The world of PR is always changing. With the age of social media and the development of digital PR, the introduction of influencer marketing has opened a whole new playing field for brands looking to promote their products and services.
When I used to think of an influencer, I’d think of an individual who lives a lavish lifestyle, receives free products from brands and gets paid to promote them on their social media platforms. Since starting my career in PR and gaining more insight into how influencer-brand relations work, it’s now clear to me that influencer marketing can have a very positive impact, as long as implementation is completed fairly and transparently.
Before the pandemic halted everything three years ago and brands were forced online, many were sceptical about relying on user generated content, and traditional advertising was still the dominant choice. Influencers were seen as living luxury lifestyles or holding a celebrity status, so were not considered as relatable to consumers.
However, when the pandemic hit, many started to enlist the help of influencers to maintain their reputation and keep revenue rolling in. From here, influencer marketing grew rapidly and when the lockdown restrictions eased, many stuck with influencers to promote their products to keep engagement levels higher.
Brands have been able to reach target audiences through product placement, endorsements, and paid partnerships but as the popularity of influencer marketing has grown, expectations have changed, and influencers often require payment to produce content.
This doesn’t seem to be putting brands off though. The Influencer Marketing Hub has predicted that the market will be worth over £20 billion by the end of 2023*, meaning businesses are allocating more budget than ever to include influencers in their wider strategy.
But how authentic is this kind of activity? As more companies rely on influencer marketing as a strategic tool, and platforms like TikTok are taking the social media scene by storm, there are growing concerns about transparency. Given the huge following of some influencers, it’s not surprising that brands are leaning on their content to gain attention from both the consumer and the media.
However, some consumers aren’t falling for the charm and grace of influencers. Cancel culture has been a huge part of the online world over the last few years, with both celebrities and influencers being forced out of the public eye when past revelations have come to light. For example, American influencer Mikayla Noguiera recently came under fire for wearing fake eyelashes to promote a mascara to her followers. This sparked debate about her authenticity, with old videos resurfacing that showed her promoting products that weren’t high quality, and commenting on how hard it is to be an influencer, even though she earns up to five figures a month.
Public views and research
As part of my masters degree, I chose to write about the development of influencer marketing since the pandemic and whether the public view them as authentic on their social media platforms.
My research was interesting, and I found that survey participants were split down the middle when it came to trusting influencers. Despite the majority following more than one influencer, there was a clear polarisation between those who believe everything an influencer says, and those who believe that there is never full transparency online.
Since writing my dissertation, I’ve considered the transparency and authenticity of the influencers that I follow, often asking myself what the monetary gain is for posting certain content, and even whether there is any gain to be felt at all.
At the end of the day, being an influencer has become a full-time job for some, and there is no doubting the success that it can bring. But this also means that there has to be some sort of payment for the content created in order to make a living.
Since starting at Target and having conversations with the team who worked with Dishmatic, running an influencer-driven campaign on social media, which you can read more about here, I believe that having the knowledge and ability to adapt with changing trends is so important for developing strong working relationships with influencers.
Clearly choosing influencers that align with your brand and will resonate with your audience is key. If this is achieved, the working relationship between brand and influencer can lead to successful campaigns and positive results.
Influencer marketing has rapidly developed over the last three years, and with social media always developing, it will be interesting to see how companies utilise influencers in their wider communication strategies going forward.