We met up with Dr Laura Scaife from legal firm McDermott Will & Emery to get top tips on the legalities promoting products and events, as well as how to ensure transparency and trust when running an influencer campaign.
If you’re lucky enough to have a well-established brand with a continual flow of user-generated content, you can easily identify influencers who are already engaged with your brand. Influencers who organically talk about your brand as one they love are a much better option for paid-for marketing as their followers are predisposed to your brand.
Think of those followers as warm leads and use influencers to convert them. Regardless of follower numbers, assess the engagement with user-generated content tagging or linking to your brand and isolate those that perform well.
We’re going to be seeing even more influencer content on our home page given brands can now convert organic posts from influencers into paid adverts. An easy way to share a promotional post, without the post being heavily branded, businesses are making the most of using influencer recognition to promote their products.
With micro-influencers starting at anything from 1,000 followers on Instagram, the influencer talent pool is over-saturated.
Dr Laura Scaife, Associate at McDermott Will & Emery focuses her practice on data protection, data monetization and law governing social media, and also authored ‘Handbook of Social Media and the Law’ said, “Brands need to take due diligence when it comes to finding and selecting an influencer to work with. The onus for brands needs to be finding an influencer who fits a particular niche, but who has grown an engaged audience organically through genuine posts about something they love; whether that be food, fashion or travel.
Influencers who have grown from understanding the algorithms and tricks to growing a large, but not necessarily engaged audience won’t convert as well, you’ve got to find the one that fits for your brand.”
Assess influencer content and understand what they’re posting about and why. Align yourself with accounts that are creative, unique and engaging. Avoid any account with cliché captions!
There’s a lot to be said for authenticity, or lack of, when it comes to influencer marketing too. The trap influencers can see themselves falling into is doubting their content as they grow. As audiences grow, doubt sneaks in that their content isn’t “mainstream” so their engagement will fall down. As such, they lose their niche content to fit the broad strokes of social media. This means that engagement can wither away and influencers find themselves managing a very different audience than what they started off with.
Authenticity in advertising is vital. Dr Laura Scaife said, “Authenticity in content is paramount to understanding if an influencer is right for your brand. Social audiences are savvier than ever and so if an influencer posted about using an at-home hair dye but regularly shared content of her getting her hair done in a salon, her followers will lose faith in what she’s promoting as genuine recommendations. Authenticity and clarity of who a person is on social is necessary more than ever and when an influencer deviates from that, the response can be harsh. For brands and businesses, if you invest in such an influencer, your money could be wasted on a non-converting audience.”
Influencers don’t seem to be going anywhere when it comes to digital marketing but how commercial are they? Without a real definition on ROI for a simple feed post, the power of influencer marketing is hard to quantify.
The fine line between finding a commercial but authentic influencer is tricky. The issue with the influencer mentioned above was that her merchandise did not reflect her aesthetic. The lack of cohesiveness is vital – if she’s not seen wearing her own merchandise, why would her followers want to wear it?
Look at her feed vs her product line. These aren't even close to the same aesthetic.
If you can't imagine her wearing any of these, why would her followers? pic.twitter.com/5CdEdxKUjf
— Jack Appleby (@JuiceboxCA) May 27, 2019
Choose an influencer who has delivered branded content that you like and, when pitching your collaboration to them, be sure to hear their ideas first before making a decision. You don’t want to take creative control but equally, you want to see a post that reflects your brand well.
With the influencer talent pool growing rapidly and thousands of young content creators wanting to get brand deals and live the life of an influencer, how do you vet who is authentic and who isn’t? With content creators going as far as making their organic posts look like branded partnerships, social users are keen to be seen as a viable asset.
This is the first step when researching influencers. One useful tool is SocialBlade which allows you to search users by their account name and see data for follower growth. Unfortunately you can’t see historic data, but you can assess follower growth to engagement on their content.
Another great tool for assessing influencers is Phlanx’s engagement calculator. This tool allows you to search by user per channel to see engagement rates for their account. You want an account that has a high engagement rate. Be sure to check if they’re using hashtags as this will doctor true engagement per post.
From influencers doctoring images to pretend they’re at Coachella or get a more Instagram-friendly picture of them holidaying in Paris as well as stealing images straight from Google, you need to be sure your influencer matches your brand completely.
One coffee company in Austin, Texas decided to create their own custom-made influencer through a smart social stunt. By creating the blue-collar workman influencer account – supposedly created by a dad in response to his daughters’ challenge of getting more followers than her – the account was able to grow brand awareness while poking fun at influencer marketing.
Understanding when influencer marketing is right for your brand is crucial, but, if you decide it is right, so is understanding what influencer is right for your brand too. One travel influencer was fined – and chastised by followers – for breaking the law in Iceland with an off-road photograph. Research on your chosen influencer needs to be thorough to ensure your business isn’t associated with anything potentially damaging your influencer may do or say.
The ASA recently announced that they now consider individuals with more than 30,000 social media followers as ‘celebrities’ and as a result, they will be subject to advertising rules. This is to crack down on individuals who are not stating when a post is an advert, which is misleading to their followers. According to Marketing Week, around a third of brands admit to not disclosing influencer partnerships. Some influencers, like Zoella, have taken these rules seriously and openly discuss how paid-for posts work. This all goes back to authenticity as Zoella has always been open and admitted she does not accept brand partnerships with products or services she would not ordinarily use.
But not all influencers are as honest or straightforward as Zoella, so where do the lines of advertising blend with genuine recommendations? Product endorser, Sophie Hinchcliffe, known as Mrs Hinch is currently being investigated by the ASA after allegedly failing to disclose adverts on her social media account. She has been well-known for recommending cleaning products throughout her content – both paid-for and organic – so questions need to be asked if her followers cannot understand, or even notice, the difference.
It’s easy to believe that Instagram DMs are an informal way of messaging but brands have used direct messages when building a contract. Be aware, when pitching to influencers – or vice versa – claims of the perfect demographic or the ideal partnership need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Don’t believe word of mouth, go by stats alone.
When messaging your chosen influencer, be polite and informal but remember, you’re paying this person for a service.
Contracts for influencer marketing are essential. Think of them as an external agency. Dr Laura Scaife advises that, “non-disclosure agreements could be a useful tool before you enter into a full contract while you figure out how to work together. It’s also really important to get robust contracts in place as once the paid-for posts have been delivered, if you don’t have a robust contract in place the influencer isn’t necessarily at liberty to continue to recommend your product or services. Or they may promote a rival product soon after yours. You can expect professionalism when working with influencers but it’s not guaranteed, its better for everyone to have something formal in place and most influencers understand and welcome this too.”
Be clear with your goals and what you want to achieve with your campaign. One small business owner was burned through not defining and signing a contract with his influencer who deleted promotional posts despite being paid to post them citing that “90% of the views came in the first week” of her posting. Avoid situations like this by having a detailed contract for both parties to sign. If you’re not sure that your chosen influencer can convert, opt instead for a commission-based relationship, where the party will be paid for every complete transaction or conversion. Influencers who are confident in the commerciality of their content will generally be happy to oblige.
Do you want to give one-off payments to multiple influencers or would you brand benefit from a longer-term relationship?
If you have influencers already well-engaged with your brand, you could follow in Sephora’s strategy to build long-lasting relationships. Establishing an influencer as a brand ambassador could generate much more brand awareness to a very particular audience. A formal and official relationship highlights not only a genuine interest in the products of the influencer, but also an appreciation that these products or services might be of interest to their followers too.
Although more costly to do, the benefits of an ambassador approach can be seen through companies like ASOS. Their insider team creates content that feeds their channel as well as driving interest from a wide range of people with different styles, body shapes and budgets.
So what’s next for influencer marketing? Forward-thinking companies like Adidas are adopting dark social. By building communities out of the public eye, they are fostering brand advocacy with future stars of football. Meanwhile, podcasts continue to grow in popularity with brands and social influencers jumping ship to be seen as content creators here too.