The power of publishing and distribution has shifted, both offline and online.
The rise of the internet and social media has had a big influence on this change.
It’s a controversial question to ask—can social media influencers truly replace your PR agency?
The idea that an entire industry could be threatened by user-generated content is quite shocking.
While influencers are recognizable and can create lots of engagement through their follower base (perfect for business-to-consumer), industry credibility and connections remain extremely important for business-to-business.
Let’s examine whether your PR agency be replaced by social media influencers.
PR as an Industry
Since public relations debuted, it’s been the mainstay of brand image management.
Traditionally, it involved managing the dissemination of information to the public via the media to create a positive image for your business.
Importantly, even though PR agencies are paid, the coverage they garner is usually considered to be earned media, much like mentions in major news outlets, social media shares, and reviews.
The issue with PR is that most feeds are through traditional media channels, which nowadays are viewed as less trustworthy than personal recommendations, or validated online reviews.
This is where the door is opened for social media influencers, who feel more personal, and are not (at least initially) linked to the traditional mainstream media.
Who are Social Media Influencers?
In terms of marketing as a whole, social media influencers are those whose opinions and behaviors have an effect on potential buyers.
They are usually industry leaders driving new strategies, or experts who add value by sharing their knowledge and opinions with the public.
Think professional advisers, journalists, bloggers, industry analysts, or celebrities.
Within social media, influencers tend to be those who have built themselves as an online brand, and have a strong following.
To be able to exert influence, they need this following to cut through the high volume of social media noise.
Followers respect them for their deep insight into the industry they represent, or are simply inspired by their achievements.
If you plan to invest in influencer marketing, you need to know which type will best suit your business:
- Social media influencers with a large follower base without a clear focus. These are better aligned to those with affordable products with mass appeal.
- Social media influencers with a much smaller but more engaged follower base. You only want those who are most knowledgeable if your product itself is niche.
In terms of content, behind-the-scenes and look and learn posts work well, but remember social media influencers can’t provide them until they get their hands on the products.
Of course, you could sponsor social media influencers to get coverage.
Creating a campaign and paying them means you can dictate the terms and dates of the promotion.
It also allows you to track metrics and links, allowing you to quantify your performance.
A word of warning though, if the produced content appears questionable or disingenuous, it will not create the desired effect.
Influencer marketing is still quite new, meaning there are gray areas, including the legal stuff.
Warner Bros. paid influencers to review their new computer game, Shadow of Mordor, without making it clear in their reviews.
And some social media influencers (e.g. PewDiePie) weren’t allowed to express any negative feedback, which is not an honest review, but more of an endorsement.
Remember that, unlike PR agencies, social media influencers are not responsible for the outcome of your partnership.
Social media influencers can attract the audience, potentially even drive sales, but they don’t work for you.
Unless you focus solely on paid sponsorship, the purpose of social media influencers is to give honest feedback about services, products, and experiences, so you must make sure yours is without fault.
Otherwise, it all could backfire quite badly.
Where Do We Go from Here?
The emergence of multi-service agencies, including influencer marketing agencies, is a sign the market is already shifting.
As a result, being able to monitor your brand reputation online and on social media has become increasingly important and even harder to do.
Considering the number of social networks and volume of content flowing through them, now might be a great time for PR agencies to invest in a social media monitoring tool.
They help you connect with the industry on behalf of clients, and actively monitor their reputation.
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