Influencer marketing – that is, YouTube stars and Instagram heavyweights promoting products to their legions of followers – has been firmly adopted by a wealth of brands.
It is a useful tool to help shape the perception of their brand, enhance their digital presence, and drive business outcomes.
But the media has recently honed in on the issue of dishonesty within the industry, reporting on incidents where online influencers have failed to clearly inform followers that they are being paid to promote a product.
This has dissuaded some consumers from being truly engaged with brand-sponsored content. Some have even grown mistrustful of the content they are shown.
However, this can be remedied. Brands must ensure that they are building reputable, reliable relationships – not just between themselves and influencers, but also with their target consumers.
First, brands need to be sincere with their consumers.
Digital users are very conscious of paid promotions, and brands should use every opportunity available to them to build a transparent relationship with their audience, as increasing media scrutiny has unearthed the extravagant price tags involved in various paid partnerships.
The reputation of some influencers has been brought into doubt because they failed to announce that they were, in fact, paid handsomely to feature a product in one of their Instagram posts.
Many influencers already label their sponsored posts as such, and evidence shows that having a brand partnership does not negatively impact an influencer. In fact, sponsored content often achieves a higher engagement rate than the rest of an influencer’s online activity.
Second, when it comes to creating authentic collaborations, relevance is essential. A slew of misplaced ads or confusing influencer partnerships peppering social media feeds will leave consumers feeling frustrated, and inevitably lead them to believe that the content they are shown is not relevant to them.
Brands need to ensure that their influencer marketing investment will elevate brand awareness, and this means actively sourcing the right individuals to partner with. Taking the time to discover the right advocates to complement a brand’s image will result in authentic, high-quality campaigns. This is ultimately what will create the strongest impact in business.
Unsurprisingly, some influencer partnerships have failed to comply with basic Advertising Standards, and the press has highlighted the issues of transparency. This has caused some brands to shy away from potentially excellent partnership opportunities.
But it is vital that this sector starts working together to promote transparency across the entire advertising industry.
Brands and influencers alike must disclose the practices behind sponsored content – by labelling posts, indicating influencer-led campaigns, and working on tailoring content to the right consumers.
This is how brands can start to forge honest, reliable, and efficient relationships with their audience.