Trend for 2016: Rise of Social Media Influencers

It seems only right to set off my PR blog with a brief analysis of one important trend in 2016 no PR professional can ignore. I wrote a paper on the subject a couple of weeks ago and stumbled upon this topic yet again when browsing Stephen Waddington’s Blog. I therefore thought it would be worthwhile to have a look at the topic once again and reflect on influencers here, as my first blog post.

Social Media Influencers – this novel group of people who get to the top swiftly and unexpectedly, and who are here to stay. This particular trend has a specific meaning to me due to a few reasons. Firstly, I live in the digital age, and even if I do not realise this, influencers are playing an increasingly important part in influencing my decisions and actions. Secondly, their rise is really fascinating and resembles no other social media phenomenon. Thirdly, I spend quite a lot of time analysing their rise and importance for my PR course Trend Report (tough times).

As S. Waddington points out (you can find his post on 2016 trends HERE), in the era of Web 2.0, influencers rose up to become an indispensible internet phenomenon, which is set to grow extensively in the coming years. They proliferate on Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms, influencing the opinions of their followers. This very rise has interesting and important implications for PR and communications. Nowadays, “ online word of mouth drives one-third of measured business impact and $6 trillion dollars of annual consumer spending.”

Below, I mention the most important points that I think have the biggest PR implications and offer new opportunities for the profession (and yes, I do think PR is a profession):

  1. Influencers offer important insight into products and services. They are genuine, original and people trust them in a way unachievable by most marketing and PR methods.
  2. They are opinion leaders for their followers and they are highly trusted by them.
  3. They create original, independent content suiting the tastes of their public.
  4. They remove the brand/consumer barrier.
  5. People easily identify with them.

For a long time, I used to think influencers were just a short-term phenomenon which is going to come and go, like many others. Only later did I realise how wrong I was. I see them almost everywhere online I go – Youtube, Snapchat, Vine. I also realised that I get influenced by their opinions myself – if I am looking for some new make-up tips, I am likely to go on Youtube and see what popular make-up people have to say about them. If I am wanting to try this new coffee shop in London, I go to a blog of one of London’s many hipster bloggers to see what they think. If I am looking for places to visit on my vacation – I am likely to google people who post regularly on the subject. HAH,power of suggestion right there…

I think their importance is not to be underestimated. However, we need to remember that by no means  will they replace other traditional methods of marketing/PR and (in my opinion) by no means will replace journalists, many of whom I deeply respect, follow and trust. The power of influencers lies in nuances and their usefulness depends on the overall PR/marketing strategy.

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