Literally. When Shakespeare coined the memorable phrase in As You Like It in the 1600’s, I highly doubt he knew the extent of its meaning.
The current pandemic of COVID-19 has seen everything from theatres to zoos take a dramatic turn in how they reach their audience offering everything from feeding time with the lions to Patrick Stewart reading the bard’s sonnets daily – all from the safety and the comfort of your own home. But if we are being honest, the virtual stage has been growing exponentially over the past few years with the rise of ‘influencers’ – you no longer have to be trained in performing arts to get your five minutes of fame.
The Rise of the Influencer
Long before the internet came about, there were ‘influencers’ – these boys and girls became ‘the face of’ products and campaigns, and included everything from cigarettes to soap.
Royals like Princess Margaret and Princess Diana were setting the bar high when it came to fashion choices, influencing a whole generation with their ensembles. Princess Margaret even had her style named after her and was known as ‘The Margaret Look’ with Picture Post claiming at the time that “what she wears is news.”
It was really in 2010 that online social media really started taking off. Brands like Amazon were linking their products to Facebook so that families and friends could see what everyone else was purchasing – an incredible feat given that marketers know that recommendations go a long way. Then in 2019, Khloe Kardashian teamed up with FitBit to promote their monthly subscription boxes on her Instagram page, helping the brand’s image, reputation, and stock to shoot to success, seeing exponential growth particularly over the past few years.
Not Just A Celebrity
With the increased popularity of social media, especially Instagram, you don’t need to be a household name or a celebrity already to reach influencer status. All you need is a smartphone and a hook that will get people interested following you. Hildegunn Taipale, for example, is a Norwegian travel and family influencer, with 464,000 followers.
When you hit this many people following your page, you’re more than likely averaging around £600 per paid ad post – which is quite a fair chunk of communication/public relations/marketing budget, especially if you’re a small organisation. And if anyone can just team up with any brand and get paid to promote them, is there a worry that organisations and companies run the risk of choosing anyone just to ‘keep up with the Jones’, so to speak?
The Pros of Onboarding an Influencer
There are lots of benefits to working with an Influencer, especially if your brand or product lends itself well to being photographed. There are different levels of influencer who charge different amounts, depending on their followers, content etc, but then, the larger the followers, the less reach and engagement they then have. My advice? Do your research. Any good public relations campaign or partnership should always start with research, make sure that the person you are approaching works well with your brand (don’t, for example, approach someone who is pro-leather if you’re promoting a vegan product, and even if they agreed, it wouldn’t go well with their followers).
Using an influencer helps you build trust with an audience, it also enriches your engagement strategy and online marketing and reach. It’s a positive press piece, especially if any part of the product sales is going to charity and add
a personal touch to any messaging that your product or campaign may say.
Business 2 Community has a great ‘How to’ guide for developing and managing an influencer onboarding process – I highly recommend you check it out if this is all new to you.
The Cons of Onboarding an Influencer
As a PR professional, you remain ever vigilant as to the sayings and doings of affiliates or associates for your company, organisation or brand, and onboarding an influencer means someone else is added to the ‘worry list’. You can overcome this by creating a contract but if you’re using someone who isn’t that business savvy, then you may be setting yourself up to fail. Having clear guidelines of how you expect them to behave when promoting your brand or product is a must, but you can’t always be there to hand-hold – think about how having an influencer affects your crisis communications plan and if you need to make allowances. You also need to weigh up the cost vs the return on investment; having an influencer is hard to measure the specifics so you would need to really think about whether the money would be best placed elsewhere.
Yes I am aware that this blog is dedicated to PR and technology, and you’ve all just read through that wondering where I am going with it but the technology is only as good as the people you have managing it. Social media is a great tool and PR specialists would be foolish not to use this tool. As for influencers, they are merely an extension of this tool – they’ve harnessed the power of the Web 2.0 technology and are using it to their advantage. Whether you want to jump on that bandwagon too is entirely up to you, but I will say this; research, research, research before you decide to use an influencer. The last thing you want is for a minor mistake to go viral and your reputation ruined in seconds (more to come on viral posts and negative posts in the next blog!) – so whilst the world might be a stage and all the men and women players, choose who you want in your play carefully.