Public relations is one of the most widespread tools of marketing communications. PR is the establishment of relations with the public, aimed at promoting products, the formation, and protecting the company’s image. These objectives are achieved by means of public relations, which is why these areas of the organization are closely related. Influencer marketing is an aspect of social media advertising that involves using the social impact of specific individuals on social media. Essentially, the brands recognize persons with considerable followers through social influencers or are based on expert knowledge in certain areas. Accordingly, they use them to endorse their products and quickly communicate with the public. Thus, it is essential to establish the level of impact of influencer marketing and social media on public relations.
The Importance of Developing Public Relations
Nowadays, PR is defined as one of the options of management practices aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of the organization and improving its strategic prospects. At the same time, PR is also focused on interaction with the people who are crucial to fulfilling these objectives. In fact, it is a managerial function centered on organizing two-way communication and increasing the benefits of the relationship between the organization and society (Seitel, 2017). The building of effective public relations is to convey messages that reflect the organization’s purpose and aim to increase profits but that also satisfy the demands of the audience. The practice of PR is the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their effects, and advising the management of agencies (Seitel, 2017). It is also the ability to implement pre-planned agendas that serve the interests of both institutions and the public.
A more detailed expression of public relations goals as a particular type of activity is reflected in its functions. Based on the analysis of the essence of the public paradox, it is possible to distinguish the following roles (Seitel, 2017). The function of control of public opinion is one of the primary aims of public relations, which consists of continuous monitoring of public views in the social space. The function of the organization of interaction with the public on the ground of the control of public opinion organizes constant and active interaction with various groups of the community (Seitel, 2017). This occurs in the interests of the basic subjects, their positive image, and the achievement of mutually beneficial relations with other actors of social interaction.
There is also a feature of managing the communicative space; public relations entirely occur in the media field as a type of activity. Public relations subjects operate with data; specifically, they collect, analyze, and manage information traffic (Seitel, 2017). Then they choose directions of action and information policy, considering their consequences for the society. This is all done in the interest of establishing communications between the various actors of public interaction (Seitel, 2017). Public relations can be supported by the PR department of the organization, a contractor, an agency, or a joint effort of the staff and the organization involved. Recently, the marketing of influencers and social networks to create and develop social connections has expanded (Seitel, 2017). Therefore, they provide promotion of products or services to their audiences and offer responses. This assists companies in quickly identifying target audiences and customizing their services to their needs expeditiously.
The Role of Social Media and Influencers in Public Engagement
Influence marketing can be considered an idea of famous people or opinion leaders collaborating with organizations to promote their products and services to the consumer market. The popularity of opinion leaders is affected not by their general popularity but by the number of followers on social networks (Yesiloglu & Costello, 2020). Therefore, an influencer can be a traveler who describes the most interesting and mysterious places on the planet or celebrities. Any industry has an influencer that is listened to, which is the person one should consider collaborating with. They have hundreds, thousands, or millions of followers, eager to like and comment on posts and videos (Yesiloglu & Costello, 2020). As a consequence, their audience provides accurate and quick responses to the products and services they advertise.
The core of influencer marketing is recommendations, not direct sales through the personal blog of an opinion leader. Influencers only advise their subscribers on the product or service of the brand with which they have contracted. In such a blog, advertising is perceived calmly and appears as part of the content. This is a more subtle and unobtrusive method of conveying their message to the audience than direct promotion (Ponirah, 2020). The more credibility the opinion leader has, the greater the audience’s chance to follow its recommendation. In this case, the boundaries of traditional advertising are blurred, as potential clients are introduced to the brand through a reputable source (Ponirah, 2020). That is why many businesses find it advantageous to collaborate with opinion leaders, and it enables them to have direct access to their target public.
Collaboration with influencers assists in achieving a variety of goals, such as increasing brand awareness or shaping the desired image. Opinion leaders enhance recognition and create the proper illustration in the consciousness of the public. At the same time, the social media influencer can demonstrate a branded good or generate demand for a new product. If a business has a specific device that should be introduced to the market, it is probably best to do a review that lists the merits of the product (Ponirah, 2020). The influencer can provide a product review; it can display a car, a cosmetic item, or an innovation in the food industry. That which people will not want to watch in an advertisement, they will be more than glad to review the blogger’s content, and in 90% of cases, subscribers watch video overviews to the end (Ponirah, 2020). Accordingly, they will taste the promoted product and immediately provide comments about it to the blogger or the corporation.
Another significant objective that can be accomplished using social media marketing is to enhance audience awareness. This goal is closely related to educational material; opinion leaders assume the responsibility of educating their audience in a particular area (Yesiloglu & Costello, 2020). This aim is pertinent to the high-tech segment or various new products such as investments, molecular cooking, smart home, or other artificial intelligence technology. According to statistics, 49% of personal decisions by users depend on a blogger’s recommendations. Therefore, after collaborating with an opinion leader, sales rise by an average of 30% (Yesiloglu & Costello, 2020). Such advice seems like friendly counsel, and that is what improves sales.
It is significant to emphasize that opinion leaders are not obliged to sell anything. They only affect the subscribers’ views and attitudes towards the company and provide traffic, which should be converted into sales. At the same time, in social networks, to achieve this goal, it is crucial to create content where the opinion leader closes possible objections in advance and answers the most frequent questions of potential buyers (Yesiloglu & Costello, 2020). Accordingly, it is communication with clients which contributes to the success of the public relations function.
The Benefits and Disadvantages of Influence-Marketing
The influence-marketing segment is expanding, but it has advantages and limitations, like any other marketing tool. There are many benefits, and they usually involve integration goals. It is worth starting with increasing recognition; this is essential for a brand just introducing its product to the market or launching a new one. Traditional advertising cannot do much for this, but the viewpoint of the Influencer is a proven method to find a large part of the potentially interested audience (Vangelov, 2019). Besides, a significant additional advantage of such marketing is the exact targeting of the public. The opinion leader’s content attracts an audience that supports their views, principles, and philosophy of life. Individuals do not subscribe to those bloggers they are not interested in. Thus, thematic blogs are traditionally the target audience of the content. Moreover, social networks’ application enhances the loyalty of potential customers (Vangelov, 2019). Consequently, opinion leaders create new and high-quality content; they have a professional command of their content and the know-how to generate new ideas and embed native advertising. Accordingly, the creativity and accuracy of the approach are appreciated by potential clients.
At the same time, when brands choose the impact of influencer marketing and social media on public relations, there are negative aspects to be considered. A significant disadvantage will be the fact that the influencer may refuse to cooperate, even though they have already received a product or payment. The motivation for their refusal may be that the advertiser has imposed too many requirements, and this approach is not acceptable for its content. It is also essential to mention influencer marketing for B2B and B2C (Kim & Kim, 2021). If a product has mass consumer appeal, the opinion leader can raise coverage, tell about the benefits, and improve demand. Therefore, it is much easier to find an Influencer for B2C than for B2B.
The influencer in B2B needs to be an authority in the industry, and its audience needs to correspond to the portrait of the potential customer. Many companies prefer to conduct additional research and negotiation before starting a partnership with another business. Content for B2C should be entertaining, and in advertising for the B2B sphere, one cannot publish a mediocre post with smiley faces that mentions the brand being marketed (Kim & Kim, 2021). This would be a strategic mistake because it is impossible to consider the seriousness of intent on such a post. This is why one needs to understand whether the selected opinion leader will really be available to convey the value of the product. Accordingly, it can be concluded from this that social media and opinion leaders engaged in the marketing of companies have a significant effect on public relations (Kim & Kim, 2021). Although for this influence to have only positive results, that is, to raise sales ratings and the interest of the audience, it is essential to focus on the potential target population of the opinion leader.
It is not possible for all Influencers to achieve a specific brand objective. In order to understand who meets expectations and who does not, it is necessary to introduce a KPI system. It is better to analyze the data based on the results of work with several bloggers: the total number of impressions, click-throughs, level of engagement, and conversions (Kim & Kim, 2021). When comparing these data, one can decide how and with whom to cooperate in the future. Accordingly, the impact of influencer marketing and social media on public relations can have positive and negative features (Kim & Kim, 2021). However, proper preparation of advertising and selection of an opinion leader will provide a large audience of clients, who will provide constant feedback about the products.
The Effect of Social Media on PR
Social media marketing is a tool for communication between a social group and the subject of the company’s marketing. SMM is a direct operation in communities that reach the intended audience of users. Social media platforms are a modern instrument to interact with the target public (Saima & Khan, 2020). Today, the audience of social networks is comparable to the TV viewership; only it is more valid and active. SMM still refers to unconventional marketing interaction means, but at the moment, it is the most perspective. Social media marketing is requested by large companies, market leaders, and small and medium-sized businesses that use SMM to advance and establish contact with their clients.
SMM does not have an instant effect, but it produces long-lasting results, assuming that it is used purposefully and accurately. Its primary advantage is the low cost of investment relative to the possible impact of the measures undertaken. Social media marketing involves individuals responding to subscribers, advertisers, and social media partners (Saima & Khan, 2020). Obviously, they write directly to the founder through social media, suggesting that this is the most accessible channel of communication.
Social media is a powerful tool for a new stage in the development of public relations. PR has completely changed from the way it was conducted 2-3 years ago (Saima & Khan, 2020). There are infinite possibilities for obtaining press and creating long-term relationships with the press through social media without intermediaries such as a PR agency. Particularly through Twitter, company representatives can comment, connect, and interact directly with editors, writers, and even celebrities of different types of knowledge (Saima & Khan, 2020). They can now personally connect with them and discuss terms of collaboration, such as the opportunity to discuss content and pricing with opinion leaders. Accordingly, this marketing method involves advertising, making beneficial relationships, and obtaining feedback from the audience.
The Importance of Influencer and Social Media Marketing
Influencer marketing promotes products and services through famous bloggers on various online platforms. Research indicates that people spend an average of more than two hours a day on social media, scrolling through the feed and considering recommendations from those they subscribe to. At the same time, more companies and brands are mixing traditional advertising methods and Influencer marketing to gain more audience reach. For example, according to HubSpot research, 71% of users decide to buy on a recommendation on social media. Thus, 28% of companies surveyed believe this type of marketing is the fastest-growing online channel for attracting customers (Schach & Lommatzsch, 2018). This type outpaces organic search, contextual advertising, and email promotion.
A social network is an online service, website, or platform designed to organize social relationships. If one compares the use of social media with traditional advertising, there are a number of advantages in the field of public relations. It is possible to highlight the main ones, such as the low cost of the advertising campaign, the price per contact is at least half the price of traditional advertising. At the same time, social media provides a broader and more accurate coverage of the target audience (Coco & Eckert, 2020). Moreover, social media exceeds all traditional resources in its popularity, not exceedingly only the relevance of search engines, and the audience of social networks is increasing daily. In addition, by using social media, one can quickly receive quick response feedback from customers and promptly react to it.
It is also significant to mention another factor demonstrating the benefits of using social networks in layout. Contemporary social media enables visitors to receive comprehensive reports on the use of links, articles and dissemination of content on a company’s web site. It is possible for the company itself to track the visibility of the created society or group among the members and the activities of the participants on its portal system (Schach & Lommatzsch, 2018). In this way, one can determine what attracts the intended public and what it does not, to discover views about a particular brand. This ultimately creates a loyal base of consumers and establishes a direct connection with them, which allows for quick communication and solving potential issues. The opinion leaders became serious marketing players in 2017 during this period. CNBC estimates that this market will be worth about $10 billion by 2019 (Schach & Lommatzsch, 2018). From a traditional marketing perspective, opinion leaders are often perceived only as an image tool. Advertising strategies inevitably adapt to new technology and user habits to account for all sources and exploit them with the maximum impact.
Influencer marketing becomes part of an omnichannel strategy because it solves the most critical challenge: reaching and engaging audiences. This channel is equally effective for businesses of all formats, from the mobile sphere to large international brands with multiple product categories (Schach & Lommatzsch, 2018). The selection of the proper placement concept depends only on the specifics of the offer and the objectives of the advertising campaign.
The Influencer has already invested considerable time and effort to earn credibility among his subscribers and followers. Now a group of people with common interests willfully trust their thoughts. The business consumes the already established business between the target public and the Influencer for its purposes. Influencer advertising is the advancement of a product through opinion leaders. The consumer desires to be similar, trust in the person, the attitude to whom is initially positive. This way, when an influencer recommends a product in exchange, they are vouching for the appearance and quality of the item and the firm’s reputation. In essence, the company borrows its “credibility” from this influencer (Guruge, 2018). Accordingly, the business does not need to develop a connection with the audience from the start because people already trust the influencer and, therefore, the product they are advertising.
Therefore, influencer marketing has well-established public relations, which positively affects the level of perception of the commercial. The example of Nike evidences this in 1984; nobody knew about them in the world of basketball (Guruge, 2018). Not a single basketball fan wanted to buy Nike sneakers, but Jordan’s endorsement led to their acceptance of the product, and Nike transformed basketball from an unknown to a world leader.
Consequently, influencer marketing through social media is one of the most effective promotion methods. Through this, it is possible to increase brand awareness and demonstrate high performance in their niche. Opinion leaders have already gathered a huge audience that will trust them and indirectly influence their followers’ views and actions (Lou & Yuan, 2019). They create a positive image of themselves, and their image will impact the brand image of the company and the product they offer to the public, which will enhance sales.
Therefore, social media changes the distribution channels, content, and stakeholder development compared to traditional PR. Instead of PR’s primary goal of reaching audiences, PR now can engage audiences. Product development and customer service are two ways PR can interact with public interest groups online and expand their capabilities to increase value for corporate clients. That is, opinion leaders and social media allow not just to promote a product but to receive real customer responses in a brief amount of time and provide answers to their questions. Thus, opinion leaders’ marketing and social media have a significant and innovative impact on PR.
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