The Internet of 2017 – Who Are The Trend Setters?

As an account manager at Blueclaw, it’s my job to make sure that client’s get the results they need and want. I help co-ordinate an expert team of SEO practitioners, content writers, design & development professional and PR relationship makers.

A big part of our service offering is creative content campaigns that are used to garner coverage, mentions, links or traffic from online influencers (whether these be national press, industry publications or digital ‘celebrities’).

In order to do this, we need to understand who the most influential people are online and who they speak to; so as to ensure we target the right audience.

I sat down with Dominic Celica to discuss what the online space looks like at the moment and who the movers & shakers are.

What is your job at Blueclaw & what does this entail?

Senior PR & SEO executive. Day-to-day I work on the production of creative content campaigns – making sure the content will work effectively with search engines so our client’s objectives are met.

Once a content campaign is written and built the team and I outreach the pieces with national press and online influencers.

Who would you say is making the internet trends of today?

Personalities, without a doubt! For example:

  • Jake Paul who used Vine & YouTube to rise to fame.
  • Danielle Bregoli who appeared on Dr. Phil & has now signed a record deal.
  • Zara Holland, from model to Love Island star.

The trend setters of today are a combination of self-made and reality TV. Brands are buying into celebrity influencers rather than just making them (think Mickey Mouse Club). Disney recently broke ties with YouTuber PewDiePie after controversy. This poses the biggest problem for brands. By relinquishing control over a star’s creation the reigns are looser on the control a brand has over the influencer’s behaviour. Rather than moulding the star they want they often buy into a persona, and whilst this is the dream for a lot of online stars, they still have a duty to the fans that made them the successes they are to deliver similar content (no matter how controversial this may be).

So brands need to be very careful when enlisting the brand power of the new internet celebrity, as it can engage a young impressionable audience (and potential create long-term brand loyalty), but it can be a nightmare for the PR department.

In your opinion what does it take to ‘go viral’ or become an ‘online sensation’?

Being controversial! If you look at some of the most prolific online influencers their ‘power’ comes from holding disruptive opinions, owing the view with conviction and sharing it. For example:

  • Katie Hopkins who appeared on The Apprentice & is now a journalist, regular TV guest & Tweeter.
  • Nigel Farage has disappeared from the mainstream spotlight, but online is still driving conversation.
  • Munroe Bergdorf made her mark when fired by L’Oreal for her views on racism.

Online celebrities are being utilised by brands to develop their public image and are often put into job roles that would historically have been held by trained professionals. This is a separate issue for another post, but it does mean that the online world is changing as we prioritise celebrity over qualifications.

How important would you say ‘user generated’ content is to what modern culture looks like?

User content IS modern culture. A lot of soft-news can be traced back to user generated content and knowing where to look can put you ahead of the cultural curve.

Internet users are becoming more and more influenced by blogger/vlogger/online celebrity content and this is why brands have swarmed to these people over the past 5 or so years. They possess a relationship with the public that brand aspire to have. They’re trusted because they are member of the public themselves and they’re motivation isn’t quite so obviously sales or influence.

What are the top 3 websites you visit that you think are influencing modern culture the most right now?

YouTube, Reddit & social platforms (such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram)

What is it about YouTube that is so important?

It’s free – this is a big draw as the barrier to entry for both creators and users are low/non-existent. They say an image speaks a thousand words, so video is positively overflowing with influence.

The move of Google/YouTube to commercialise the platform with RedBand stands to change the face of how users digest content. As with Netflix and Hulu, the company wants to challenge the hold of cable TV with unique content with a subscription cost.

What is it about Reddit that is so important?

Reddit describes itself as the front page of the internet and that’s not too far off. It houses a passionate community of users who create sub-Reddits, converse over every subject under the sun and provide a place for clan-culture to exist.

Reddit is the website that feeds it all. If you look at the soft-news-cycle in more detail you can trace back a large portion of the content back to Reddit about 4 days earlier. Just like Twitter became the go to place for breaking news, Reddit is the place that soft news is spawned.

There are some users who are prolific than others and drive a lot of the content, but the site’s strength is the ability to give everybody a voice.

What is it about social platforms that are so important?

Social platforms feed off the content produced on YouTube and Reddit, enabling users to take content and share it with their inner circle. Whether it’s a case of:

  • ‘Me-first’ – those people that help proliferate the latest influencer content
  • Engagement – tagging memes and the like
  • Following a trend – think the Ice Bucket Challenge

Social takes the conversation away from the larger context and frames it in a personal setting. More often than not the content evokes an emotional response in users.

In 2006 People Magazine chose “You” as the ‘Person of the Year’, do you think this has proved to be true and if so do you think it will become even more relevant?

There are so many more voices in the digital world now, so it’s undeniable that People Magazine predicted this one right. There is no doubt in my mind that people will continue to find ways to get their thoughts, feelings and opinions heard.

The biggest threat to this culture is the idea of “Net Neutrality” which rears its head every few years. This would put the control of the internet in the hands of brands with the budget to do so. This is continually batted now, but if it ever came to fruition the underground may struggle to reach the mainstream in the way it does now.

How do you see the internet, and the ways we interact with it, changing in the coming years?

Brands will continue to engage with online influencers which will amplify the voice of these online celebrities. This new echelon of authority will speak to audiences and guide the content they consume as we move forward.

It is almost certain that the number of influencers will continue to grow – the unknown is whether a new wave of influencers will break away and appear in a form yet to be devised yet. As new technologies arise and new platforms are introduced there’s a good chance the celebrities of today will become synonymous with big brands and the new kids on the block will take their place. And thus the cycle continues.

This way we find breed celebrity has not changed that much since before the pre-internet era. Rewind 17 years to Big Brother series one, these celebrities gained popularity and fame outside of the house. Or the likes of Daniel Beddingfield who in 2002 produced ‘Gotta Get Thru This’ in his bedroom to become the overnight flavour of the month.

So what does all this tells us?

As an account manager it’s my job to make sure I relay the agency’s success to clients and ensure they understand what success looks like. Old-school SEO said that ‘Followed Links’ were king and everything else was a ‘nice to have’. The reality is that the Google algorithm is far more sophisticated than before and therefore traffic, brand mentions and even ‘No-Follow’ links hold substantial value.

Seeding content with online influencers has the potential to move the proverbial needle for your business online. Big brands have realised this on a large scale with ‘sponsorships’, endorsements and content deals, but there is certainly room for this on a smaller scale in terms of cost, scope and notoriety of the influencer.

When we produce a creative content campaign it is important to look beyond the big national press links and consider the other voices speaking to the UK public.

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