By: Alison Wintheiser
With the rise of social media, viral videos and internet fame, the term “influencer” has grown in use among media professionals and the broader public. Influencers are people on social media who impact the attitudes and behaviors of followers. Public relations professionals increasingly interact with influencers as information is shared online, and as emarketer reports, the presence of influencers is growing significantly.
UW Oshkosh alumni John Giesfeldt, senior marketing manager, and Chloe De Young, public relations manager, returned for the Journalism Department’s 50th Anniversary on Oct. 19, 2018 to discuss what influencer relations entails and important elements to consider when working with influencers.
- Know your audience
While this may seem obvious, it’s a waste of time and effort if a campaign tries to connect to an audience that isn’t interested. Luckily, an influencer has direct access to specific audiences and has the power to affect consumer decisions. Ultimately, an influencer’s job is to speak for your audience so it’s important to do thorough research and choose the right person who will connect best with the people you are targeting.
There is a seemingly endless number of influencers on the internet who have access to very niche audiences. Don’t underestimate the power of niche influencers because a bigger audience may not result in higher sales. For example, if a company has been hired to launch a campaign for a new line of rabbit food it would be beneficial to work with someone whose audience is predominantly rabbit/small animal owners as opposed to a larger channel that focuses more on dogs. Being as specific as possible with defining an audience is essential to the success of a campaign.
- Take time to build a genuine relationship
Public relations professionals understand how important it is to build relationships with journalists and others working in the media. The same goes for influencer relationships. Understanding the needs of influencers and respecting their work will reflect well on the brand and will make influencers excited to work with an organization.
“You have to understand who you are talking to and what their needs are,” Giesfeldt said. “You can’t talk to a blogger the same way you talk to a reporter and if you understand what they have to deal with, they really appreciate it.”
The best relationships are mutually beneficial and there are certain steps one can take that will help build these relationships. These include letting a blogger or social media personality see what is in it for them, discussing where to start with consumer outreach and ensuring both parties are on the same page. Think long term. Nurture these relationships because, even if they aren’t beneficial right now, chances are that person will be helpful in the future.
- Be aware of the different types of influencers
Influencers can be broken down into different categories: paid and unpaid. For larger campaigns, it could be beneficial to work with a paid influencer. This is somebody who works as an influencer for his or her career, meaning it is much more professional. Depending on the influencer, they may have an agent who handles business inquiries. In this situation, it is important to think of it as a paid transaction, and therefore, one requiring a contract. According to DeYoung, “at the end of the day, you need to protect yourself.”
There are also unpaid or earned influencers. These relationships are great because they usually stem from an influencer genuinely liking a product and wanting to inform followers about it. These influencers are called brand ambassadors and result in ongoing brand advocacy that will continue to reflect positively on a brand as long as that relationship is maintained.
Overall, Giesfeldt and DeYoung encouraged listeners to be aware of influencers, and understand how to incorporate them into strategic communication initiatives.
In what ways do influencers impact your attitudes and behaviors? Influencers impacted many demographics in 2018. Watch for more trends with this topic in 2019.