Emerging trends in the Digital Era: Social Media

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Social Media

Social Media has grown rapidly over the past few years, and we are seeing emerging trends. Savvy social media users are taking advantage of their followings and leveraging their power to create full-time careers. Brands have realized the relevance they have among consumers and are shelling out big bucks for these influencers to post about their products. In this Wiki, we look at the different platforms that are being used and what the implications are.


Changes in Career

Transformation of the consumer’s role

With the ability to create content that can reach a wide audience, consumers are enabled to advocate for companies and/or their products that they buy. Over time, these social influencers can build solidarity and trust with their viewers, through a relatable personality and authentic messages.[1]

Some of the more successful creators are often selected by companies for partnerships of temporary or continuous nature. With social pull and the increasing amount of time that users spend on YouTube for example, companies reach out to these influencers for product placements. This practice is common in the cosmetics industry, where popular Youtubers such as Michelle Phan have partnered with Lancome to promote products that viewers may find relevant and attractive to buy.[2] [3] In addition to verbal explanations, there is also a visual component with the demonstration of applying the cosmetics on camera.

Transformation of the marketer’s role

Kim Kardashian promoting controversial drug

There are several areas of concern for assessing a social influencer’s ability to grow. In determining a long-term strategy, the following should be evaluated: the different sources of revenue; the growth potential in their following; and possible change in image.

Monetization: Patreon is a service that allows users to request monetary donations for a given cause. Similar to other crowdfunding sites, proceeds go towards financing a project of finite duration, or for a series of deliverables. Youtubers can provide a link to their Patreon pages in their videos, so there is an additional revenue stream along with advertising income from their Youtube partner program or other affiliations.[4] Follower growth: Collaborations with other influencers or exploration into new fields may allow for expansion in the number of followers. Bart Kwan, one of the founders of the Youtube comedy channel Just Kidding Films, also manages another account about fitness and weightlifting.[5][6] Barbell Brigade is not only provides informative videos, but is also a gym located in Los Angeles.[7][8] Image: Despite the increase in sponsored messages from influencers, the long term relationships existing between the content creator and the audience can still give more credibility to product reviews over traditional testimonies.

However, the perceived authenticity of the influencer might be affected in some cases.

In 2015, Kim Kardashian had posted a picture on her Instagram account promoting a drug that relieves the symptoms of morning sickness.[9] This post was made during her own pregnancy, and it originally did not include the important disclaimer of the drug’s side effects. This event brings concerns of the amount of due diligence that influencers should perform when acting as a paid spokesperson for a given brand, especially for pharmaceutical products.[10]

Transferrable skills

Some influencers collaborate with major companies for promotional opportunities, such as EpicMealTime filming one of their signature cooking videos, as part of a father-oriented Super Bowl campaign organized by Nissan.[11]

Changes in Industry

With the growth in popularity of social media platforms, companies are adapting to the new channels to reach potential customers.

Barriers to entry lowered

Many companies have a social media presence, whether for advertising purposes or customer relations. A company that uses statistics on the social media platforms and the type of product or service being sold, could assist in optimizing their customer-facing functions.

Collaborative product development

A collaborative effort between a social influencer and a company produces a retail item, that incorporates input from the influencer and possibly their followers. Bethany Mota, a fashion vlogger on YouTube, joined Aeropostale to help design several lines of clothing to be sold to the public.[12]


The availability of online reviews, especially those from social influencers, plays a role in consumer perceptions of companies and their products. 88% of participants from a 2014 Brightlocal study equated their confidence in the credibility of online reviews, with taking suggestions from someone they trust. [13] With widely-available, detailed experiences in the performance of a product or service, companies are incentivized to improve their offerings over time and over their competitors.

Changes in Marketing in the Digital Era

When we think of the way social media has changed marketing, the first thing we think of is the changes in how we advertise. Moving from print media, radio and tv commercials to advertisements on our Facebook feeds or sponsored content on Instagram or Snapchat.

However, the digital age and social media especially has changed the entirety of marketing: the creation of value, communicating that value, and value retention. All across the internet, users are leaving traces of data along where they shop, their hobbies, what lifestyle they live, and what they talk about. It has become extremely simple to collect massive amounts of data to learn about one’s customers to cater to their needs. The two way communication that social media allows between brands and their consumers as well allows for feedback on product improvement, as well as co-creation of products and promotions. Referrals that happen by word-of-mouth on the internet can also be incentivized by unique referral discount codes.

When communicating and advertising to customers, companies also no longer has to go through gatekeepers. Before social media, companies relied on traditional marketing and advertising agencies to deliver the message to their target audiences. Eliminating this need for the middleman has not only cut huge costs but has allowed the surfacing of thousands of microbusinesses [14]. There is a plethora of options for which platforms to use, as well as the campaigns to run [15].. Traditional advertisements in media or print ads in entertainment or on magazines are easily drowned out into the noise of everyday life, but because social media has become such an integral part of the way we communicate to each other, promotion strategies on those platforms have yielded much higher conversion rates.

Finally, employees of a firm are able to engage with customers directly, quickly. This active listening allows for improved customer service and customer retention. Reviews and constant feedback means ever evolutionary firms and products to better serve consumers.

Engagement in Social Media Platforms and role of "influencers"

The scope of this wiki article involves three major social media platforms: Youtube, Instagram, and Snapchat. The choice to focus on these three services is based on their prevalence throughout the past decade, using their usage statistics for reference.


How to Make Money on Youtube

Youtube [1] is an online video hosting service, which also allows users to share, compile, edit, comment, and rate the available content. Both regular users may upload videos, but corporate accounts and media outlets have also made use of the platform to advertise or broadcast their pre-recorded or real-time materials. Youtube was originally founded in early 2005 but was acquired by Google near the end of the following year.

According to the official press release [2], there are over a billion users active on Youtube every day accounting for billions of video views. Furthermore, Youtube’s statistics claim that viewing sessions on desktop and mobile devices are on the rise. While financials for Youtube are not published, revenues are earned through advertisement placements and engagements on the videos (e.g. the Youtube Partner Program), as well as an optional subscription service called Youtube Red.

Youtube has been a platform that has allowed content creators to share their art, whether it is vlogs, tutorials, and other various videos. From these videos, users can amass a following and gain more views, which they can monetize. Many have the perception that making money off of Youtube is easy but there are few steps that need to be taken to start earning money. When a user first creates an account, they need to ensure that they "enable" monetize on their videos and sign up for a Youtube Partnership. From there, they need to choose which type of ads they want for their video and depending on how their viewers interact with it, they can make a profit.

There are many benefits to using Youtube as a platform because there is no restriction on the length of videos compared to Instagram and Snapchat. Influencers are able to have a creative outlet to showcase their talents such as hair and makeup, fashion, gaming, video editing and much more. Through this, they can build a following and gain a sense of community with their followers as well as earn money by doing something they love. Youtube often becomes a full-time career for some Youtubers and if their channel gets big they can earn serious money.


Instagram is an app for capturing and sharing photos and videos. Much like other social networking services, there is an ability to ‘like’ posts, follow accounts, and share the media externally to other social media networks. Users may also utilize hashtags to catalogue their media and gain exposure, and mention one another within the comments. In addition, photos and videos may be sent privately in the form of one-on-one or group chats. Like Youtube, Instagram earns ad revenue [3]. This is done through the use of sponsored posts that appear in users’ feeds.

The app was available to the public in 2010, and in 2012 the company was sold to Facebook. In one of the most recent news posts[4], Instagram boasted a daily active user figure of 300 million. The popularity of the app for brand promoters shows with the variety of third-party analytic services that link to the user’s account. These tools will provide engagement insights about one’s followers, such as the most successful types of content, or the ideal times to post[5].

Instagram is the best choice for brands to gain business exposure. If a business or personality is not on Instagram, then they are losing out on a big market. Instagram is the “King of Social Media” due to its brand engagement rate which was 2.26% in 2015 compared to Facebook’s 0.21% [6]. It is very easy for brands and users to interact with each other, as well as for users to find each other on the app versus YouTube. Brands are able to post multiple times a day and share photos from their consumers onto their page, which builds up their brand. It is a very cheap form of marketing, with a huge user base.


How Snapchat Makes Money

Snapchat is an app where users share video and photos that are temporary. When the app was first created in 2011, users were only able to send each other photos and videos that could only be viewed once. Later on, the "Story" feature was added where users could share a story that was available for viewing by their followers for 24 hours. This feature changed Snapchat and allowed for influencers that had big followings to share a sneak peak into their lives.

Snapchat is known as the app for teenagers and young adults. The novelty of creating stories and sharing it with an audience is appealing to them. They are able to capture concerts, daily activities, parties, weddings, etc. for an audience and also consume content as well. This app has 100 million daily active users that view a total of around 6 billion videos a day [7]. This is a big market and there are endless possibilities of the content that can be shared over Snapchat.

Snapchat has added many features over the past few years such as GeoFilters, Filters, Memories, and Discover. With Filter’s, brands and users can create custom filters for their events or brand that will be active at a location for a certain period of time. Many users enjoy this feature and it is a great way for brands to gain exposure. Brands can expect to pay as much as $450,000 for custom filters that are available for all users of Snapchat [8]. Some examples are filters for upcoming film releases, or for sports events. Brands and influencers can upload edited content or promotions onto their stories via the memories feature, which is a great way for affiliates to share information. News outlets are also jumping onto Snapchat to post their news content in the Discover feed. They can post their articles in an interactive format for users to increase their engagement. News publications such as CNN, People Magazine, and BuzzFeed use this feature.

Snapchat is a new entrant into the social media realm, but it has made a big impact in the past few years. Brands are starting to take notice and are investing into advertising on the app. With such a young market on the app, they can make lasting impressions and gain life long consumers.

Social Media Sponsorship

Brands face a challenge with marketing to the new generation as many do not respond well to pop up advertisements all over a web page or before a Youtube video, many install ad blockers, or ads simply turn them off. They view it as an annoyance so brands are turning to social media influencers to get their products and brand out to the masses. The three platforms that they use are Youtube, Instagram, and Snapchat.


Example of Sponsored Video

Many brands work with Youtubers in various sponsorship methods to gain more customers. They will often target Youtubers with over 100,000 subscribers and look for those that have the best fit for their brand [1]. The most common form of sponsorship is in the form of product placement. In these types of videos, the user will do a fully sponsored video for the brand featuring only products and services from that brand.

Other methods include coupon codes and tracking links. These two methods are one of the best ways to track the return on investment. They are able to see if the affiliation with the certain influencer is worth what they have invested and is bringing in new consumers. The influencers are able to earn money from these sponsorships and charge high rates depending on their following.

These influencers have a genuine engagement with their subscribers and those subscribers will take their word seriously when it comes to products they endorse. Successful sponsorships will generate high ROI’s for brands and will be a cheaper alternative to traditional marketing methods.


Sponsored Trip to Turks and Caicos by Tarte Cosmetics

Many bloggers and Youtuber’s have also found a great success on Instagram, amassing millions of followers. As the engagement rate for Instagram is high, brands are shelling out big bucks for influencers to post about their products. Rates are estimated to be “around $700–$900 for Instagrammers with over 100,000 followers, $2,000–$3,000 for Instagrammers with at least 500,000 followers, and over $50,000 per big-brand collaboration for Instagrammers with 1 million followers or more” [1].

There are a couple of ways a brand can advertise on Instagram through influencers [2]:

  1. Sponsored Posts: Influencers can post a photo or video featuring a particular product or service. These types of posts can result in high sales for brands because the post will be seen by millions of users and those users will then buy the products. These products are often sold out especially if the influencer has a high engagement rate.
  2. Brand sponsored events: Many brands will have branded sponsored events or vacations that influencers will post on their feeds. These influencers are in charge of taking envy-worthy pictures that will entice users to the brands. An example of a sponsored trip was when Youtuber and Instagrammer Irene Sarah was sent to Bali on behalf of Institute of Code [3].


Brands are also using the same methods for Instagram on Snapchat. Many of the popular Instagram influencers also have a following on Snapchat. Snapchat is more personal and interactive, so influencers can convey the brand in a genuine manner.

Influencers have been taken on vacations on behalf of brands, which they document all on Snapchat and show various products throughout the trips. Also, while users are doing everyday errands, they show products by certain companies and their followers will go out and buy it. When influencers are marketing through Snapchat, it does not feel like a product placement. These influencers are highly trusted by their fans and they need to stand by the products they represent.

Currently, there is no way to measure ROI on Snapchat, as there are limited statistics. There is no way to know how many followers a user has and how much brands are paying influencers for Snapchat. There should be more insight given in the future as Snapchat has launched a myriad of features that is enabling the app to grow.

Top ranking communities and users

There are various communities across the platforms with many of them overlapping. Influencers are usually on all three to take advantage of their followings and generate genuine engagement with their followers.


Desi's Collab with Quay Sunglasses

The fashion and beauty community on Youtube and Instagram is very big. This community is made up of fashion bloggers and gurus that showcase lookbook’s, tutorials, and product reviews. Their followers take their word on products and brands seriously and will shell out money for collaborations.

On the fashion side, the biggest names are SongofStyle and SincerelyJules, with over 3 million followers each [1]. These bloggers can command up to a whopping $50,000 per post for a brand. With potential earnings that high, these influencers have an ability to earn six figures off of Instagram alone. They also have collaborated with brands for capsule collections that have been very successful.

Beauty influencers have benefited a lot from the rise of social media marketing. They have been able to go on endless vacations, beauty conventions and events all sponsored by the brands that value their following. Some of the most successful beauty guru’s are Desi Perkins, Amrezy, and DressYourFace. They each have over 2 million followers on Instagram. Desi is on Youtube, while Amrezy and DressYourFace are not. The latter relied solely on Instagram to grow their following by posting beautiful makeup looks. They have parlayed their successful following into lucrative ventures such as makeup collaborations, clothing collaborations, and worldwide makeup tours.


How much celebrities make off of sponsored posts

Celebrities are increasingly using Snapchat and Instagram, which their fans love because it creates a personal experience. These celebrities can command big money from brands to pitch their products such as fit tummy teas, services, and beauty products. One example of huge social media success is Kylie Jenner. The youngest member of the Kardashian clan has over 60 million followers on Instagram and the number one ranking snapchatter with over 10 million followers. She is big among the young crowd and is paid big bucks to attend events and promote products. She has used her fame to create a cosmetics line, which she promotes heavily through her Snapchat and Instagram.

Another big success story is DJ Khaled. He became a huge star on Snapchat with over 6 million followers on the popular app. A popular DJ in hip-hop, he transcended into the mainstream market with his snapchat’s as they featured his daily activities and words of wisdom. He has coined popular phrases such as “Major Key” and “Bless Up”. His endearing personality and hilarious account has helped him secure successful contracts, such as a radio deal with Apple Music, promoting Ciroc Vodka, and a spot as the special guest for Beyonce’s Formation Tour [2]


This community is popular across all three platforms. Users use Youtube to showcase travel vlogs, Instagram to post beautiful pictures of exotic locations, and Snapchat for a personal look into their vacations.

Travel photographer Murad Osmann travelled around the world photographing his wife. She would be walking in front of him with him holding her hand. This pose would be against exotic and stunning backdrops around the world and captured the eyes of many. This was a part of his “Follow me to” series and led to collaborations with top fashion designs particularly in India where his photographs were used in Harpar’s Bazaar [3]

Another famous travel account is Luxury World Traveller with around 2 million followers. These Instagram accounts get the luxury of being invited to luxurious resorts all over the world to showcase on Instagram.


There are various types of lifestyle accounts across Youtube and Instagram. On Youtube, many lifestyle accounts are vloggers. These vloggers record their daily lives and post for the world to see. ItsJudysLife is one vlog channel that has had huge success through posting daily vlogs featuring Judy, her husband Benji and their three adorable daughters. They will shout out brands at the beginning of their videos and make good money off of their videos, so much so that Benji was able to quit his job in real estate to commit to Youtube full time.

coupon code

On Instagram, luxury lifestyle pages have millions of followers. People want to see what living life is like for the rich, and these pages showcase that. They also charge companies to post about them on their Instagram pages. Scroll through the page of thebillionaires club on Instagram and you will see coupon codes for various luxury services [4]. This community is growing rapidly as there is a big market for family vloggers and lifestyle pages.


Society has become health and fitness obsessed, as shown in the huge spike in fitness accounts and competitions that are all over Instagram. Consumers are obsessed with obtaining the perfect body and learning fitness secrets to a toned body, which has created a platform for anyone that is able to achieve that. Fitness models and trainers have millions of followers on Instagram, who are ready to follow any plan they tell them. They use their following to gain sponsorships from supplement brands and also promote products such as waist trainers, fit tummy teas, and supplements; sometimes products that do not really help. Users such as Kayla Itsines and Anna Victoria, have been able to create their own fitness guides that they sell online. They accept clients from around the word and make good money off of these plans [5].


Lilly Singh Interviewing Cast of Bad Mom's

Everyone loves to laugh and it’s no surprise that comedy accounts on Youtube and Instagram are a huge success. Instagram pages like thefatjewish and girlwithnojob have over a million followers just through posting funny memes. Meme’s are elements of media that are spread throughout the Internet, as they are hilarious and relatable. Josh, who runs thefatjewish, has turned his Instagram fame into a full-time career with paid appearances and sponsorships [1].

A Youtube and Canadian success story is that of Lilly Singh, better known as ||Superwoman||. Lily is from Greater Toronto and started her Youtube channel making parody videos based off her experience as a Punjabi-Canadian. Now Lilly has become a huge star, with over 9 million Youtube subscribers and has been featured in Hollywood movies such as Bad Moms and Ice Age. She has also ranked as a high earner on the Forbe’s Highest Paid Youtuber’s list earning 3 million in 2015 [2].


This community might be the biggest of them all, with many of the highest earning influencers being gamers. The gaming community is huge and it comes as no surprise that the highest earning Youtube is a gamer. PewDiePie earned an estimated 12 million in 2015 off of his Youtbe fame [3]. He has over 44 million Youtube subscribers and has become a spokesperson for Youtube. Through the growth and popularity of his channel, he has been a big influence in getting gamers to buy indie games and has increased the sales of those games [4]. In his videos, he plays video games and provides commentary, which users love to watch.

Concluding Personal Viewpoints

People have always influenced and been influenced by each other. Others’ opinions always have and likely will continue to have an influence on how we behave, think, and most importantly for marketers, buy. Influencers may have started out by word of mouth advertising, quickly adopting new technologies as they became available. The printing press, wireless radio ads, television, and now the Internet have all become channels on which influencers have been able to spread their clout.

With the advent of the Internet, innovators have brought about technologies for the rapid and effortless sharing of facts, opinions, and everything in between with billions of other people connected to the Internet. As time progressed, these technologies have enabled entire new economies to arise, resulting in creatives fully embracing these platforms as a means of making a living.

Collaboration Opportunities

The nature of the Internet allows for extreme ease of sharing ideas from across international borders and across cultures, new opportunities have arisen for collaborations with people all around the world. While some of these partnerships have been the product of partnerships between Internet celebrities, other collaborations have been partnerships between Internet celebrities and their fans from all around the world.

Daniel Wellington watch (Photographer: Will Anderson for Bloomberg Businessweek)

Internet celebrities working together to attract the combined audiences of all partners have been a staple of both YouTube and Instagram for many years. We as media consumers feel that this is tremendously beneficial for both the media creators and consumer. For the creators, it opens up audiences and niches that would have been otherwise unreachable. For the consumers of media, it eases and directs the discovery of new relatable content, in the never-ending search for other people who “get” you.

Once media consumers have found their niche content creators that they relate with, there arises the opportunity for the content creators to outsource their idea generation and way of making a living to the content consumers. This crowdsourcing of video content ideas increases subscriber engagement and helps form a sense of community among viewers.

When these communities are big enough, companies may sponsor certain content creators for promotion of products. A great example of one of these companies is Daniel Wellington. As Bloomberg news put it, Daniel Wellington used social media as a promotion platform in order to make “a $200 Million Business Out of Cheap Watches.”[5] This company found its success by promoting itself through new media, where other watch brands had been avoiding.

Ethical Issues

With the introduction of any new technology, there are always ethical issues to consider. The ease of sharing introduced by the Internet has given rise to the dilemma of whether one should be so open about sharing all aspects of their lives.


The first of these dilemmas is whether “mom vloggers” should be sharing so much of their children’s lives. Where currently it is difficult to dig up embarrassing media of most adults, in just a few decades, the children of these mom vloggers may find that they are unable to get the job or public office position they want due to there being evidence of them simply being kids and goofing off.


In recent news there was a popular Instagrammer, Essena O’Neill, who quit because she felt that the image she was portraying on her social media was not her true self. The celebrity in her had been a product of the endorsements and she eventually felt that the posts served no purpose other than self-promotion. In her own words, ”This was the reason why I quit social media: for me, personally, it consumed me. I wasn’t living in a 3D world.” [6]

The prevalence of sponsored posts and content on social media has resulted in the perceived deterioration of authenticity of the content creators. It is sometimes hard to tell whether a YouTube or Instagram celebrity is talking about a product or service because they genuinely believe that it is special, or whether they are being paid to talk favourably about it.

Long-Term Outlook

We believe that we as humans will always have the need to express ourselves and share our lives with others. Starting out as a face-to-face activity, our society has developed technologies to allow for sharing to audiences around the world. Today, some of the most popular social media platforms for people to share content include Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.

As of this writing, Instagram has just implemented a “Stories” feature, essentially copying the functionality of Snapchat. Given that so many Instagram content creators direct followers to Snapchat to view a more immediate, unrefined versions of their lives, this could eventually have a huge impact on both Instagram and Snapchat. Instagram's owner, Facebook, has made multiple attempts of either acquiring or copying Snapchat in the past, all of which failed. As such, it will be interesting to see how this new feature plays out in the next few months to a year.

YouTube was founded in 2005, meaning it has had just over a decade of growth as of this writing. Many of the content creators on YouTube have had to make adjustments as time passed and their lives changed. An example of this would be when a YouTube artist begins a family. Their daily routines change, and hence the content in the vlogs produced change with them. In the next few decades, it remains to be seen whether there is a trend of YouTube artists successfully branching out into non-YouTube based endeavours, or whether these artists continue to change their content over the decades. Will followers grow up with the artists and hence stay as loyal subscribers? Which YouTube content creators will be successful? Only time will tell.


  1. https://www.yahoo.com/news/thefatjewish-king-of-instagram-220620654.html?ref=gs
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilly_Singh
  3. http://mediakix.com/2015/12/top-10-richest-youtubers-millionaires-list/#gs.s=vtoJk
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PewDiePie
  5. Pulvirent, Stephen. (2015, July 4). How Daniel Wellington Made a $200 Million Business Out of Cheap Watches. Bloomberg Businessweek. Retreived from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-14/how-daniel-wellington-made-a-200-million-business-out-of-cheap-watches
  6. Hunt, Elle. (2015, November 3). Essena O'Neill quits Instagram claiming social media is not real life. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/nov/03/instagram-star-essena-oneill-quits-2d-life-to-reveal-true-story-behind-images
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