On Tuesday 30 June, also known as the tenth anniversary of World Social Media Day, the American Influencer Council (AIC) was officially launched. The AIC is the first, and so far the only trade organisation for social media influencers, which is set to make history by allowing influencers to infiltrate political and legal systems. Influencers have previously shown their power within the marketing industry so it only makes sense for them to be fully legitimated and recognised as an industry itself: the influencing industry.
Who’s in? From Instagrammers and famous podcasters to TikTokers and content thought leaders, this new trade group seems welcoming to any online personality who has made a career out of the digital economy. However, the AIC remains based on an invite-only policy. Considering the impressive ascent of the influencing industry over the past years, it seems only reasonable that an official trade organisation has finally been created. But what exactly does it entail?
The not-for-profit association aims to secure the growth and integrity of its influencers’ career by promoting digital marketing education programmes as well as facilitating the recognition of the impact that social media and customised digital content have on society as a whole. While the main idea behind the trade is to forward the influencing industry, it also seems as though the group is looking to make a name for itself in political lobbying.
In other words, the AIC wants to make sure it has a say in the legislation that concerns its businesses.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise as ad disclosures are regulated by legislators, meaning that it would be highly beneficial for influencers to have the possibility to make their voice heard in the conversations that strongly influence their careers.
Currently, the Federal Trade Commission’s Endorsement Guide (Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising) is the only blueprint used when creating rules for digital advertising. The Guide “provides the basis for voluntary compliance with the law by advertisers and endorsers.,”, listing the rules between the endorser and the company selling the products on the basis that the connection between the two parties has to be “clearly and conspicuously disclosed.”
By having its say within the FTC, the AIC wants to make sure that parties who do not comply with the rules are fairly fined. Among the many demands made by the newly founded group, The Hustle reported that it was requesting “that ad-disclosure techniques — both their language and visual prominence — be standardized across the major social networks. That the FTC review the Endorsement Guide every 3 years, instead of the glacial pace of every 10, and that the FTC put more resources into educating new influencers about its rules.”
After shaking the marketing industry with million dollar contracts, it was time for influencers to organise themselves in order to make sure their industry will stay protected, promoted and legislated while keeping their own interest and opinions in mind. Now that the AIC has been launched in the US, it is very likely that influencers all over the world will follow suit—and rightly so. From micro to mega, there is no doubt left that influencers are here to remain, and it feels only right that they request the credits, regulations and protection they deserve as an important workforce.
For some unknown reason, I keep getting targeted ads asking me to sign up to become an ‘Amazon Influencer’. At first, I was taken aback—does Amazon, with its owner Jeff Bezos literally being the richest man in the world, really need the extra help in marketing and promotion from social media influencers?
For the sake of this article (that’s what I’d told myself), I tried to sign up and see what the big deal is. Of course, as I only have around 770 followers on Instagram, I did not meet “the eligibility requirements”, and was asked by Amazon to apply once I’ve increased my “level of influence” within social media—a reminder of the daily realities of my life as a non-insta-famous Gen Z’er. In order to set up an Amazon Influencer profile, also known as the “Amazon Influencer Programme”, you need to have an Amazon account, as well as either a Facebook, Youtube, Twitter or Instagram one and be successful at it, too, as Amazon states it looks at the number of your followers and other engagement metrics of your social media presence (purchasing fake followers won’t cut it, sorry). Once approved, the influencer is to set up their own Amazon ‘shop’ with a custom URL, recommending thousands of products, all in one spot. The influencer would then receive a commission for whatever they manage to sell.
So what’s the deal with Amazon’s decision to start using social media influencers as a marketing tool? Jeff Bezos seems to possess the ability to capitalise on literally anything, so this doesn’t come as a surprise. Over the years, the word ‘influencer’ has acquired a number of negative connotations, with people instantly rolling their eyes once they hear it. And yet, influencer marketing works, and it is actually very effective—Fyre festival, for example, is a painful proof of how much influencer marketing works. As much of a failure as it was, it would have never gained as much momentum if not for the social media influencers who marketed it (and are now being sued over this).
But who exactly is Amazon’s programme targetubg and how is it beneficial? Laura Fuentes is a chef, food blogger, and mum of three, and her Instagram account @momables has over 43.8K followers. She is also an Amazon Influencer and her shop comprises of different kitchen utensils and items, from tupperwares to cookbooks and supplements, and claims that since joining the programme, she has “seen an increase in affiliate sales revenue by 30 percent.” Laura promotes the exact type of products most of us buy on Amazon anyway, and as she says, “it is an easy way to serve your community by providing them with an easy and trusted source.” In other words, it does essentially benefit all three, Laura, the buyers, and the company.
Personally, I have never even considered Amazon when shopping for clothes, and neither did most people I know. There are so many options on the site that it is difficult to find the right piece, which is why so many people simply don’t bother. This is where Amazon fashion influencers come in. @colette.prime’s entire wardrobe allegedly consists of Amazon fashion, and Amazon fashion only. She began her fashion blog as a means to show the possibilities of engaging in fashion while also being able to afford it, which is how she came to Amazon. Her goal is to “take the best out of these options and put it onto one page”, enabling Amazon users to a much easier shopping experience. She, however, no longer works for Amazon exclusively.
This year, Amazon also launched the Amazon “drop”, consisting of limited-edition fashion collections designed by global influencers. It is uncertain why the company chooses to collaborate with influencers rather than giving a platform for emerging designers; nevertheless, once the collection drops, the Amazon drop user has 30 hours to shop until these items disappear forever. Amazon claims the ‘drop’ to be sustainable, as it doesn’t even start to make the piece until it is purchased in order to reduce waste. I applaud Amazon for this attempt to shift toward the right direction, but it does not make up for the years of environmental damage caused by excessive and unnecessary packaging or the CO2 emissions from rapid transportation.
It is good to see that Amazon can help working mothers like Laura or emerging fashion entrepreneurs like Colette gain revenue and essentially improve their lives for the better, but what about their factory workers? Just last month, Amazon was under fire over the mistreatment of factory workers in the U.K. warehouses, when Amazon created what seems to be an army of Twitter bots disguised as warehouse workers claiming just how much they love their jobs—exposed through a series of tweets. So how ethical is it to promote this new branch of the brand, really?
While we question the intentions of the brand and its decisions, the Amazon Influencer Programme is actually something good, and has the potential to benefit millions—the company just needs to rearrange a number of structures within for it to work. Amazon, the ball is in your court.