Expansive tastes

As blogs, social media, and YouTube continue to outpace traditional media in number of consumers reached, marketers are actively courting the opinions of e-influencers such as Michelle Phan.

The nonstop rise of blogs, Twitter and YouTube has spawned a new kind of celebrity: the e-influencer. According to Parisian newspaper Les Échos, these self-styled tastemakers are now being actively courted by marketers for their opinions.

Take the case of Michelle Phan. In 2007, at age 20, the US-based Phan posted her first YouTube video, "Natural Looking Makeup Tutorial," and built up a following around the world. Three years later, she was recruited by Lancôme to produce sponsored videos. In 2013, with six million regular YouTube fans, she launched her own makeup brand, em Michelle Phan, developed by L'Oréal Paris.

As the term influencer implies, it's not just raw talent that lures consumer products companies. It's the trendsetters' ability to sway huge numbers of potential consumers (often more than traditional media could reach). No wonder US corporations spent US$240 million last year — 6% of their digital communications budgets — on "influencer marketing."