In the last decade we’ve all witnessed a shift within PR and marketing strategies. No longer is it limited to just traditional media methods such as television or radio but will almost always include a strategy for non-traditional media channels like social media and podcasts. With this shift, a new player came into the mix… The ‘Social Media Influencer’ - a person who is paid by a company to show and describe its products and services on social media, encouraging other people to buy them.

The emergence of the Influencer meant that, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) had to ensure that marketing standards were still being met. In July, a case of a parent blogger who was promoting sleep medication led to the ASA ruling that any profile with the over 30,000 followers is defined as ‘celebrity’ and therefore, ‘#ad’ must be clearly stated at beginning of “paid posts” (i.e. https://www.advance-ohio.com/organic-vs-paid-social-media/) to avoid misleading followers.

Collaborations between brands/campaigns and social influencers are becoming more popular, and can be a great asset for marketing objectives, but homework is vital! We’ve looked at some of the pitfalls and the positives of working with influencers to help you when deciding who to work with. 😉

Influencers know their peeps!

Influencers are great because they have a real passion for the sphere they dominate. Their followers trust and respect their opinion and expertise. Over time, they have built organic, and personal relationships with their followers through often intimate Instagram stories and Snapchats.   

For example, we worked with designer Sam Gwilt for our client, British Marine’s Superyacht UK Young Designer competition. Sam is a young designer with a following that is creative like him. So, when he live streamed the contest, his followers spent a few minutes watching what he was up to, like checking in on a mate. A lot of fashion brands have mastered this tactic. I mean, yass sis to Love Island 2019 winner, Amber Gills new Miss Pap collection, and I can get 10% off? Hello! People buy into the message or the product because they trust the person.

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Be prepared to give a loose brief

One of my friends, Harry Pinero, who initially built up his online presence through creating comedic videos on Instagram, now works with brands such as Nike, Sky and was invited to Wimbledon by Ellesse to share his experience. Harry told me that he wouldn’t limit what he does to ‘influencing’. What he does is create engaging content that he knows his audience will love.

This can bring healthy new creative challenges to brands or campaigns. So, when collaborating, it is key to give a loose brief. The Influencer partners knows their audience better than us. So, we recommend having a conversation with the influencer about what you need and give them freedom to shape the message in a way that resonates with their followers. This means relinquishing control, which can be hard for marketeers, but more often than not, you will be positively surprised by the results.

The lost voice

Some influencers can help you tap into underrepresented audiences. For example, Jackie Aina, a beauty blogger with 1.4m Instagram followers has used her influence to call out the beauty industry for failing to acknowledge black women. Her audience has given her the platform to tell her story and the story of many that also follow her. As a result, more brands have recognised the need for change and have begun to make these changes. In a previous blog, my colleague, Sarah pointed out an Ofcom report that highlights that social media is most popular for those seeking an “alternative viewpoint” on the news. Social media can allow brands and campaigns to engage with these otherwise missed out voices and offer them a place to flourish.

Beware of style over substance!

Remember Fyre Festival? If you’re yet to see it, click here to watch the fiasco unravel. Promoted online by top models, Bella Hadid, Hailey Rhode Bieber, Kendall Jenner and more, festival goers were to be whisked away on a jet to a private island in the Bahamas for a VIP festival experience. Sounds very instagramable right?

Unfortunately, it only reached Instagram to be mocked and memed. Ticket holders were flown to a completely different island than the one promoted online and rather than a private jet, they were flown in on a standard boeing 747. The promised glamping experience turned out to be bunch of sodden tents and mattresses which had been rained on the night before. The gourmet lobster was replaced with a cheese sandwich, which a lovely café owner kindly chose to provide for the 200+ guests out of good will. A complete disaster!  

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Fyre Festival is very extreme case of what happens when there is a lack of online scrutiny. Yes, marketing ticked all the right boxes: an eye catching, cohesive social feed with endorsements from all the right celebs. Seems legit? Nope – the artist on the line up were never confirmed and no one bothered to check if the celebs who endorsed the festival were even going to attend. The social media agency failed to question Fyre and never saw any proof that all the information they were posting was real. The influencers themselves were not honest with their audiences. Of course, your online profile needs to look good, but make sure that there is substance behind the strategy you take.

Research! What are you actually asking for?

Catastrophes like Fyre Festival are why research is so important. Be clear on who you wish to target and if the partner actually has an authentic, organic relationship with their audience. Statistics show that 54% of UK Instagram accounts have either bought followers, comments or used engagement bots (see here) so you want to make sure that these number are real.

Influencers know their audience, so PR’s need to have KPI’s and know what they’re asking for. How does the purpose align with their followers’ interests? Working with influencers can be fun but it is important to have clear measurable outcomes that you can report back to the client. Was the aim more followers? Engagements? Or was the purpose to simply raise awareness?  Quality over quantity prevails in this case. It’s not so much about partnering with someone who has one million followers, but about starting a conversation with the audience you are trying to reach. Only then can you really expect the audience to engage. Brokers can save time with this - we’ve worked with some good ones if you are after a recommendation.

Social media now plays a starring role in the media. In fact so much so that other media sectors have started to respond defensively as Radio Centre’s latest campaign seeks to defend its market share. Experienced PR’s like Lynne Franks have spoken out against influencer marketing saying that is “just meaningless and will burn itself out” but I disagree. Influencers are great! They tap into niche audiences in a genuine way and can help spread the client’s message further. Just make sure that time and thought has been put into the execution so the client gets the best outcome. And so your brand/campaign doesn’t become a bad meme.

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