Influenced: Social media translates to purchasing power in the age of Instagram

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The landscape of advertising is changing – taking the power away from the Fortune 500 advertising firms and thrusting it into a tiny device in the palm of our hands: cell phones.

From fashion, to beauty, to music and movies, social media drives the sales of just about everything.

Many of these are not the typical advertisements designed and directed by marketing teams. Instead, a new breed of business-person, an “influencer” is taking hold.

Maddie Flemming, a junior at the College of Charleston, is very familiar:

“I probably follow 15, 20, maybe more influencers. I follow a lot of influencers…someone in my family probably buys something they [influencers] recommend once a week.”

Maddie Flemming, student

Influencers have proven their value to brands and they are more plentiful than ever. Business Insider projects that by 2022, brands will spend $15 billion on influencer marketing.

That’s a global statistic, but a surprisingly big piece of that pie is right here in Charleston.  

“As soon as I moved to Charleston, brands that I worked with specifically, had more interest in working with me.”

Paula Rallis, Influencer

Paula Rallis is a an influencer in Charleston with a platform the size of a small city: 200,000+ people on her Instagram page. Some days she might post a photo of things she is passionate about, like flying planes, but other posts are more targeted:

“We are kind of in the luxury travel space, we have worked with Land Rover, Veuve Clicquot.”  

Paula Rallis, Influencer

Rallis says some of her success comes down to the ‘Charleston mystique’ that Lowcountry locals are all familiar with:

“There is a lot of intrigue in our city…it’s beautiful obviously, and people just are interested in the people that fill it.”

Paula Rallis, Influencer

Traditional advertisers are taking notice of the shift in the market.

Peter LaMotte runs the Charleston office of advertising firm Chernoff Newman. He says Charleston is so attractive because it is beautiful, yet attainable to an audience that has a harder time relating to a celebrity in New York or Los Angeles.

Influencer marketing is still the Wild West in many ways, with the rules and regulations still being worked out.

In recent years there has been a push for more transparency. Influencers are being held to a new set of standards, requiring them to disclose when a post is an ad or is sponsored:

“If you believe what you are reading, no matter who the person is that is sharing that message, if you trust them and you believe them, then you are going to make that decision, you are going to make that purchasing decision.”

Peter LaMotte, Advertising expert

Behind all of the stories, likes, posts, and comments, the power is now shifting hands:

“And we will be like…Oh my gosh…did you see her story? I’m going to go buy that! Or, I want this for Christmas….she said it was cool!”

Maddie Flemming, student

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