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Four Things to Know About Online Influencers

By Caroline Cakebread, Junior Newhouse NYC student and MAG major

On Tuesday, February 16, Professor Finlayson’s Social Platforms, Processes and Perspectives class visited Marina Maher Communications to hear from Senior Account Executive and online influencer expert, Kristen Tully. Online influencers are a new breed of celebrity, Tully explained, as they use social media platforms like Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter to attract devoted fans. She also said that brands—and public relations companies that represent them—realize the power these influencers have, and are partnering with them to reach their target audiences. Here are four more things we learned about the power of online influencers:


1. Disclosing that a post is paid is a must. 

One popular type of online influencer is the beauty vloggers, or people to record videos and post them on YouTube. They have hundreds of thousands of followers (and sometimes millions). Their fans trust that person to give advice on everything from how to get ready for a date night to what waterproof mascaras won’t run. Therefore, if the followers think they are being lied to or deceived—like if their favorite vlogger is paid to promote a certain brand’s product and not being open about it—the vlogger’s authenticity is compromised, which can lead to both the influencer and the company losing out. It’s now a law that bloggers have to disclose their sponsored content. However, Tully says there is a gray area when it comes to influencers pushing a brand’s prescribed message, and that detailed contracts between the influencer and the brand are necessary to stay on the audience and the law’s good side.

2. The travel perks can be awesome.

Tully referred to the world of PR and marketing as a “cluttered space” that brands have to work hard to cut through, which is why online influencers are key in getting a brand’s message across to their target audience. So, brands work hard to woo influencers, sometimes flying them across the globe. Tully says that it is a common practice for brands to arrange custom one-of-a-kind experiences and all-expenses-paid trips to show off their latest goods and brand message. That’s because an online influencer’s endorsement of a product will woo potential consumers.

3. Matching messages are key.

Brands need to be careful when choosing influencers to endorse their products. For example,  a mom vlogger is a bad choice for a makeup brand trying to reach young girls. An influencer’s followers will notice when the message from their favorite Instagrammer is inauthentic and react badly to both the brand and influencer.

4. Never log off.

Young audiences are constantly online, and public relations professionals have to stay on with them in order to monitor and keep their client’s message relevant. A bad post that is up for even a short amount of time can do a lot of damage, and people like Tully have to be constantly on top of controlling a client’s online image.

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