PR Under The Influence

How many posts have you read in the past week featuring the latest product which your favourite blogger just ‘cannot live without’? Or the number Instagram posts with someone promoting their newfound favourite brand of sunglasses that are a ‘must’ yet which you hadn’t even heard of until now?

The advertising industry is in the middle of a major shift.

Social media is radically reinventing the aging business of PR and nowadays, we only have to scroll before coming across an advertisement on social media and whether you realize it or not, you are being influenced.

With a focus on putting the public back in Public Relations, the advertising industry is championing the new, growing business of ‘influencer marketing’. Capitalizing on social media’s reach, influencer marketing focuses on the strategy of paying an ‘internet celebrity’ to promote products in their accounts to their followers.

So, you’re maybe asking what exactly is an influencer? To put it simply: an influencer is someone who has accumulated a substantial number of followers on social media. Therefore, an influencer’s established and reputable personal brand is the perfect platform for brands to promote their message in exchange for financial reward or exposure.

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Think of it like this, how often have you ever visited a restaurant, booked a holiday or bought that latest lippy because somewhere on your feed someone has filtered a picture nicely and added a discount link beneath? Well, if that’s the case then you have indeed been influenced.

With 49% of consumers seeking purchase guidance from social media influencers and a further 40% media users making a purchase as a direct result of a promotional post, digital PR presents a conspicuous opportunity for brands to utilise the power of word-of-mouth at scale through personalities that consumers already follow and admire. Why is this? Because as followers we trust recommendations from and identify with who we choose to follow.

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Adrien Koskas, general manager for the U.K. for L’Oréal Paris, stated influencers are a hugely important part of their creative process. Using a team to track them and annual contracts, L’Oréal Paris has 23 influencers for its’ True Match product.

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There are four key reasons this shift in PR is shaking up the industry – it is cost effective with marketers who implemented an influencer marketing campaign earning an average of six times what they spent on paid media; high ROI – 81% of marketers’ state that influencer marketing is extremely effective; gaining customers trust – 92% of consumers trust recommendations from personal connections; has mass popularity – 74% of all marketers’ plan to use digital PR this year.

“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 –

 

Amy Greer is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: @amyagreer & LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/amygreerrr

Part One: The Social Influencer: Front Stage

Part One: The Social Influencer: Front Stage

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Identity’ as “The characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is”

But is it something that we are born with or is it something that we create?

Sociologist Erving Goffman describes identity as an interactive construction rather than something ‘given’ and suggests that all social interaction is like a dramatic performance.

Likewise, I believe that we can be whoever the hell we want to be … understandably, we cannot control how we are born, our gender or the genes we inherit; however I feel we have the power to manipulate our identity and portray ourselves as whoever or whatever we desire to be.

People behave differently in different settings. Take a working environment in which you would perform professionally against a social setting were you would behave in a more relaxed manor. In both settings we would conduct ourselves differently however both still require performance.  This theory applies across the communication board, whether that be in person, over the phone, email and varies depending on the receiver / audience.

Goffman’s theory was, pardon the pun… identified in the late 50’s, a long time before the internet and the rise of social media but I feel it largely applies to this day and age.

The internet and social media platforms enable us to go to extremes and be absolutely anyone we want and to the point where we can hide behind the identity of an existing or fictitious person…commonly known as ‘catfishing’.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these social media Influencers have fake profiles but I do think they can paint their identity to appear absolutely perfect and flawless. That combined with consistent activity of interesting content, generates followers and subscribers and enables them to position themselves on a social pedestal for us “real people” to view them as superior.

It’s obviously not as simple as that, if it were we all would be doing it but you do have to have that something extra and special to stand out; whether that be a beautiful face, body or character…it’s knowing how to utilise it and essentially brand / market yourself.

International social influencer and all-rounder 23 year old fitness guru, entrepreneur and mother of 3, Tammy Hembrow is a prime example and she is very much in demand.

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Her social identity has become a 24/7 job, inspiring thousands of people and consumers worldwide. The success has even landed her brand sponsorships and endorsements such as fitness clothing line ‘Gym Shark’, which generate revenue and a lot of revenue at that… since 2017 her net worth is approximately $1.6 million!

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But is it possible to be absolutely flawless 100% of the time? Of course not but this platform is one of Tammy’s ‘front stages’ and when she’s not working, she probably behaves like a normal full-time mother and fiancé and in a more relaxed environment, as her ‘back stage’ self.

Technology is so advanced these days that you don’t need to be a professional photo editor to edit images. We can instantaneously alter and enhance a basic photograph with the use of filters and editing tools…we can even access editing apps for free or pay next to nothing to smooth out blemishes, whiten teeth and even bring in our waistlines.

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But how far is too far? Are these embellished photographs not showing an unrealistic representation that you couldn’t possibly compete with in person…

Vicky Pattison was initially and famously known for being on MTV TV series Geordie Shore which let’s be honest… probably didn’t paint her in the best light.

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However with the help of the social media, she has managed to change public opinion and landed respected roles such as presenting on ITV’s Loose Women as well as starting her own online clothing boutique ‘Honeyz’.

Vicky is also no stranger to editing apps and isn’t shy about it either!

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She admitted during a discussion on Loose Women that she enhances pictures of herself; airbrushing and smoothing out wrinkles etc. something that various social media fans have slated her for.

Vicky might regularly share airbrushed selfies and edited snaps but occasionally she will post a natural and unedited picture, say at the gym for example.

When it comes to male social influencers, their natural snaps are more than likely untouched but enhanced with a basic filter however the same measures apply; the content is attractive to consumers, brands and is consistent.

Take Instagram success Nick Bateman for example…

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Aside from the obvious…he’s a very handsome guy but his social content is appealing to a wide audience and probably a large majority of that being Yorkshire terrier fans and followers.

I’m a big fan of Nick and how he portrays himself online. In the words of Derek Zoolander, it’s not all about being really, really, ridiculously good looking… Nick doesn’t take himself too seriously and offers an element of humour on his social feed.

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Haters are also not likely to hate with content like this…

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I mean how could you???

Stay tuned for Part Two: The Social Influencer: Back Stage

 

Cara Cowan is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/caracowan/

Destination Social Media

When does social media become more than just another trend for likes, shares and followers? Social media is revolutionising the travel and hospitality industry across the world with sites such as Instagram, Facebook and TripAdvisor, providing a platform for consumers to research their trip or to share their experiences through selfies, check-ins and reviews. It has modernised the consumer’s approach to industry, becoming big enough to encourage thousands of people all over the world to jump on a plane and boost the tourism industry.

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TripAdvisor is one of the world’s largest travel sites with 475 million reviews and opinions covering 7 million businesses and properties worldwide, reaching an average of 390 million people per month. In a survey by TrustYou, 95% of respondents read reviews before booking their trip. This platform provides credible and authentic user generated content, which is changing the face of customer service, in particular how customers make complaints. Often customers voice their frustrations publicly on social media rather than deal with the hassle of phoning the company. Due to this, often complaints go ‘viral’ triggering a response from the business to address the issue.

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Instagram

At six years old, Instagram has 600+million active users monthly and 400+ million users daily. Instagram has built a community of personal users, brands and influencers who share high quality, vibrant photographs, which inspire others to travel. In 2015, Wanaka, a small town in New Zealand, attracted Instagram influencers to the country who captured and shared wanderlust-inducing photographs. Specifically, they brought in American photographer Chris Burkard, who has 1.5 million Instagram followers; his photos received up to 50,000 “likes” each. This strategy saw tourism rise 14% within the town.

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Facebook

With about 1.23 billion daily active users, Facebook is becoming a travel motivator. Often we see our friend’s check-in and post photos of their trip, which in turn you begin to imagine yourself there and soon you have flights booked. In 2011 a survey by Travel Industry Wire found that 52% stated they were inspired to book a trip after seeing friends’ Facebook photos and posts.

Innovation Norway took advantage of Facebook’s increasing popularity in order to promote Norway. They created and executed a 45-day Facebook campaign inviting people to take part in the campaign with a chance to win daily prizes through taking part in a daily competition. This campaign saw Innovation Norway’s Facebook following boost from 12,000 to 31,000 and the traffic to the company website boost 40% year on year.

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Social media has impacted the travel industry massively and often influencing how or where consumers make their travel arrangements as a survey revealed that 92% consumers trust earned media more than any form of advertising.

Lauren Sharkey is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-sharkey-25776ab0/ 

Beauty and the Influencer Beast

Beauty and the Influencer Beast

YouTubers and Instagram Stars Have Quickly Become the Only Voice That Matters for Consumers in the Beauty Industry.

On YouTube, I am subscribed to 40 (yes, 40!) beauty “gurus”.  Excessive? Let me explain.

Over the past decade, YouTube has exploded as a user-generated platform for companies and people around the world to share their ideas, their work, their talents and their opinions. This platform has facilitated the oh-so-important co-creation process for brands and consumers to mutually create and share content.

For the beauty industry, YouTube is now an intrinsic part of communication strategy with thousands of beauty channels providing access to millions of consumers. L’Oreal’s most recent advertisement even included beauty YouTuber KaushalBeauty alongside long-time L’Oreal ambassador, Cheryl.

YouTube videos are the earned media that today’s makeup brands need to survive. These makeup channels post regular product reviews and makeup tutorials with the latest products, providing consumers with real, mostly unbiased information that they want and need before they make a purchase decision. If they don’t like the product, they tell you! Essentially, it allows consumers to ignore traditional advertisements for new products and base their decisions solely on other people’s opinions. They cut out half of the purchase decision-making process!

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Paid media is also increasingly a major part of YouTube, with makeup sponsoring videos, where the “guru” is asked to use and promote a new product, or they are sending them new products for free to review. This was my downfall – never considering that these YouTubers were getting these products for free, I was the ideal consumer for these brands: the girl who went out and bought these “must-have” products immediately, spending hundreds of pounds to keep up with my favourite influencers! (No regrets.)

YouTube and Instagram have revolutionised word-of-mouth communication, where I can search a specific term or product and instantly have access to thousands of posts and videos telling me the pros and cons of a product, and showing me how to use it. Additionally, I have access to the opinions of people of different ages, different skin tones, different skin types, different genders, from different countries (where certain brands may not be available), ex-MAC makeup artists, celebrity makeup artists… every opinion a consumer could possibly need!

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Need more proof of the power of these beauty gurus? The number of cosmetic surgery procedures fell 40% in 2016, with analysts suggesting the rise of makeup contouring tutorials may have been a contributing factor.

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YouTube heavyweight Carli Bybel demonstrating her famous nose contouring.

Currently, I am following 40 YouTubers who are more influential upon my makeup purchase decisions than any TV or print ad. Ultimately, Maybelline and Estee Lauder may promise “flawless coverage” with their new product offerings, but until NikkieTutorials and MannyMUA tell me it’s true, I won’t be convinced.

Charlotte Goss is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-goss-b4389895, and on Twitter @CharlotteGoss94