Social media influencers or digital influencers (they both mean the same thing) are broadening the definition of celebrity.
Before the explosion of social media, conventional celebrities were People whose influence depended on their wealth, social status, talent in particular sport or unique skill.
At social media week in Bristol, I attended my first talk on “digital influencers vs celebrity ambassador”.
The panel leading the conversation was Sarah Penny, head of content at Celebrity Intelligence, Heather Cowper a travel blogger and founder of Bristol bloggers and influencers, James Ainsworth head of content at Prophecy Unlimited, and Nathaniel Hobby University of Bournemouth PR and Communication manager.
The talk started out by first explaining the difference between a digital influencer and a celebrity. The two key differences I picked up on from the panel were authenticity and engagement.
Unlike celebrities who have influence bestowed on them, SMIs have to gain influence. A successful SMI is completely authentic and transparent with their audience. That is why SMI are popular because audiences know they will get honest feedback about a product, without the confusing marketing. Heather Cowper said, “the authenticity of influencers add more value and better ROI than celebrities.“
This couldn’t be any truer as more brands are focusing on influencer marketing; a form of marketing that focuses on an influential individual or individuals rather than the target market as a whole. Brands are tapping into their consumer’s interest in the hopes of drawing them in.
However, with over one billion people on social media, the conversation turned to how brands pick their influencers. The panellists mentioned brands look at online data and following, but I found Cowper’s point on first researching the SMI’s tone and language on their social media channels an important one. Influencers are not perfect and some are really dumb (i.e. Logan Paul) but should they be blamed for being controversial when that is their brand.
“It is the responsibility of the PR practitioners to do their diligence in order to avoid risks with an influencer” (Heather Cowper)
Another interesting point was that a large following doesn’t always matter. James Ainsworth mentioned, “the use of micro-influencers is a cost-effective way to engage audiences in your brand”.
Speaking of costs, I was very surprised to hear panellists take about the ‘spiralling’ costs of working with an influencer. When from my own research I hear a lot of influencers complain about not getting enough money from agencies and brands for the work they do. James mentioned the importance of a good contract, saying it’s important to get everything written down. However Heather pointed out that in the micro-influencer world contracts aren’t always given. Nathaniel Hobby wrapped it by saying, in the end, it all about being clear with the influencer. “The best way to work with an influencer is to listen to their ideas and trust their creativity.”
A special thank you, to PR ambitions for hosting the event.