ARE BRANDS GETTING BURNED BY INFLUENCER MARKETING?
Netflix’s hit documentary “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Was” was only released on the 18th of January and it’s already proving to be a hot topic of discussion.
As indignation toward the organisers and representatives spreads like, well, wildfire, this got us thinking…. Just how big a role did influencer marketing play. And, is this the first-time people have been burned from using influencers?
With this in mind, what would you do with £157m? Buy a big house or a yacht? How about pay a bunch of fake profiles to promote your brand?
Research has revealed that in 2017 brands paid over £1.65bn to influencers on Instagram to promote their content. The only problem is, 11% of that went to accounts who had bought their followers and so weren’t genuine influencers. That’s a massive £157m being paid out to accounts with ‘bot’ or fake followers meaning brand exposure is practically nil.
And it’s not just fake followers brands need to be watching out for.
BRANDS AND INFLUENCER MARKETING
Brands have recently fallen victim to a new trend where wannabe influencers are faking sponsored content in order to try and dupe other brands into offering them a partnership thus fast-tracking their career as an influencer. This is particularly worrying for brands at both sides of the experience.
The brands that are being duped into thinking an account is more popular than it actually is run the risk of putting their brand image and investment into an unseasoned, fraudulent spokesperson.
However, for the brand that is the subject of the fake sponsored content the situation is much worse. These brands are finding their reputation is being substantially damaged as the public believe they have paid out for what is usually poor quality content and that’s the best case scenario. There is no formal agreement or contract between the parties. Plus, without a shared understanding of the company mission and objectives of the influencer post, the messaging simply won’t be fit for purpose. Content may run amok, even to the extent of discriminatory or profane messaging.
The owner of a sunglasses brand was quoted in a piece in The Atlantic saying the practice of posting fake sponsored content has put him in a tough position. He’s faced with a stream of mid-level influencers posting mediocre-quality sponsored content seemingly on his behalf, without his approval or control.
However it’s not just the brands that are getting burned by influencer marketing.
THE PITFALLS OF BEING AN INFLUENCER
As the recent controversy surrounding the infamous Fyre Festival shows us, even the biggest names in influencer marketing can get it wrong. Influencers such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid had all been paid to promote the festival and did so without giving it a second thought. Some were even reportedly paid as much as $250,000 for a single Instagram post, which often consisted of nothing but a solid orange square.
However, once the details of the disastrous festival started to come to light some of the blame naturally fell on the influencers associated with it. How aware the influencers were of the situation and how much blame they deserve can be debated, but, if the incident teaches us anything it’s that influencers need to be more careful about what they promote.
REGULATING INFLUENCER MARKETING
The problem is influencer marketing lacks any clear or rigid regulation with the details of the deal often being different from brand to brand and dependant on the influencer they’re approaching. Like any other company entering into an agreement, influencers (or their agents) need to be researching whatever they’re being asked to promote in detail before agreeing to align their own personal brand with the company.
While many celebrity influencers are doing this and negotiating morality clauses into their contracts, Fyre Festival shows that there are plenty who see it only as another transaction and ended up getting burned themselves because of it. After all, influencers are only effective so long as people trust them and their opinion.
SHOULD WE ABOLISH INFLUENCER MARKETING?
In short no. Even if we could suddenly convince everyone to stop listening to celebrity models and YouTubers and bloggers, we could never completely stop influencers . After all a photo of an everyday egg recently convinced over 47m people to help it become the most liked photo on Instagram beating out celebrity influencer Kylie Jenner.
We should, however, be looking at ways to make influencer marketing a little more regulated than it is. Instagram is currently leading the charge in purging bot and fake accounts from its platform. Meanwhile, brands should look at becoming more proactive and open about which influencers they are currently working with. By maintaining a list of the influencers they’re officially partnered with, that is publically available, they can combat the rise of fake sponsored content. For smaller brands the only solution is to spend longer monitoring social media and commenting on anything they find making it clear that the post is not official sponsored content.
We live in a world where opinion has been monetised. Marketing Week revealed that for every £1 brands spent on influencers in the beauty industry during 2017, they saw an average return of £8.81. It’s understandable that brands would want to capitalise on the selling power certain people’s influence can have. However, by liberally throwing money at any and every account they can find they’ve created most of these problems themselves.
Many people now see influencer marketing as an easy way to make money. In fact, a recent study from Awin revealed that nearly a fifth of British school children want to be a social media influencer when they grow up. It makes sense that people would be desperate to give their careers a kick start by faking it until they make it.
However, some influencers worry that by over-saturating the market with fake sponsored content these wannabe influencers are actually killing off the profession they’re desperate to have. After all, why would brands be willing to continue paying top prices for sponsored content when there are hundreds of people giving it away for free?
Brands and influencers need to be researching each other more and brands should be looking to create holistic, long-term partnerships with their influencers rather than simply paying them. For this reason brands should be paying more attention to micro-influencers rather than celebrities. After all while celebrities have undeniable influence but then so too does an egg. More so, apparently.