Mikhailla Fitzgerald: How the corporate world is responding to the rise of social media influencers

26 Talent Agency - Mikhailla Fitzgerald

“The position of Chief Influencer Officer is becoming as indispensable as a CFO or CMO in modern times”

By Mikhailla Fitzgerald, founder of 26 Talent Agency

In 2023 more than 35% of creators or influencers who spent 4+ years cultivating their audience were able to earn a living wage of over $USD50k, a scenario that could not have been conceived even in our wildest dreams.

Estimated to be worth $104 billion, the content creator economy is only just starting to come into its own, and companies are finally starting to pay attention by appointing Chief Influencer Officers.

No longer dismissed out of hand, social media influencing is serious – and big – business. The fact that close to half of creators worked full-time in content creation attests to the legitimacy of content creation as a skilled job; in the not too distant future the ability to build a social brand may even be a prerequisite to any career that exists in the public eye be it politics, entertainment, or business.

In the digital era the awesome power of influencers to make or break brands is undeniable. The front row of fashion shows are now full of the most popular influencers of the day, meanwhile statistics show 43% of Gen Z consumers prefer influencers as a product discovery channel.

Working with influencers is certainly beneficial, but the nature of the social media beast is that there’s always the potential for something to go wrong. And when content can go viral for unpredictable reasons, a brand’s reputation can be torn to shreds in a matter of minutes.

It’s no surprise then that the position of Chief Influencer Officer (CIO) is becoming as indispensable as a CFO or CMO in modern times. Aside from their core duty to align influencer campaigns with the brand’s values and target demographics, the CIO’s skillset is invaluable for creating a complementary relationship between brands and their community.

Beyond the superficial benefits of ‘exposure’, CIOs cultivate genuine engagement with audiences though a well-chosen mix of content creators and thoughtful campaign management. 

Authenticity a key benefit of CIOs

CIOs are masters at leveraging social influence for brand enhancement, consumer engagement, and sales conversions but one area where they excel is in channelling authenticity. Globally trust in advertising has plummeted dramatically while trust in relatable creators and influencers continues to rise.

Data reveals up to 88% of consumers say authenticity is critical when deciding what brands they like and support. 59% find that user-generated content is the most authentic type of content yet 51% of consumers say less than half of brands created content that came across as authentic to them.

Needless to say, preventing the loss of your key audience online is much easier than getting them back. On top of the necessary daily tasks required to maintain high-quality audience engagement, CIOs ensure a brand’s voice remains cohesive across all digital platforms. As the centralised point where brand messages, strategy and objectives are actioned, CIOs continuously keep their fingers on the pulse of consumer sentiment to take advantage of trending conversations and avoid controversy when it inevitably arises.

A case in point is the backlash faced by Bud Light over its collaboration with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Had Budweiser done its due diligence to investigate Mulvaney’s background, values, and online presence it might have made a more informed decision about proceeding with such a controversial influencer partnership. The true value of a CIO lies in their capacity to match up influencers with brands and their ability to action contingency plans during a social media crisis.

The future of the CIO

The digital landscape continues to evolve while the responsibilities associated with social media management show no sign of dwindling. A capable CIO on hand to keep an eye on future trends and help manage the day-to-day tasks of influencer and brand management is fast proving to be a secret weapon to corporate success.

What was once a role for inexperienced interns is now quickly growing into a career that touches all areas of a business. With more than 4 billion people projected to use social media in 2025, the rise of influencers that rival the popularity of Hollywood’s brightest stars is enough of a wakeup call to make the biggest brands pay attention.

The race to transform the business of social media brand management is only just beginning. Against a backdrop of rapid technological change, companies that are spearheaded by a well-appointed CIO are giving themselves a headstart that will pay off in the years to come.

Mikhailla Fitzgerald is the founder of 26 Talent Agency, building the agency from humble beginnings with two small children and a purpose to make the process between talent and brands fair, seamless and professional she kicked into talent manager mode to build talent sustainable careers from the beginning with talent Steph Pase and Jessiika Wilson which has now expanded to over 25+ talent today.

Her knowledge has expanded talent into launching their own online brands successfully branching beyond the online influence scope to create additional income streams. This lead the growth behind sister agency, Twenty6 Marketing supporting online brands. 

Fitzgerald remains committed to expanding 26 Talent Agency with aligned talent, who can see our greater good and want to be a part of an impact-driven family.

Top image: Mikhailla Fitzgerald

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