Digital Strategy For Beginners

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We all love a good browse through the internet.  So it comes as no surprise that Internet use has been on the increase in recent years, with a record high of 3.58 billion internet users worldwide this past year (statista.com 2017). Smartphones lend explanation to sky rocketing internet use, having given people more convenience to use the internet throughout the day – we have only to think of ourselves, and how frequently we check our own smartphones!

The web has been called “the most important communication revolution in human history” (Meerman,  2013, p26). With that in mind it’s hard to believe that “50% of businesses don’t have an integrated  Digital Marketing Strategy” (Smartinsights.com).  So, it seems there may be some kind of phobia around having or creating a digital presence for businesses. But, never fear! There is nothing to be afraid of, as you’ll see while we walk through this beginners guide on getting started on creating a digital strategy.

 

What is a digital strategy?

We can think about a digital strategy as “a series of actions” carried out to achieve “particular objectives” using technology as an asset to allow for new business avenue or maintain a “competitive edge”  (Mithas and Henry, 2010, p4). This might be, for instance, to generate more visits to your site and further brand awareness.

Why is a digital strategy so important?

As we’ve discussed, the world is becoming more and more digitized, so it’s more relevant than ever that your organization has an online presence and is visible to the online world (Preece, 2001 p4). Besides this, there are so many benefits to a digital strategy…

  • Cost effective –  reduces overhead fees (McGinnity, 2016), we can look to Amazon for reference, who have eliminated the costs of running individual stores in varying locations
  • Delivers “relevant messages more precisely” (Plummer et al, 2007, p7) to costumers through gathering behavioural data – for example, how long they interact with a product, clicks, logins and time spent on a site (Plummer et al, 2007 p7)
  • Allows for further market research (Li and Bernoff, 2011, p34)  – for example, through building communities to listen to, and helps in influencing target audiences.
  • “If you’re not on the internet, you don’t exist!” (Preece, 2001, p6)

With more and more people flocking to the web, digital strategy is ever more important. As Li and Bernoff  (2011) point out, there is a “social trend” wherein people are using technologies “to get the things they need from one another rather than traditional institutions like corporations” (p33), this might be through sites like EBay, Etsy or Amazon. So, it’s vital that organizations attempt to intercept this trend and develop a solid plan (Chaffey and Smith 2013, p6).

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But where do I start?

A great start to understanding strategy is an article by “Michael E.Porter – What is Strategy”. Once you’ve given that a read, we’re ready to move onto the planning process: Chaffey and Smith (2013, p25) have set out 6 stages which can help us keep on track with the planning process. When selecting your objectives, Chaffey and Smith have supplied some additional tips.  Think about the “5s’s”:

  • Sell – “using the internet as a sales tool”
  • Serve – “using the internet as a customer- service tool”
  • Speak – “using the internet as a communication tool”
  • Save – “using the internet for cost reduction”
  • sizzle – “using the internet as a brand- building tool”

(Chaffey and Smith, 2013, p43)

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Exploring Digital Strategy

Creating social media accounts such as a Facebook and Twitter pages are some great first steps to take once you have considered the above plan. It may help in giving a more perceived value to your organization, with many organizations using social media in order to “build advocates” and “engage with communities” (Waddington, 2012, p61)

it’s important to remember that while a digital strategy carried out on social media can be a great way to measure success, it’s not without its potential issues. It can damage a company’s reputation (Chaffey, 2013, p267); we only have to think of the gaffs made by Dove (2017) and McDonalds (2017). Have a read through some of the Do’s and Don’ts of Social media and how to handle your accounts. It may help you avoid some nasty backlash!

You should also consider constructing/redesigning your website; this can be used as a direct one-way communication method. It’s important, at this point, that you position your site properly; who do you want to talk to? And how can you reflect this in usability/content/design of your site (Drayton, 2007, p155). This will insure success in your websites reach, and will allow you to monitor website traffic and impressions (Plummer et al, 2007, p41).  Here are some tips to get you started with your website: 5 Steps to Designing A Great Company Website.

Finally…

Once you’ve given all the above ideas some thought and narrowed it down, be sure to focus to make sure it turns out a success.  While the digital word may seem overwhelming and challenging, it can really boost your organization and place you on the map, so to speak. Give it a go, it’s a learning process, we’re all constantly developing our skills in the fast paced digital world. You never know, you might enjoy it! The exciting digital world gives us a chance to connect with people, explore and develop. Welcome the challenge.

Griana Fox is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/griana-fox-a7561a11b, and on Facebook @ Griana Fox.

Public Relations in the Digital Age

The Role of Public Relations to me, is having a good understanding of what your publics want, and desire.

We live in the age of technology, which allows for organisations to become evermore competitive in the race for success. Reputation in any industry must be considered by most organisations as their biggest asset, and concern. Good public relations can benefit an organisations reputation with the means of good communication between themselves, and their publics.

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Smith, R.D. (2014) argued, reputation management is the process of seeking to influence the way publics view and understand the organization.

Reputation management begins with tracking and identifying what others say, and feel about an organisation, shaping the public’s perception of the organisations online brands via the Internet searches. Lots of organisations maintain their reputation on websites that consumers would visit most, such as, Amazon, Google, and even social media platforms. Social media platforms are fantastic opportunities to target a desired audience. I am particularly interested in the social media sector as a future public relations practitioner with first hand experience of managing a large digital audience as a successful blogger via Instagram, and www.wix.com. I have developed the knowledge of how to direct these audiences, and what communications are best in driving an affective, successful, and a current feed to attract more audiences, and keep current audiences wanting more from my brand. Learning these techniques assures myself that a career in public relations is a route best fitting to myself. Having already had opportunities in creating, and managing digital content online. I am skilled in the use of Photoshop software for image, and graphic editing and image manipulation. Constant maintaining on these networks and platforms will create for myself a reputation, and adds credibility in assuring I will be an excellent PR practitioner. Public relation practitioners have many roles, and usually deal with angry consumers who can write negative reviews about them and the organisations they work for, which could cause massive implications for the organisation leading to bad reputation. Public relations practitioners must be strategic, and corporations, companies and local businesses have to stand out of the crowd in their field of business to ensure success, especially in today’s globalisation.

Social Media Management

Most smart organisations will or should take advantage of social media platforms; kd6it’s free advertising with most of the public checking various social media sites everyday e.g. Instagram and Facebook etc. An organisations survival, and successes is dependable upon reputation management. In today’s society consumers can have a massive effect to a company’s reputation especially with use of social media platforms, where consumers can buy and review an organisations business ventures or new products. This allows future consumers to read these said reviews, and ultimately make a decision on whether or not to use these facilities. My personal belief is that mass media/social media is solely becoming a reflection of our working organisational economies, and ultimately everything that an organisation must adapt too in the age of technology. To survive in the aggressive economy, adapting is key; organisations that don’t adapt will untimely see a quick demise, although this is based on personal opinion.

Grunig & Hunt (1984) suggested public relations manages communication between the organization and its public sphere.

Ideologies of public relations shapes mind-sets through mass mediums that is present to the public sphere through stature. However, whatever way one can look at it, public relations primarily associates itself in shaping societal ways of thinking, which is something I myself have a great disposition to be involved in. Creating and preserving stature is perhaps a vital representation of how public relations works for any cooperation, organisation or persons heavily involved in wanting to change mind-sets. This is one of the many reasons I am attracted to a career in public relations, it is unyielding vitality that makes myself have the belief I am doing something right for myself. According to L’Etang (2008) public relations is forever involved in communications that enables change, and adjustment of communication. This career path, that allows for unforeseen routes and unavoidable paths that come with exhilaration is everything I would desire out of a career as a public practitioner.

PR Solutions and Globalising

kd7Public relations is changing massively, to benefit the practitioners, clients and consumers especially with the introduction of public relations to mass media. Mass media is communal source that’s engages with a specific target audience, It reaches a larger group of publics in a shorter space of time. Online and digital public relations has a number of PR solutions that can be deployed against a PR issue, it’s a limitless process that changes everyday. If these tools are put in place, plans will stand above the competition. I personally have the belief I have acquired the necessary skills and tools to be utilised in assuring my success in a forever changing market. I will know how fast current trends change, and what styles I should take to make myself seem current in my future PR profession.

Robert, Z, C. (2013) made an interesting statement, which I have previously mentioned, he said the public relations professionals need to be smart individuals.

Smart public relations practitioners should already be incorporating and integrating digital solutions to stem away from traditional solutions, as the market is changing fast. Goldsworthy & Morris, (2015) noted that mass mediums, online and social media is escalating and merging, they also argued that PR in relation to mass media, is beginning to look like a force of information and commentary through a funnel. This is great advice to any young professional embarking upon the world of public relations, one in which I believe I am best suited for.

Cultural Practitioner

University has simply confirmed how much I desire a career in public relations. During my studies, I have, and still am developing an excellent eye for detail and have significant experience of reading and interpreting large amounts of materials in an accurate and efficient manner. Personally, my passion for public relations lay in the arts, media and current affairs, especially when creating my own content.kd8

Green (2007) states, a creative individual, consist in not only originating, but also evaluating what the value the creative individual contributes.

Ultimately what this says to me is, the PR individual must produce something of value that can be recognised by third parties. There is a large increasing development of public relations practitioners having to navigate across the planet, and knowing the demands of different cultures and expectations of these cultures. Public relations practitioners must become multicultural and intercultural to keep up with demands of an ever-changing globalised world.

Edwards and Hodges (2011) argued, globalization in the public relations industry, shines a light upon how cultural and societal conventions ultimately influence the industry.

These directly shape the expectation in the public relations industry, and expectations of PR practitioners. With the emphasis on cultural effectiveness, which seems to be expected in a career in public relations.

Wakefield (2007) suggested, there is key principals that are dominant contrasts linking globalized and domesticated public relation practice

Rapport & Communications

Public relations in the in the digital age, establishes the answer on how to make organisations thrive, which is something I want to be part off. These PR skills and techniques of course must be learnt over a period of time and can’t be learnt over night. The process takes creative, and strategic minds as well as many other roles to make public relations work as a career. Public relations must be an efficient tool to solve issues in the way off goods and services through good communications, and good communicators. Throughout this blog, I have looked at many examples of why a career in public relations interests myself, and what the role of public relations involves in making a successful career for myself. From reputation management through to use of digital media resources, there are numerous ways public relations can be implemented in making a career in it succeed. Moreover public relations is rudimentary in understanding the importance of the PR profession, it creates the favourable relationships between the corporations and the public sphere. By looking at all these key principals, a career in public relation would ultimately benefit my urging as creativity individual. Becoming a Communication Management and Public Relation student has allowed myself to improve and polish the skills gaining in opening the doors to a career in public relations. My future lays in relationship rapport, where I will be using communications and public relations acquired at university into the profession.

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Reference List

Edwards, L.L & Hodges, C.E.M (2011). Public Relations, Society & Culture: Theoretical and Empirical Explorations. (1st ed.). New York: Routledge Publications. P,45.

Goldsworthy, S & Morris, T (2015). PR Today: The Authoritative Guide to Public Relations. (2nd ed.). England: Macmillan International Higher Education. P 29.

Green, A (2007). Creativity in Public Relations. (3rd ed.). London: Kogan Page Publishers. P, 8.

Grunig, J.E & Hunt, T (1984). Managing Public Relations. (1sted.). England: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. P, 5.

L’etang, J (2008). Public Relations: Concepts, Practice and Critique. (1st ed.). London: Sage Publications. P, 18.

Smith, R.D. (2014) Public Relations: The Basics. London: Routledge.

Waddington, S. (ed) (2012) Share This: The Social Media Handbook For PR Professionals. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. P, 14.

Wakefield, R. I. (2007). A retrospective on world class: The excellence theory goes international. In E.L. Toth (Ed). The future of excellence in Public Relations and communication management: Challenges for the next generation (pp. 545-568). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Chew Robert , RCZ, 2013. The Fundamentals of Public Relations. 6th ed. Los Angeles: Boldpoint Communications. P, 89.

Kevin Doonan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/irishcuchulainn/ ; Twitter – @KevinODunain ; Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/irish_cuchulainn/ ; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-patrick-doonan-54749056/

Time to unfollow the influencers?

Time to unfollow the influencers?

With 66% of the UK online population using some form of social media, there’s no denying that social media plays a significant role in our daily lives. It has changed how we keep in touch with friends, read the latest headlines, and how we shop for the latest fashion trends.

With most Millenniums and Generation Z’ spending countless hours scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – Brands are always looking for new ways to target their audience.

Call in the Influencers…

The latest marketing trend brands are using to target their audience is through the use of social media influencers or influencer marketing.

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After a quick Google search, a ‘social media influencer’, can be a described as, “a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by their authenticity and reach”.

An influencer can either be an everyday person like you or me (with a lot larger Instagram following), the latest Love Island contents, or the ‘official’ celebrity.

Essentially, brands will send free PR Packages to these ‘influencers’, who will then post a sponsored ad about the product on their social media accounts. Or an Influencer will be paid an agreed amount on each time they post about the brands product. Brands utilize influencers in the hope that their influence will result in more people buying their products.

Influencers are promoting everything from cars, to hotels, to beauty products, to shoes, to diets, and a whole lot more.

This is why you may have seen a lot of your fav’ celebs’ or the so-called ‘insta famous’ with #ad #sp on some of their posts.

Big business…

An influencer with an Instagram following of around a million can command £10,000 for a one-off post. An influencer with between 3,000 and 10,000 followers can expect to earn £50-£100 per post. Keeping these figures in mind, influencer marketing is fast becoming one of the most effective online marketing strategies for brands. Recently, brands have raised their budgets for influence marketing between 3 – 6%, with $2 billion in the last year being spent on influencer marketing overall.

Owner of Cocoa Brown Tan, Marissa Carter seen the full effect of influencer marketing, when one sponsored post by Kylie Jenner seen her product sell out in 24 hours.

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And it’s not just celebrities making money out of influencer marketing. In December 2018, a mother revealed to the Daily Mail that her baby boy, aged one, who is an Instagram influencer has already gotten £10k in freebies (including a different pram for every day of the week). Ralphie Waplington, aged one, from Essex, has an Instagram following of 14,000. The boy’s mother, Stacey Woodhams, runs the account, with Ralphie’s wardrobe and bedroom furniture all provided free by brands and the family enjoys days out in exchange for posts on Ralphie’s account. However, this has been received with backlash, as some seeing this as child exploitation.

On the way out…

Content creation is now in the hands of influencers and who are providing a key role in the story that brands communicate. In order for influencer marketing to be successful, influencers content must be authentic and original.

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With brands and influencers both having a very successful 2018, it’s hard in seeing the influencer marketing trend going anywhere. However, some experts predict there will be a decline in social media influencers is on the horizon in 2019.

Today alone, it’s hard not to scroll through Instagram and not spot at least one sponsored post. Influencer marketing has become too mainstream, too commercialised, and too common. Content is becoming less organic and genuine, you get a sense that influencers are only doing it to gain a few more followers, and gain a lot more money.

I may be wrong, but I feel as if influencers are on the way out for 2019.

Ruth Leonard is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram – @ruthleonard_ / Twitter – @RuthLeonard_ / LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/ruth-leonard-057860129/

Business Owner at 18 : Promotion through Social Media

OM1At the tender age of 20 years old, one might ask what words of wisdom could a fresh-faced student have for a world of entrepreneurs? Well I can tell you that after turning 20 in June and going through a roller coaster of a year and seven months in business, that social media is your best friend!

After turning 18 in June 2016, I headed off to University, confident my life was on the right track. Prior to opening my business, I grew up making myself money. By selling my old clothes on eBay, cleaning anything I could around our house for extra money. I always enjoyed the idea of being my own boss. After completing 4 long years of GCSE & A-Level Art, I realised my passion was Make-Up. (queue many readers switching off).

I opened my own freelance makeup business in March 2017 at the rare age of 18 with possibly £200 to my name, a chair and a Facebook page. I had absolutely no clients and no clue how to get them. Now, over a year and a half on I have a big client base, my own premises and thankfully looking forward to the next few years, as well as being able to blog my thoughts on social media.

So firstly – 1. use Facebook as a promotional tool

I began posting up pictures of my work on my Facebook page to achieve higher engagement. In the first few months of business I done a lot of free work to get myself noticed in my area, to build a client base. I worked at a loss and I made so many mistakes. Facebook for me was a great client builder. I was able to post client photos, allow them to post reviews of my services and it formed a base for my business.

  1. Instagram is your best friend!

In 1 year, I gained over 6,500 followers on my Instagram page from posting content. Now I’m the first to say its not all about follows, likes etc. however in my business, I thrive from engagement. If you’re opening a business which focuses on visual aspects Instagram is where you need to be! Using Instagram as a marketing tool is one of the best and easiest ways to strengthen your business and interact freely with your audience. By using Hashtags to raise awareness & advertise your company.

For me many of my clients are young girls under between the ages of 13 and 20, so as you can imagine Instagram is the perfect place for me to grow my brand. Choosing a platform that connects with your target audience is the key to success.

  1. Post good quality pictures

Nobody wants to see blurry photos that look as if they’ve been taken on a toaster. Everyone on social media is upping their game which means you should too! Take a look at what your competition is posting as a way of bench marking. Studies show that users on Instagram decide whether to follow you or not based on the 3 most recent posts on your profile – so every post counts.

Try to take your pictures against plain (ish) backgrounds & make sure not to upload things nobody wants to see, try to link your uploads back to your business.

  1. Get Tagging

By tagging bigger brands, influencers etc. this encourages them to re-post your work which in turn gets your page more engagement, which is what counts. If your business creates products, posting pictures and tagging relevant Instagram accounts will help your account reach a larger audience.

  1. People want results!

For me as a makeup artist, I gain clients through posting pictures of my makeup on myself and others. As well as posting before and after pictures which shows your skills. This doesn’t just apply to businesses like me, consumers want to know that your product works / creates results before they’ll purchase. Sharing testimonials, reviews and pictures are a great way to show off your products/services on social media.

  1. Choose your social media according to your audience

For me, I want to target all ages. I post on Instagram, Facebook & Snapchat, each for different reasons. I find the older generation use Facebook more than Instagram and this is my method for advertising to an older clientele. Younger people follow me on Instagram and snapchat, therefore I market myself differently due to the difference in followers. With snapchat I feel I can be more open as its not as public as the likes of Instagram & Facebook, however I find snapchat to be the most effective in terms of selling power.

 

So, I hope you might have gained some insight into the world of social media, for me social media has changed the way we are able to promote ourselves and business. It has enabled us to target different people in ways that are engaging to them.

Olivia McVeigh is a Final Year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram – @oliviamcveigh_ ; Linkedin – Olivia McVeigh ; WordPress – https://oliviamcveigh.wordpress.com/blog/ ; Twitter – @McveighOlivia

 

Ge ne uis or l’eau de chris?

Weirdest title ever? I know! Bear with me though there is a method to the….madness?

As this is my first blog post I should probably start by saying a few things about myself, I am a final year Communication Management and Public Relations student, I am on my 5th year of university after doing a year in Leeds studying Event Management. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out for me, so here I am 5 years on from leaving school, in Jordanstown approaching my last 9 months of university, oh also I am obsessed with my dog and love, love, love, Love Island!

Now I don’t exactly love, love, love Love Island, I could definitely still live without it but it leads me onto what this blog post is actually about.

It’s the 9th October 2017 and Chris Hughes, a contestant from summer ’17 series of Love Island has just released he will be partnering up with Topman, one of the UKs biggest high street retailers for men (and women, great for an oversized hoodie ladies!) to sell bottled water named L‘Eau de Chris, infused with his own tears. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook any social media platform you can think of went into melt down.

Now, if you haven’t heard or have no interest in the Love Island frenzy, Chris was known on the show for shedding a tear here and there, and rightly so, everyone has there moments, right? Everybody hopped on the band wagon “oh this is just another way for them to make money” “absolutely ridiculous, selling your own tears, you should be ashamed of yourself” to state but a few of the harsh tweets- I have inserted a few below to have a chuckle at when this was released, allowing a good 16 hours to pass of mixed reviews of his new business partnership, receiving praise from some and not so much praise from others. Over these 16 hours Chris allowed his followers to drop and rise, twitter to go crazy and Instagram to be bombarded with horrible comments, all whilst knowing the real reason behind his new “business venture”.

  

  

The plot thickens, Topman was not Chris Hughes newest venture, CALM- Campaign Against Living Miserably, a leading UK based charity to help against male suicide was.

This new campaign was in fact in aid of increasing awareness of male suicide, smart, eh?

Chris Hughes is now in fact one of the newest ambassadors for CALM and face of their campaign #dontbottleitup, this all came from his courage and openness whilst being featured on the show, as I said *or typed* before, everybody has their down moments so why keep it in, male or female? Chris Hughes has openly spoke about his problems with anxiety and how talking about problems and speaking openly has really helped him.

Chris stated in his interview with CALM “it’s like halving the problem straight away when you talk with someone about it” and that I completely agree with and commend him for how open he is, obviously I am a girl but by being around my brother, dad and boyfriend I know how hard it can be for men to show emotion or open up. There is that stigma now that men need to be ‘masculine’ and women are the ‘emotional’ ones but I completely dis agree and this is exactly why I think this PR campaign is one of the best social media has seen. Any suicide, male or female is absolutely horrendous and soul destroying, so campaigns like these are what is needed in this generation to get people talking, talking about their problems and opening up.

Okay, to the title, ‘Genius or Ludacris’ get it now?

The name behind the bottled water in the first place means Ludacris i.e. its Ludacris to feel like you should bottle it up, this was all very fitting as it was also World Mental Health Day, the day the initial campaign/prank was released.  After it the cat was out of the bag, opinions completely changed and so did the general public’s view on Chris Hughes, very quickly.

This whole campaign and PR stunt helped to spread the hashtag around not just the UK but around the world and really, I think that is the perfect venture for someone with his following and platform to go towards. Don’t get me wrong I can’t help but have ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out), when I miss just one episode, I can’t be the only one to admit to that? But usually end up hating them all once they come out and take over my Instagram and twitter with their horrendous teeth whitening discount codes or new merch, but this changed my perception on Chris completely….and hopefully will change yours too!

Sarah Heath is a final year BSc in Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @sarahmeganheath,  Instagram @sarahmeganjane, LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-heath-375053a6/

 

Under the Influence

When it comes to modern day businesses, Digital marketing is leaps and bounds ahead of all other forms of advertising. It’s expensive – companies are spending up to 1.5bn on Instagram alone – but its effectiveness means that big businesses have no hesitation in investing time, money and effort into it.

So where’s all that money going? The answer is that a lot of it is going straight into the pockets of influencers*. Influencers who are affecting our buying decisions everyday, without us evening realizing it.

*In case you’ve been living under a rock influencers can be described as “a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.”

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Basically, influencers are everyday people like you and me. They don’t have to be celebrities (although they’re often classed as one) and they don’t need to have a discernable talent or passion. Most of them just need a good iPhone camera and a cool looking selfie backdrop.

Do I sound bitter? Let’s move on.

Brands will send free PR packages to these ‘instagramers’ with as little as 5k followers in exchange for a ad post & a promo code to share with their friends, in the hope that their influence will result in more people buying their products. Gaining immense internet popularity allows an influencer to shape and impact their audience’s opinions on matters through blog posts, videos, pictures, tweets, and so on.

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And it works. In a recent report, 72% of millennials admitted to buying their fashion and beauty products based on the instagram posts of their favourite influencers. I mean, Jeffrey Star said this lipstick is amazing. So it has to be… right?

This is perhaps surprising, given that millennials often display a mistrust of those around them, be it previous generations, politicians, or people higher up in society. So why does a generation who claim to have so many trust issues have so much trust in the people they view on social media?

Well…because Millennials LOVE validation.

71% of people are more likely to make a purchase if they get a recommendation or validation from their peers or their favorite blogger. No matter how good a product may appear or claim to be, how can we be so sure? For me personally, buying a product is never simply a “add to basket” task anymore. When I spot that new eyeshadow palette I really want (but really don’t need) you can bet I’ll be looking up reviews on YouTube before buying it. Like yeah, I really want this – but what did Jordan Lipscombe think of it?

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Validation from our peers is just the same. Think of all the time’s you’ll do a catwalk for your besties of the 13 different outfits you’ve tried on and hated before having a breakdown and claiming to have NOTHING TO WEAR and are no longer going out. Despite your bed and bedroom floor being covered in more than enough clothes. But that’s part of the Scratch Monday routine really.

“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising”.

– Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO and possible extraterrestrial who ironically talks about trusting people –

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Style envy

“Industry influencers in niches such as fashion and beauty hold a lot of sway over this consumer group,” Molz said. “They start trends, determine what’s cool and desirable, and curate the must-have items as fashion magazines used to do.”

In the noughties the public would have determined what they would have worn at the weekend by what the celebrities were wearing in the ‘style steal’ section of Closer, or copied that dress Angelina Jolie was wearing in the red carpet photo they seen in OK. This is no longer the case as instead of reading a magazine on the bus or whilst waiting on the kettle to boil, we’re scrolling through instagram. Companies must recognize and adapt to this and ask themselves ‘who has the hold over their their target audience?’ This is easy – bloggers and vloggers, publishers, YouTubers, etc.

“Getting their seal of approval could be key in pushing millennials further into the sales funnel.” According to the Collective Bias study, while shopping at a store, “60% consumers have been influenced by a social media post or a blog review.”

It’s all science

Despite the fact of having often millions of followers, more clothes than they could wear in a lifetime & earn 5 digits for a single instagram post (Zoella srsly gets £12k per instagram post) – influencers are still perceived as mostly ‘normal people’, therefore relatable for millennials. When it comes down to it, they don’t do much more than we do on a daily basis (still sorta bitter over this) except it’s shared with millions of people.

Our desire to be like our favourite influencer can be explained by the psychological concept ‘social proof’ which was popularized by psychologist Robert Ciadlini. Basically, whenever we don’t know what to do or how to act we look to others and imitate them, especially in times of crisis. Who knew that copying a makeup tutorial from your favourite youtuber and failing miserably is psychological.

Another psychological example of why influencers work is the halo effect. The halo effect is cognivite bias where we judge someone’s opinion based on our overall impression of them. Basically, if we start to enjoy someones content and have positive thoughts about them, anything they’re involved in becomes more positive to us. This is why influencer testimonial works. SCIENCE.

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Anyway, enough of that technical stuff. Back to the real world.

So yeah, innocently following a good looking instagrammer that you spotted on the explore page (wearing an outfit you can only dream being able to pull off) seems all fun and games, but who knew it’s contributing to our everyday life & companies are making MILLIONS FROM US. Is anything NOT strategic these days?

At the end of the day, social media is pretty toxic… so let’s just remember that the girl with 122k followers who we claim we’d DIE to look like (bit dramatic) gets her hair done every week for free in an exchange for a instagram post, is sent all her clothes in PR packages AND has access to any beauty treatment she wants – WHENEVER SHE WANTS IT, as long as she puts up a pic on the gram of her new lashes.

So for the sake of our own self worth – let’s stop comparing ourselves to them & stop being constantly under the influence.

Catherine Maguire is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire

 

 

The Tomorrow Lab Presents: Creative Engagement

The Tomorrow Lab Presents: Creative Engagement

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Last week I attended an event on Creative Engagement by local digital marketing agency The Tomorrow Lab. It comprised of six speakers from a diverse range of backgrounds talking about branding, social media and marketing (there was also a lot of pizza and beer, but I promise that wasn’t my only motive for attending…). Although primarily targeting those in the marketing industry, much of the advice imparted by the speakers can easily be taken as guidance for life. In the spirit of brevity, I’d like to highlight two of my favourite speakers from the day and what I learnt overall.

I’ll start with Sheree Atcheson; an impressive figure who wears many hats as a tech business consultant for Deloitte, UK expansion director at Women Who Code and founder of her own social responsibility organisation I Am Lanka. She delivered an inspiring talk about unexpected responsibility. To her, this meant being thrust into leadership (through her own hard work), at a young age. As a petite, feminine 20-something of Sri Lankan descent brought up in Tyrone, she professed herself that she was not what you would picture a typical leader to look like. However, rather than shy away from her responsibility, she embraced it and used her privilege to amplify others. She encouraged us to think about how we can all make an impact, simply by understanding our own privilege and really focusing our efforts. Sheree has an impressively long list of achievements, but the one that inspired me most was her founding of I Am Lanka. Despite living in Belfast, she facilitates important conversations and encourages Sri Lankans to champion their own homegrown talent before looking further afield. At a time when privilege is a hotly debated issue, Sheree calmly demonstrates how it is on us to use our own for the good of others.

The keynote speaker was Helena Langdon, Head of Digital and Communities at Innocent Drinks. If you’re familiar with Innocent’s humorous and quirky marketing tactics, then you’ll have a good idea of Helena’s personality. The company’s social media has spawned numerous viral campaigns, #1 Twitter trends and made it to all of the major national press, simply by being relevant in their own way. For example, did you know that Helena is responsible for #DogsAtPollingStations? And the well-traversed 4th Floor Stapler? What’s her magic formula? Basically, there isn’t one. Helena’s advice is to always keep things personal and remember that you’re dealing with other humans. This allows real conversation to happen, which in turn builds their brand from the ground up. Helena also believes in learning by doing, confessing that she has learnt many things by accident and that luck also has a massive deal to do with it. Luckily, they have an enabling rule at Innocent: “If you’re 70%, go for it.” Isn’t that a great general rule of thumb for life? It gives us the licence to take risks and make bold, brave decisions. Of course, mistakes will be made, but mistakes are there to be learnt from and help us develop in the long run.

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All six of the speakers gave their own valuable advice. Matthew Thompson, founder of Best of Belfast, encourages us to go deep, not wide, to create content that impacts and moves our audience. He believes that when you make content for everyone, you make content for no one. Alan Davison, Brand Strategy Director at The Foundation, showed us how your branding can completely change how people perceive your business (and also revealed that sometimes the best creative thoughts come from having a few glasses of wine!). Matthew Morris, founder of The Bearded Candlemakers, also believes in creating authentic content that showcases your own personal brand as well as your products. This has helped him build an Instagram community that he engages with regularly (and who all love his dog Teddy!). Sophie Smith, Senior Digital Marketing Specialist at The Tomorrow Lab, demonstrated how today’s technology can provide us with incredibly detailed insights of how our business is performing and how we can use these to take the guesswork out of building an excellent marketing campaign. I think she should also be commended for injecting a bit of humour to a talk on analytical data!

At the end of the day I left the event happily satiated with pizza, beer and some food for thought. All of the talks had one recurring ideal to me; be authentic and let your personality show through in all that you do, whether that be creating content for your brand’s social media channels or connecting with the people in your own life. I’d like to extend a big thank you to all of the speakers and to The Tomorrow Lab for hosting, I’m looking forward to the next event already!

Rachael Gordon is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @gordorachael and Instagram @rachaelgordon