Influencer Marketing Needs A Good PR Person
The world of influencers is full of contradictions. While the global influencer marketing market records colossal growth yearly, in Poland, influencers and YouTubers are the least socially respected professions, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with politicians. Has the rapid development of social media left public opinion far behind? Or is it just a generational media war? And most importantly, is there a way to fix it?
Influencer marketing is on the rise
There is no doubt that influencer marketing is a profitable business. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, this market has grown from USD 1.7 billion in 2016 to USD 9.7 billion in 2020, USD 13.8 billion in 2021 and as much as USD 16.4 billion at the end of 2022. The development is extremely dynamic, with no indication of slowing down in the near future.
What is the reason for such rapid growth of this market?
First of all, the global pandemic has reshaped consumer behaviour. In 2020, we moved most of our purchases and almost all media consumption to the digital world, in particular to social platforms. Many consumer trends have developed in the new conditions. One of them is live commerce, i.e. selling during a live broadcast on Instagram or Facebook, often initiated by influencers. There is also the sponsorship of online events, which revolutionized the world of event marketing and drew greater attention of brands towards creators engaging in popular events.
The growing popularity of short video formats on social media was also significant. TikTok and its counterparts like Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts are constantly vying for customer attention. And it is getting harder and harder to capture it – especially since there is more and more content on the Internet. Brands have only a few seconds to get the recipient interested in their content.
Global trends directly affect the situation in the Polish marketing world.
According to the report “Influencer market in Poland – 2022” prepared by the Reach a Blogger platform, one in ten marketers surveyed predicts that companies will double their spending on influencer marketing in the next year. A clear tendency to increase investment in collaboration with creators can also be seen among brand owners themselves. But do positive consumer reactions go hand in hand with big budgets? Research shows that not necessarily.
Influencer – the least respected profession?
According to a report by the SW Research agency published in April 2022, Poles consider the influencer to be the least respected profession of all. Even politicians (political party activists, deputies, commune councillors and ministers) fare better, who for years topped every ranking of the least respected professions in Poland. The third place was taken by YouTubers who, as a matter of fact, also fit into the career of an influencer.
Things start to get interesting when we compare this report with the results of the IQS survey, which analysed occupations that are considered attractive by children and teenagers. Almost half of the girls aged 10-15 consider running a social media channel on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok, their dream job.
Do Poles trust influencers?
Interestingly, other research shows that Poles are more and more willing to reach for brands and products recommended by their favourite online creators. They also have no problem admitting it: as many as 55% of respondents confirm their willingness to buy a product recommended by influencers. According to a report conducted in October 2021 by the IQS research team, Polish consumers do trust influencers. However, one condition has to be met. Creators must clearly label collaborations with brands.
Content marked as sponsored content is perceived as more credible by more than half of the surveyed Poles (55%). Just over 25% believe sponsored content is less trustworthy than non-branded content. Only 17% of respondents declared that cooperation with an influencer might discourage them from a given company's products.
The study confirmed what the Polish influencer marketing industry focuses on: tagging cooperation positively affects recipients' trust. In the face of the intensive work of UOKiK (Office of Competition and Consumer Protection) on developing standards for marking advertisements by creators, this news is of great importance, both for influencers, brand owners, as well as advertising and PR agencies.
Welcome to the era of scams, scandals and sham influencers
On the one hand, the industry is developing and Polish consumers are eager to buy influencer products. On the other, the work of influencers is met with general public reluctance. What is the reason for such a discrepancy?
The easiest way would be to blame those creators who don’t play fair. Recent scandals with the promotion of scams (advertising non-existent or non-working products), creators’ problems with the law, high-profile dramas, public verbal scuffles and sham influencers (so-called “pato-influencers”) are the topics that the mainstream media most often write about in the context of online characters. No wonder about that either. After all, high-profile scandals, especially those involving famous names, quickly gain clicks.
For example, an average Kowalski, finding only this type of content, will quickly jump to conclusions about the entire influencer industry. And they won’t be too flattering. If the same recipient does not regularly observe the world of influencers, then there is no way to compare this opinion with reality and see how many online creators share precious content, inspiration or knowledge.
This problem concerns especially the older generations, often affected by digital exclusion and, theus – the lack of access to new sources of information. They base their opinions of the contemporary world entirely on random media messages that reach them from traditional sources. So, in practice, even if they hear about an influencer, it is only in the context of the scandal related to him.
Is being an influencer, not a profession?
The influencer profession is often misunderstood, especially by people unrelated to the marketing industry. It has been accepted that creating for the Internet is an easy and pleasant job where you can earn a lot quickly. The truth is, you can earn good money, but the work is neither quick, easy, nor for everyone.
Creating a single post with product placement sometimes takes many hours of work on the right scenery and content, preceded by many days of negotiations with the client. Not to mention gathering the necessary knowledge about the operation of the algorithms of individual platforms. Added to this are months or even years of pro bono work, that is, investing money in a YouTube channel or photographic equipment, as well as dedicating a lot of time and work without the certainty that it will ever make money. Most online creators are people with great technical knowledge about filming, editing or photography, as well as interesting personality that is able to attract audiences.
Even attempts to regulate the influencer marketing industry by the UOKiK (Office of Competition and Consumer Protection) and KRRiT (National Broadcasting Council) (which, after all, are a testament to the agencies’ desire to recognize the influencer as a full-fledged profession), were considered by most Poles as a desire to keep the industry unregulated. Interestingly, the same processes have been positively received by the influencers themselves, their clients and marketing agencies, that is, by people who understand that self-regulation procedures can only support their work.
Influencers and public relations
Everything indicates that in order for the influencer marketing industry in Poland to flourish, there needs to be greater social understanding. Instead of limiting themselves to publishing materials about sham influencers, the mainstream media would have to write more willingly about interesting charity campaigns organized by Internet creators. Perhaps then, society would notice that sham influencers are only a tiny fraction of the community of online creators.
A lot of responsibility also lies with the creators themselves. It happens that well-known, liked and quite respected names in the influencer world make image bloopers or undertake shady cooperation (later explaining them by ignorance or disagreement with the client or the agency representing them). The good reputation of influencers cannot be legally imposed. Taking care of your own backyard should be the responsibility of each creator.
Polish influencer marketing definitely needs a good PR person who will show everyone the values, benefits and influence of this market. However, we are all PR people: from clients, through agencies and marketers, to the creators themselves and even the recipients. We are responsible for the direction of its development with every purchasing choice, project, brief, placement and ambassadorship. And it is our responsibility to shape opinions about this industry.
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