The Digital Influence Ecosystem and Its Relation to Organizational Communication: Characterizations, Possibilities, and Best Practices

The Digital Influence Ecosystem and Its Relation to Organizational Communication: Characterizations, Possibilities, and Best Practices

Carolina Frazon Terra
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9790-3.ch002
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The digital influencer market has been growing by significant numbers year after year (data from the Influencer Marketing Hub predicts USD $16.4 billion by the end of 2022). In a post-coronavirus pandemic landscape, organizations have relied more on digital influencers to reach their audiences on digital social platforms, as shown by the results of the ROI & Influence 2021 Survey by YouPix (71% of companies consider influencer marketing important in their communication strategies and intend to increase investment in that area). This chapter discusses the ecosystem that makes up digital organizational influence and its possibilities and shows its correlation with organizational communication. It compares the organizational communication with the integrated communication composite by the Brazilian researcher Margarida Kunsch and explores how organization influence fits into each of the diagram's communication pillars: internal, market, and institutional.
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The digitalization of individuals, organizations, and processes tied to mediatization and a dependence on online social platforms reveals a patchwork of actors and agents in communication environments. Saad (2021 as cited in Terra, 2021, p. 13) highlights how much this alters the communicational act: “Audience, media, brands, characters and, mainly, algorithms and bots that constitute a habitus very particular to our time reframe and impact the communicative praxis” (p. 13).

Saad (Saad, as cited in Terra, 2021) points to the world of communication as the center of this reframing “whether by their direct connection to digital acts, or by their permeability in the social fabric” (p. 13).

For Han (2018, p. 13), digital communication and social networks are shown as spaces for exposing the private. There is, then, what the author points out as the privatization of communication by digital media, since it shifts the production of information from the public to the private (as the modus operandi of the social media platforms). This is the context in which people relate, expose themselves, dialogue and are influenced.

In this article, I will discuss one of the aspects that was remodeled by online social platforms: the universe of digital influence and its correlations with and impacts on organizational communication. This theme has been a topic of interest both in the market (Youpix, Influencer Marketing Hub, Zeeng, Instituto Qualibest, among others) and in academia (Karhawi, 2017, 2020; Terra, 2017, 2021).

For Borchers (2019, p.255) organizations can cooperate with digital influencers, whom the author calls SMI, Social Media Influencers, to achieve PR and Marketing goals, as follows: for commercial partnerships, integration of commercial content in organic narratives or as independent critics. It adds that digital influencers can have roles as intermediaries, content distributors, creative content producers, community managers, issuing testimonials, strategic advisors or even event hosts. This myriad of roles opens up new opportunities for strategic communication and is capable of producing synergies for both sides (organizations and influencers).

Still on the importance of digital influence for the communication of organizations, it is possible to bring Enke and Borchers (2019):

Strategic influencer communication has become a major topic in strategic communication. Many organizations have identified social media influencers (SMIs) as relevant intermediaries, most notably because they provide access to and might even influence hard-to-reach stakeholders, e.g., teenage and young adult consumers or special interest groups. (p. 261)

A study by the Statista Global Consumer Survey (2021) conducted in 56 countries with over 1 million respondents between the ages of 18 and 64, from February 2020 to March 2021, showed that Brazil is the country that buys the most products motivated by digital influencers, followed by China and India. The State of Influencer Marketing 2021: Benchmark Report (Influencer Marketing Hub, 2021) predicts that the influencer marketing market will reach USD $13.8 billion by the end of 2021. The report also shows that “90% of our survey respondents believe influencer marketing to be an effective form of marketing”.

Other data that proves the importance of individuals as a source of information and influence is the Edelman Trust Barometer (2021) that for years has placed ordinary people at the top of the trust ranking. Digital influencers have come to occupy this place of impact on people’s decision-making.

The study ROI and Influence (2021) by YouPix, conducted in 2017, 2019, and more recently in 2021, shows that in Brazil the strategic relevance of the use of influencer marketing by organizations grew from 67% in 2017, to 68% in 2019, and to 71% in the latest survey.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Organizational Influence Ecosystem: Proposed mapping of influencer agents that impact the perceptions, decisions, and actions of the public and audiences in relation to an organization.

Brand Ambassadors: Individuals or communities that love a brand, service and/or product and voluntarily and deliberately produce content about an organization.

Digital Influence: The capacity to impact and motivate actions regarding decisions, ideas, and ideologies using social media platforms.

Content Producer User: A connected user, producer and/or curator of active content that produces, shares, and spreads their own content, that of their peers, and content from other sources of information, as well as endorsing it to their audiences on social media platforms.

Digital Influencer Brands: Organizations that produce content and become a reference point in their segments or sectors and have defined strategies for relationships, exposure, and visibility in digital media. Due to their relevance and engagement capacity, they are usually content publishers in their areas of specialization.

Digital Influencers: Agents who produce or curate content on digital social platforms and have a captive audience on social media.

(Integrated) Organizational Communication: Communication composite within the context of organizations that includes internal communication, institutional communication, and marketing communication.

Internal Influencers: Employees and/or leaders and managers who are reference sources and considered influential both within the organizations they are a part of and by external audiences. They can be part of a systematized program or only figures who play this role within their companies.

Virtual Influencers: Avatars designed with the purpose of engaging, interacting, and being spokespeople of the organizations they represent.

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