January 11, 2018

The age of the social media influencer

The age of the social media influencer

Influencers are nothing new in the world of PR. PR practitioners have known about the importance of engaging with influencers, such as the media and industry experts, to ensure the right messages are communicated effectively to the right audiences for decades (basic two-step flow model for all those PR theory buffs!), so what’s changed?

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, which is an annual survey by global communications company Edelman, for the first time found that “a person like yourself” is as credible a source for information about a company as a technical or academic expert. That’s huge and means PR practitioners and other communications professionals have to find new, more relatable influencers to communicate with an increasingly-sceptical target audience. One of those ways could be by engaging with social media influencers.

I recently attended a social media strategy course run by the Chartered Institute of Marketing and influencer marketing was discussed as one of the key tools to help increase a brand’s reach on social media. If you’re not up to speed on what a social media influencer is and haven’t heard of the likes of Zoella, PewDiePie or Mother Pukka, where have you been?

Fashion and beauty vlogger, Zoella

Influencer marketing is a modern-day, mostly digital, version of the celebrity endorsement, except much more targeted and approachable. Influencers are people or brands your target audience can relate to and identify with. They might share the same interests or are seen to be passionate about the same things your target audience are passionate about. They might be particularly knowledgeable on certain topics or have the type of lifestyle that is desirable to the audience and therefore the audience want to emulate them.

We all tend to turn to friends or family members when we need advice on something, whether it’s what book we should read next, what moisturiser you should buy or where we should go on holiday and for many people influencers are seen in the same guise – they are credible and trustworthy to their audiences. Covering everything from fashion, travel, cooking, entrepreneurship, health & beauty, parenthood, fitness, online gaming – you name it, there is likely to be a social media influencer talking about it across a variety of social media platforms and a devoted and engaged audience listening to them.

Murah and Nataly Osmann are travel influencers with photos of Nataly “leading” Murad to visit new places

One of the main points raised on the course when talking about influencer marketing was that there are different types of influence and different types of influencers – it depends on what you want to achieve. It is no good working with a social media influencer with a huge following if they don’t have influence with your target audience. Also, with a variety of social channels to choose from, you have to think about where your target audience is and whether the content the social media influencer produces is going to fit your objectives – whether it’s writing blogs, posting photos to Instagram or uploading video reviews to YouTube.

Social media influencers have a loyal audience who have a vested interest in the content they produce. Their audience see them as a trusted source of information and in many cases they will be influenced by what they say.  In turn, for the influencer, their audience is vital to their success so they will have a very good understanding about what they want from the content they produce so it can continue to be relevant. For both the brand and the influencer it is importance that the content created is something their audiences actually want to see and engage with – which helps to make partnerships between brands and social media influencers more authentic.

According to research by Celebrity Intelligence released at the end of last year, brands must be more informed and tactical about which influencers they choose to partner with in 2018.

The research also noted that there will be a growing movement towards brands working with more relatable and everyday influencers – which fits perfectly with Edelmen’s Trust Barometer findings as people increasingly put trust in those who are more like themselves, which really can’t be ignored.

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