There’s been a noise recently about social media Influencers – not only their importance and impact, but also their credibility and trustworthiness.
Social media influencers are a relatively new phenomenon, but the talk about their value has been heard many times before, in discussions about practices such as product placement in movies, and celebrity endorsement in advertising.
Use of such “paid for” influencers is usually focussed on consumer marketing and social media is big business in this area.
Whether social media influencers, who endorse products for payment, have a place in industries such as financial services is debatable.
One of our roles at Pritchitt Partners is to help clients develop their own opinion formers – or in other words, influencers. Once established, their influence can be extended by developing and placing interesting and persuasive content, whether as text, audio or visual.
These opinion formers are nearly always employees and can help build an organisation’s brand when expressing their expert views – at least they should if used strategically.
Such approaches will nearly always be more influential and cost-effective than paid-for content.
Another advantage this approach has over paid influencers is that they are internal and can be better controlled.
But it is not without its risks. A high-profile opinion former can appear an attractive recruit to a competitor – and the profile and influence may go with them if there is not an effective communications strategy in place that retains benefits.
Arguably, however, there are more risks in using paid influencers. Currently there are questions being raised about their ethics.
For instance, should they disclose any payment they receive for endorsing products? Celebrities endorsing products in advertising campaigns are clearly being paid, but with social media influencers it’s less transparent. Same with product placement in movies.
Questions are also being raised about the truth of the reach some influencers are claiming.
There are also concerns about whether all social media influencers truly have the cut-through that gives value for money.
What marketing managers need to have is confidence that there are no negative impacts on their brand’s reputation through the other activities and opinions expressed by the influencers they use. With all such paid content, the surrounding environment and noise affects effectiveness.