggestions. Micro-influencers have the benefit of smaller communities with who they can more closely connect, and a strength that they certainly seem to have is the idea of authenticity and relatability. With less of a focus on follower count and an emphasis placed on the likelihood of their audiences taking action, micro-influencers could dominate social media marketing in this new year.
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Experts think that micro-influencers will be effective in marketing smaller industries that have traditionally relied on word of mouth, as their followers are highly engaged and likely to take up suggestions made by those they follow. Micro-influencers are also more likely to be selective with their brand partnerships, understanding that organic content over sponsored content does better, meaning that their audiences are more likely to trust what they recommend.
If you want to learn more about the ups and downs of micro-influencer marketing, check out this blog.
Why Brands Need to Focus on Relatability
The work that goes into curating an image of trying your best but also effortlessly showing your audience that you too are just like them is no joke. But for brands, this matters. When creating a partnership with an influencer, their job is to provide a face of reliability and familiarity to products, companies, or services. Brands that are looking to curate an image of no-frills could greatly benefit from working with influencers who focus their content on more personal and unfiltered looks into their lives.
Ensuring that ads are placed in a way that seems organic to the influencer’s style is key, and so picking the right influencer for a campaign or partnership requires some digging.
When picking influencers for a campaign, remember to:
- Take a look into their content and brand and see how it could potentially align with your own
- Look at their audience demographics and determine if their audience is one that you are looking to target
- Think whether your product/service/company will organically make sense in their regularly scheduled content – this type of content will do better
Influencers are also held to public standards dictated by the internet, and often those come much higher than your average person. Recently, some British influencers have come under heat for going on lavish vacations while the UK and the world are struggling to control the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Seeing your favorite influencers on international trips while you’re stuck at home quarantined? Not very relatable.
Gen Z and Millennials want to follow people who they perceive as nice and decent. Finding the perfect influencer for your campaign means finding someone who cares about their audience enough to not put up a front.