Today’s digital society is overcome with the impact of social media. It doesn’t matter what age you are, or your chosen career path — the influence of social media follows every step of the way. Via traditional social channels such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook or trending apps like TikTok and Clubhouse, the last decade has catapulted the online world into the prominent role of decision maker.
With social integrating into who we are offline and, for many, tweaking lifestyle choices and purchasing decisions, a rapidly growing form of word-of-mouth marketing has emerged: influencer marketing. Companies across industries have ramped up budgets to leverage the value of influencers, raising the market size to an estimated $13.8 billion in 2021.
Taking on a variety of figures including the idolized celebrity and friendly stranger, influencers have changed how brands reach a targeted consumer audience. Unlike traditional advertising strategies, influencers are considered trustworthy, and the products they promote across their channels are deemed genuine as well. The concept is genius — there’s so much buzz online, wouldn’t it be easier if there was someone telling you directly which product is right for you? Well thanks to influencers, there are.
Adding a Voice to Your Brand
For public relations professionals, the social media influencer has fundamentally changed the name of the game. Thanks to their online reputation, influencers present the opportunity of fresh content and targeted audience growth to a campaign that may have previously lacked in intimacy. Additionally, the brand utilizing an influencer partnership can reap the rewards of positive branding, increased customer engagement and brand awareness of a product that may have been unknown to potential buyers.
Here’s a personal example: Like many at home during 2020 with not much to do, I took more interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Hello newfound appreciation for Buzzfeed Tasty recipe videos and at-home YouTube workouts! With minimal knowledge of how to start and what to buy to reach my goals, I expanded my follower count on Instagram to include more nutrition-focused bloggers and relevant influencers. Thanks to their understanding of the industry, it took a simple scroll through their feeds and some quick research on my own to find a few of my favorite nutrition products to-date.
The accelerated success and growth of social influencers have fueled companies to increase their marketing budget specifically for influencer partnerships. By adjusting traditional strategies and integrating these relations, a PR professional can act as a middleman to effectively advocate on behalf of the brand’s visions, values and interests.
Including a Dash of PR
There are numerous details to consider if a brand is looking to incorporate an influencer marketing campaign. For starters, the consumer’s demand for authenticity has forced those in PR to reevaluate how to best engage with the media. Adjusting to a multi-faceted approach to include an influencer program or partnership allows bona fide communication between the PR pro and media. In addition to securing coverage around a press release or breaking company news, this method opens the door for proactive communication such as discussions around collaborative campaigns, or pitches tied to influencer thought leadership.
On the backend, influencers with consistent audience engagement have done the research to know what will and will not generate buzz amongst their followers. Before I invested time in finding the right foodie influencers, my knowledge on health supplements and clean eating came from observing my parents’ habits. Finding morally aligned brands through Instagram felt like I was seeing social media through rose-colored glasses. Professional (and successful) influencers plug products and businesses without the infamous reputation of someone promoting for pay.
At their core, PR and influencer marketing share many similar characteristics! Alongside establishing and maintaining target audience networks and engagement, the roots of these two industries lie in storytelling. When working alongside one another, insight from a PR perspective can add that extra value of third-party communicator to earned channels that may have been unattainable outside of social media.
Audience Engagement Done Right
The effectiveness of storytelling, compared to pay to play, speaks for itself. Recent studies have found that 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company or a product via articles and reviews, rather than ads. The next time you’re considering developing an influencer marketing campaign into your PR strategy, consider the following: how can I authentically portray this brand to the world?
Newsrooms continue to grow busier, and if the last year taught us anything in PR it is that the media landscape is constantly evolving. More and more publications are looking towards contributed content and bylines to ensure consistent reporting amidst tight deadlines. Proactively reaching out with expertise from a social influencer is a great way to secure placement as a reputable thought leader within the space.
Simply put, those who know your brand from top to bottom are going to be your best advocators. It allows potential consumers to discover and engage with your client’s brand organically, as if discovered through a friend. In fact, 94% of consumers trust friends or strangers for buying decisions over all other forms of marketing. For years, I followed in my parents’ footsteps with what I bought at the grocery store because I saw the effects of their purchases in real time. With the addition of influencers, I was able to keep those habits in the back of my mind while forming a new identity on my health journey.
As the PR industry continues to transform, additional doors will open to implement the value of influencer PR and marketing to brands.