Have you heard the story of Omar, the construction worker who decided — almost on a whim, it seems — to position himself as an Instagram influencer? With a little help from his trend-following daughter, the Austin, TX dad adopted the handle @justaconstructionguy, began posting images of his “daily essentials” (hard hat, hi-viz vest, thermos, work gloves), and even mastered hashtags and trends (#InfluencerLife, the splash photo). Followers loved the authenticity of the self-proclaimed coffee aficionado, cigar lover, and heavy machinery buff, and Omar’s fame spread across social media.
Only one problem: Omar — while a real construction worker in the Austin area — isn’t a real influencer; instead, he was the figment of an advertising agency’s imagination, an elaborate ruse to promote a coffee brand.
Reactions across the socialsphere were divided. Was it a clever marketing stunt that brilliantly parodied the very idea of influencers? A huge disappointment to everyone who’s ever dreamed of monetizing their brand-loyal lifestyle? A little bit of both?
Whichever side you come down on, there are definitely some lessons to be learned from Omar the Imaginary Influencer. Let’s break them down:
1. In a World of Kardashians, Be an Omar
Mike McKee, Cuvee Coffee’s owner, told BuzzFeed that making an influencer out of an Everyman was the result of some seriously creative license, since the typical influencer type simply wouldn’t fit the coffee shop’s brand. “We need[ed] a different type of influencer: a hard-worker, blue-collar guy,” said McKee. And so they hit upon the idea of a man whose aspirations, even though they were tongue-in-cheek, could provide inspiration to the masses.
In some ways, it’s a very meta concept. After all, the whole appeal of influencers is that they are just like you and me — regular people, not celebrities — and so everyone can aspire to be one. All it takes to distinguish oneself from the millions of other soccer moms, avo-loving Millennials, or amateur makeup artists is passion, a knack for smartphone photography, and maybe a little luck.
The rapid rise of influencer marketing has created a saturated space, which means that companies can struggle to develop and maximize their campaigns. If you’re thinking about bringing on a social media agency on board for your marketing campaigns, it could help to reach out to micro-influencers.
Take the path less traveled when it comes to selecting a personality, and be certain that your influencer campaign is based on real data and insights leveraged from social research.
2. A Little Self-Deprecating Humor Never Hurts
A huge part of Omar’s appeal? He poked fun at himself while also skewering social media tropes. Plenty of his followers were probably the ones who boost true influencers’ signals with likes, hearts, shares, retweets, comments, and other interactions.
But on some level, those who embraced this hard-working dad also recognized — and rewarded — the faintly ridiculous nature of the whole shebang. We all know the emperor has no clothes, but we all still ask who he’s wearing (and if we can get a coupon code for free shipping).
Omar helped us acknowledge that influencers are, well, kind of silly. Imagine getting paid to consume organic snacks, wear a certain kind of sneaker, and take selfies! And yet he also proved that in spite of it all, they are also incredibly effective as a marketing technique.
3. Think Small — No, Smaller
Celebrity endorsements have been used by brands for advertising purposes for as long as there have been celebrities. Getting a famous singer, actor or athlete to talk up your product is a surefire way to boost business — but more often than not, it takes big bucks.
The closer they get to celebrity status, the more dollar signs influencers can command, too. But it appears that the future of influencer marketing might be shrinking, so to speak.
That is, micro-influencers, who have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers, and nano-influencers, who are followed by fewer than 1,000 people, could be an even better choice than their more popular counterparts.
Why? Although they reach fewer folks, they have more sway over those they do reach. These types of influencers are perceived as extremely trustworthy and authentic, often due to the fact that they aren’t big-name superstars.
Nano-influencers, in particular, have great impact in niche markets — like, say, the blue-collar coffee lovers of Austin, Texas. But both groups offer greater engagement with their followers, equaling higher ROI for the brands that partner with them.
The Legacy of @justaconstructionguy
There’s a good chance that Omar and his trusty Cuvee Coffee-filled thermos will inspire imitators, with brands both big and small thinking that they, too, can invent an influencer persona. Certainly, plenty of marketing departments will be casting about for nano- and micro-influencers to promote their products.
It’s hard to know whether Omar’s 15 minutes of Insta-fame will help revolutionize social media marketing or be a blip on the proverbial screen, but his meta, and meteoric, rise makes it clear that influencers are here to stay.