Influencer marketing (IM) is doing quite well in Italy.
Over the last year, 64% of companies in our country have invested in this sector*.
If we analyze this phenomenon from a purely PR point of view – through the eyes of those who, like us, have been dealing with Earned Media for years – we can say that the arrival of influencer marketing is literally undermining the foundations of our job.
The rise of Influencers as a new vehicle of communication is producing, in fact, very powerful effects on the entire media ecosystem, subverting the rules and generating a domino effect whose outcome is not yet entirely predictable.
Here are some thoughts on IM from a PR perspective…
1) Integrating influencer marketing activities into our PR campaigns today is often a must.
And not because IM is popular, but because in an increasingly fragmented and multi-channel scenario reaching certain target audiences, especially younger or niche age groups, is otherwise almost impossible.
2) While Objectivity and pluralistic information are the cornerstones of traditional media as a reliability guarantee, Subjectivity and individuality are core values for influencers. On the one hand, media report facts while maintaining a more neutral approach, on the other influencers “put their face on it” and tap into emotions.
Influencers and media therefore move on parallel tracks, have different styles and rules that today we are called to know and manage.
3) The two business models are totally different. Media are financed by advertising, subscriptions and sales, thus leaving journalists – at least in theory – free from conditioning. Instead, influencers self-finance themselves by temporarily lending their image and credibility to brands. This relationship is very close and – inevitably – the influencer wears the values of the brand for the time of the collaboration and his/her personal point of view merges with the corporate message. Until hired by another brand….
4) The rise of influencer marketing has also brought up the issue of mixing genuine and sponsored content, as a result of commercial agreements with brands. A slippery ground which has recently led to the adoption of dedicated hashtags for promotional posts (#ad, #adv) safeguarding both consumers’ rights to transparency and the credibility of influencers.
From the recent analysis conducted in Italy by Blogmeter, the use of such hashtags does not seem to have a negative impact on views and engagement. A sign of changing times and growing public indifference to the rigid divide between Earned and Paid media.
Advertising and information: these two once opposing areas are today increasingly intermingled.
5) Last but not least, another thorny issue: transparency and frauds, the shady side of Influencer Marketing, which cost companies millions of dollars lost in fake followers and falsely manipulated engagement numbers. Along with one of the most famous marketing quotes ever, one could say today “half the money spent on influencer marketing is wasted. The trouble is that we don’t know which half!”. Bigger isn’t always better: we need to look beyond numbers and carry out accurate screening. Hence the rise of the so called micro-influencers, with smaller but more authentic numbers.
There are many issues at stake.
To put it in a nutshell: Influencer Marketing –> handle with care and hire our PR firm to do it!
(*Research People are media Assolombarda May 2019)