COLUMN: Social media influencers are inching toward replacing traditional PR companies

Partnerships between social media influencers and brands are gaining popularity.

Campbell Biemiller is a first-year journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about politics and entertainment for The Maneater.

Traditional PR is being replaced by the digital age. Marketing campaigns have to stay up-to-date with the newest technology to reach the widest range of audiences and ensure their service is accessible via the internet. Companies should shift their marketing strategies from PR companies to social media influencers to expand product outreach.

Social media has become a way for businesses to build their own brand. When companies work together with rising celebrities to gain exposure, they develop beneficial advertising.

Traditional PR is made up of brand coverage in print ads and broadcast media. While advertisements, especially commercials, reach a large population of people, they can be ineffective or irritating to the consumer. Viewers aren't trying to learn about a product during their leisure time. Social media is a platform used voluntarily. Influencer’s product promotions on social media provide information to consumers in an engaging way.

A brand deal is a partnership between a brand and an influencer for mutual benefit. Companies receive exposure and content creators often get publicity. Making a deal with a company helps creators because it gives them credibility. It leads to career opportunities and solidifying their influencer position.

Having a brand deal with an influencer is beneficial for companies. Creators already have a built-in trust with their following that a brand won’t need to work for. For many startup companies, having smaller influencers is an effective way to quickly promote a product and get a name into public view.

These influencers say their true feelings toward a product and genuine brands with good products receive praise for their services. When an influencer endorses a product, chances are their followers will as well. Brands benefit because they're able to reach a specific audience with their product that an influencer already has an engaged following for. A popular and successful brand deal was Curology’s arrangement with Emma Chamberlain which accumulated almost two million views. She supported the brand’s products which led to many new customers and further reviews from consumers.

Micro-influencers have better engagement rates and highly targeted audiences. For a company, this means there is a higher chance a follower will buy or research a product after being exposed to it.

Engagement is valuable because it’s the forefront of making a profit. A company gains loyal customers and distinguishment from competitors from efficient engagement. It makes the brand distinct to a consumer over other companies.

Celebrities that create their brand through social media have a fan base that’s emotionally invested in their well-being and success. Followers want to see an influencer’s content even if it’s a sponsored brand deal.

According to OnlineMarketingMedia, “Approximately 84% of people surveyed trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”

People make purchases off the credibility of those they trust because there is a mutual interest that makes the consumer follow the influencer.

When influencers work with a business, they are a critical part of advertising in a natural way that reaches a wide margin of potential target markets. “The ease of photo-sharing on Instagram spawned a huge variety of influencers with a direct line to different niche audiences,” Rochelle Bailis from BigCommerce said.

A company needs to expand its marketing in order to reach different audiences.

“Influencer marketing is the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition,” according to the Digital Marketing Institute. 70.6 percent of marketers said ongoing ambassadorships were one of the most effective uses of influencers in a study by TapInfluence and Altimeter.

Rather than listen to what a brand says about its own product, consumers prefer to gain an outside testimony. Influencers can promote a product by directly interacting with the target market that combines publicity and engagement into one neat setup.

Influencers form a huge trust with their followers, so a negative review will likely drive away consumers.

“Research shows that one negative review drives away 22% of prospects, around 30 customers,” according to Cox Media Group. Revenue and reputation are lost, so finding the right brand deal is important.

Companies should switch to influencer marketing to expand their target market and engage with audiences in a way consumers actually want. Traditional PR has become boring to most viewers who have constant access to what they want to see when they want to see it. If companies want to gain exposure, switching to the social media side of PR is necessary.

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Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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