For decades, PR professionals have tried, and more often than not failed, to capitalise on the oldest tool in the marketers’ toolbox, word-of-mouth.
From publicity stunts to celebrity endorsements, the aim of the game is to generate mass exposure. When successful, the positive buzz can take any growing business and turn it into an overnight success.
Influencer marketing, it seems, could be the answer to all of our PR prayers. For a fraction of the price and often to a wider reach, the influencer market has surpassed traditional media with its power to convey key messages to a dedicated band of followers.
While the beauty and fashion sector may dominate new media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, they don’t hold the monopoly. There is a wealth of knowledge that can be learned and applied to any strategic campaign.
Establish your digital presence.
If you’re yet to make waves on the social media scene, the right digital influencer can establish your credibility among their loyal base of followers and beyond.
Take Swedish watch brand Daniel Wellington. Unlike its more established competitors, the brand chose to forgo celebrity backed endorsements and million pound advertising campaigns. Instead, it enlisted a small but growing crowd of influencers to act as ambassadors. Before long, it was almost impossible to log onto Instagram or YouTube without stumbling across their minimalist watches on the wrist of a blogger.
In 2017, the watchmaker reported a revenue of $230 million and was named the fastest growing company in Europe by Business Insider. Not too shabby for a young business competing against the likes of Rolex and Omega. Today, the brand counts the likes of Zoella, Tanya Burr and In the Frow (Victoria Magrath) among its roster of social media personalities.
Awareness first, sales second.
During its infancy, influencer marketing was being measured against the same performance indicators as traditional forms of PR. How does this Instagram post translate into tangible sales? These days ‘brand awareness’ is king, its effect the equivalent of planting a subconscious seed in the mind of a potential buyer.
An example of best practice comes from the beauty brand Glossier. Its customer centric approach and inclusive messaging garnered them a devoted fan base well before the products had even hit the shelves. Today’s consumer is savvier and more conscientious than ever; in-your-face advertising is as off putting to them as talking about your ex on a first date.
As communicators we have to find newer and less invasive ways to speak to our core demographics. For Glossier, this meant speaking frankly and directly to its customer. Who better to do this than your ‘girl next door’ blogger? Amongst its mass legion of followers, lifestyle bloggers naturally flocked to the range and inundated social channels with ‘tried and loved’ testimonials praising the beauty products.
To reinforce this approach, the brand’s advertising and social content was designed not to drive sales but to stoke the fire of conversation. Its primary messaging tore away at the unattainable nature of the beauty industry, by constructing themselves as not just a brand but as a belief.
The importance of community.
With customers wise to the tactics of direct advertising, bloggers have filled the vacuum between brand and buyer.
It’s simple psychology – we all want to be part of a group. When we were younger this might have meant finding others who shared the same hobbies and interests as ourselves. In the digital age, social circles have moved beyond the playground as followers gravitate towards those influencers who they think best represent them.
Fashion houses like Topshop have strategically placed themselves as staples within these online fashion communities. Urging their paid-for influencers to use hashtags such as #TopshopStyle and #TopshopGirls. Young girls and boys are being inspired to experiment with their fashion and to share their photos using the same hashtags in the hopes of being spotted and re-posted on the Topshop page.
This is user-led / generated content at its finest. A prime example of how to use an established blogger to start a conversation that lasts beyond their 24 hour Insta story. And what’s best, is the brand is at the heart!
Influence over popularity.
It’s easy to be sucked in by the numbers, but we have to remember we’re no longer playing by the same rule book anymore.
As Shania Twain not-so-famously said: “okay, so you have 50 thousand followers on Twitter, that don’t impress me much”.
Increasingly, brands are choosing to work with ‘micro’ or ‘nano’ influencers over the big hitters. Cosmetic brand Benefit have stated they ‘blacklist’ certain social media personalities because they don’t align with the company’s ethos. For them and many others, a home grown and well earned following (no matter how small) is more appealing than potential reach.
And let’s be honest, as much as we ‘admire’ the popular mean girl at school, we trust and value the opinions of our closest friends more highly. As PRs we focus on how engaged a blogger is with their audience, that way we know how well our product / service will resonate with them.
A more authentic approach.
The communications sector has been the subject of scrutiny over the years with many missteps and PR blunders tarnishing the industry.
In the midst of massive campaigns it can be easy to lose that human touch. We work hard to foster each brand identity so that it represents more than the physical product. We identify those who would benefit most from our product or service and communicate this to the best of our ability.
So by no means is a conscientious consumer bad news. In fact, without scrutiny and constructive criticism we would not be forced to re-evaluate our strategies.
To their credit, most influencers pride themselves on building face value relationships with their audience. In turn, viewers absorb their candid review of a product be it good, bad and at times ugly. This is all in view of maintaining their integrity – be rest assured if your favourite YouTuber is harping on about a new lip gloss you know it’s their honest opinion.
Similarly, they are laying bare the nitty gritty side of working with brands and PRs. There are many insightful videos out there, Lily Pebbles and Emma Hill’s to name a few, which detail everything from the pitch stage to final execution. Most bloggers also make it abundantly clear if a collaboration is paid for or sponsored in any way.
Whereas editorial coverage is meant to disguise itself amongst popular news and opinion. Influencer marketing is a much more transparent way of communication on behalf of a brand, and as all points suggest, the consumer appreciates this much more.
So to sum up...
Working with influencers can allow a brand to experiment with its content output, re-engage with the consumer and humanise itself.
It’s also an added bonus bloggers are much more pleasant to work with compared to some (though definitely not all) hard-nosed editors.
Written by Ellen Deng
Account Executive – Truth PR.