You may have heard of influencer marketing, or perhaps even used it to promote your own brand. And it’s no wonder; a Nielsen Catalina study in 2015 found influencer marketing to have 11 times the ROI of a standard digital campaign. Another study found that influencer marketing provided $6.50 back for every $1 spent. The word is out: influencer marketing works.
When Influencer Marketing Goes Wrong
Despite the success stories and positive studies, things can still go very, very wrong. Youth culture is notoriously fickle and many on social media can smell inauthenticity a mile away. Nor are they shy about calling people and companies out, which can cause enormous damage to both the influencers and the brands they champion. Take the example of Pepsi’s ill-advised campaign with Kendall Jenner. People felt that the company’s commercial (which it called a “short film”) featuring Jenner defusing a protest by giving a police officer a Pepsi, was making light of serious social issues, as well as the protests highlighting them, and trying to make a quick buck from it. Not surprisingly, the commercial tanked and both Pepsi and Jenner were subject to ridicule and scorn from the public.
Another influencer disaster occurred with blogger PewDiePie, aka Felix Kjellberg. Between 2013 and 2017, Felix was one of the most popular YouTubers of all time. Many brands partnered with him on the strength of his popularity and his platform. In February 2017, however, Kjellberg showcased an anti-Semitic video and made anti-Semitic jokes. Many people were upset, and YouTube removed him from its preferred list, which would impact the ad revenue he could earn from his videos. Disney also severed ties with him.
In May 2016, Boo Tea decided to work with Scott Disick, part of the famous Kardashian family. While Disick agreed to work with them, he also unfortunately decided to copy and paste the email in which the company detailed what it wanted him to say to his 18 million social media followers. Not only did this expose the marketing team’s efforts to get him to promote Boo Tea, it also raised questions about why celebrities don’t regularly disclose that they’ve been paid by using the appropriate hashtags (like #Ad or #Sponsored) or including other disclaimers as other influencers must.
Choosing the Right Influencer
If you’re a brand looking for an influencer to work with, there are some things you must consider.
Relevance: While metrics are important, it’s also important that a blogger or influencer’s content also be aligned with the company’s brand messaging. You must do your homework and read through the influencer’s previous posts to get a sense of what kind of consumer they are, and how they represent the brands they work with. Are you looking for luxury-travelers? Fashion icons? “Mompreneurs”? Is it okay to have your influencer swear or otherwise be provocative in their posts? These things are much more important than the amount of traffic they pull in.
Engagement: Engagement shows the popularity of the influencer’s posts, and how well their audience responds to them. Do their readers respond, comment, and share? What percentage of readers are returning vs. new? How much readers engage with a publisher and how often they return are indications of how meaningful those relationships are.
Authenticity: This may seem counter-intuitive, but bloggers with a smaller ratio of sponsored content tend to be more trusted by their audience and appear more authentic. Personal stories that include genuine use or mention of a product, service, or brand are more trusted than straight product reviews or obvious “advertorial” content. Compelling and engaging stories also tend to get more shares and comments than deals and product reviews.
Influencer marketing is a rapidly-developing field of marketing, but brands and companies must be mindful of who they work with. The importance of protecting your brand and reputation is worth more than some quick social media impressions, especially the wrong kind.
Nezha Boutamine | Staff Writer