Over the past few years, we’ve all heard the term “influencers” as the buzzword within agencies, and even from our clients who want more information on what so called “influencer marketing” entails. Not only has technology given anyone with access to a smartphone the ability to be his or her own publishing company, it has given brands a whole new way to market to consumers authentically.
While there are folks out there who will argue that people won’t buy or click-through on the click-bait, I think those naysayers are not the ones following influencers. As for myself, I work in the PR and digital space and even did a master’s dissertation on the power of influencers. And yet, I follow influencers religiously and even though I am well aware of the industry that is behind that “#ad”— it doesn’t stop me. I will still click-through and like every outfit or link they share on their blog even though I am the person contracting these individuals to talk about my clients. I even insert these people into my everyday conversations like I know them personally (now, I know you are probably thinking I am the minority, but I can assure you, I’m not alone). It all stems from the fact that I can relate to these Instagrammers and I trust them. I trust they wouldn’t partner with a brand they don’t believe in and either way, if they can make a product look beautiful, so can I. It really is a fascinating phenomenon.
In the end, it all boils down to social media. If social platforms didn’t exist, these influencers wouldn’t have an outlet and we’d still be getting our wish lists from catalogs and magazines. Now millennials use Instagram as that visual source that makes them want to buy the latest and the greatest. According to new data from LendEDU, 52.9 percent of millennials say Instagram has the most influence on them when making shopping decisions.
While a portion of influencers’ posts are technically ads, the platform serves ads in an organic way. A lot of Instagram followers use LIKEtoKNOW.it, which after liking a post, sends an email to their inbox with direct links to the website where they can buy the product(s) featured in the post content. So, while it is disclosed in a caption that the content is an ad, most users don’t even get to the point of reading that little hashtag, which is why it feels organic.
The point is, while a lot of brands get nervous about dipping their toe in the influencer pool and think this is just a fad, millions of people who buy their products and services are getting their information from Instagram and its influencers. I believe while the purpose of PR is truly ever-evolving, influencer marketing is about more than just changing brand perception. There is an ability to check ROI on click-through rates and purchases. The reality is, the next generation with purchasing power will evolve the industry further from traditional PR, as digital outlets will increasingly become where they are looking to drive their purchases.
This post also appears on Medium.