Once upon a time, an ‘influencer’ would have been confined to a few rarefied individuals – those in positions of power or with high-profile public personas. Social media has turned that old world order entirely on its head.
By its very nature, social media is truly egalitarian, allowing anyone with the will and wonder to capitalise on reaching a global audience. And it's a huge audience! According to the latest figures, Facebook has 2.7 billion active monthly users, Instagram over a billion and Twitter 329.5 million. It’s no wonder marketeers are rubbing their hands together in glee. Influencer marketing offers the prospect of reaching the masses in a far more cost-effective way than traditional media channels.
However, as with all things in the marketing mix, there's no quick win. To be successful on these platforms requires real commitment and a considered strategic approach, with well-defined objectives and measures in place.
Who’s under the influence?
Catherine kicked off season two of the Agri-Food Comms Cast by delving deeper into the rapidly evolving world of influencer marketing, speaking to rural and equestrian PR specialist, Rhea Freeman, and Herefordshire farmer, influencer and subsequent TV star, Ally Hunter Blair. Our guests highlighted the benefits and pitfalls that come with tapping into this potentially powerful source of brand exposure.
Getting bang for your buck with the right influencers
Influencer marketing used to be very focused on consumer brands, but increasingly, B2B sectors are muscling in on the action. Finding the right influencer to work with can provide access to a highly targeted audience.
Optimising the return on your investment requires careful planning. As Ally explains, there’s been a proliferation of influencers in the agricultural sector:
“Twelve months ago there were probably five or six agricultural influencers. But now, there’s 40-50 that I know of who have over 10,000 followers.”
Where do influencers fit within a wider PR campaign?
Both Rhea and Ally acknowledge that the impact of social media influencers has accelerated in the last 12 months, due to the lack of events and people being unable to socialise, other than in the virtual world.
At Pinstone, we’ve used influencers within our client PR campaigns for several years with great success. But as Rhea mentioned, it's important to select the correct candidates for the role and ensure you have a strategic approach in place.
When selecting candidates, it's important to consider:
- Your business aims and objectives
- If the influencer is passionate about their sector
- Are they forward thinking and innovative?
- Do your values align?
For successful long-term relationships, it's important to invest time following and observing in advance of making an approach to an influencer or brand ambassador, to get a true understanding of their views and to assess their likely level of commitment.
Historically, influencers were primarily used within broadcast and editorial media. Today, we fully integrate them into the ‘PESO’ model, so key messages are reinforced through a full range of communications channels, such as editorial, podcasts, blogs, events and, of course, social media.
Incorporating influencers within our PR campaigns has allowed us to introduce core brand messages in an engaging, authentic, and authoritative way; with the influencers delivering credibility and independence. It’s proven to be very successful in many instances.
Are influencers here to stay?
There has been some backlash against the term ‘influencer’ or, more importantly, who's entitled to use the title. However, we’re all drawn to those that share our views, values and interests as well as those we aspire to be like. It’s simply human nature – so we believe that influencers are undoubtedly here to stay. And as Rhea succinctly puts it;
“Anyone can be an influencer.”
Ally’s top tips for influencers
- Keep it real
- Avoid controversy
- Ensure you're passionate and comfortable about the topics you're covering/promoting
- Monitor your posts to identify the types of content that get traction and the best times to post
Rhea’s top tips for brands
- Do your homework
- Make sure your brand values align
- Clearly set expectations – quantity and type of content
- Ensure your influencer or brand ambassador understands your brand objectives
- Monitor the relationship and maintain regular dialogue