It came to light a few months ago that influencers were being labelled a ‘risk’ in brand campaign strategies. One of the key parts to brand campaigns in recent times, influencers can often help a product sell out or see a surge in sales.
On the other hand, influencers can also be a disaster and cause all of the wrong attention and publicity for a brand.
Should we therefore stop investing in influencers? Should they no longer be the main focus for brand campaigns? And is it time to go back to the more traditional method of advertising – adding a celebrity face to a product?
Related post: Instagram #Ad Case Study: Listerine
When influencers go rogue
With social media comes the freedom of speech. Anyone, anywhere around the world, can log on to a social platform and post anything they like. Just look at a very recent ex-President of the United States as a prime example.
So, if anyone can speak out of turn on social media, it’s also very easy for influencers to do the same thing.
One example that always springs to mind is Hetty Douglas. A famous design influencer on Instagram, she took to her platform one day to post a picture of two builders in the queue for McDonalds and added ‘These guys look like they got 1 GCSE’.
As you can imagine, it didn’t take long before Hetty Douglas was #cancelled across social media and brand deals and partnerships started to disappear.
Related post: Cancel Culture Needs to be Cancelled
Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days
Just like us mere mortals, influencers are also very much, humans. And as humans do, they make mistakes.
Unfortunately for influencers, these mistakes are scaled 100x more severe than yours and mine as we aren’t in the view of millions of people. So how should these influencers be judged for their mistakes?
Should they be stripped of all brand partnerships? Should their brand ambassador status be taken from them? If the influencer’s values no longer align with that of the brand’s, then I would say yes.
What can sometimes be a one-off mistake for these influencers, can cause a lifetime of tarnish and social irrelevance.
People of the internet are very quick to judge. As soon as a thought appears in someone’s mind, it very often appears on Twitter two seconds later.
As well as being very quick to judge, people of the world are now very quick to cancel the careers of celebrities and influencers.
Cancel culture is very popular among the world of social media and it only takes something very small for influencers to quickly become #cancelled.
Are virtual influencers the alternative?
I’ve written about virtual influencers a few times before (and even went on the radio to talk about them <mindblown>) and have spoken about the little risk these CGI influencers pose compared to real-life social media stars of the moment.
However, virtual influencers are controlled by their creators. Everything they say, everything they post and everything they promote is chosen and pre-written by the mastermind behind the virtual celebrity.
Does this mean there are no risks associated with virtual influencers? Not 100%. Again, the creators of these virtual influencers are human. And like all humans, they can make mistakes and speak out of turn.
A caption they write for their influencer may sound good to them, but may not sit well with the virtual influencer’s followers. What then? Will this virtual influencer be #cancelled even though they aren’t actually real?
Related post: Where Did the Virtual Influencers Go?
How do we avoid the risk?
Brands need to vet influencers before going into partnerships with them. Google them, look at news articles and search their name on Twitter. As a brand, you need to see what people are saying about the influencer and how the world perceives them.
For example, there’s been some backlash recently as social media influencers have been breaking lockdown rules in England. And we won’t even mention those flying off to holiday in Dubai. These influencers facing a lot of negative press probably aren’t the ideal people to be promoting your brand right now.
But then when do these influencers become partnership-worthy again? With audiences of 200,000+, the reach potential is huge and sales could increase for your brand.
However, it is wise to consider the negative press these associations could bring to your brand. Negative brand perception could ensue and a backlash or boycotting of your brand could appear across social media and as with every other influencer, you are very quickly #cancelled.
Related post: Are Influencers Above the Law?
Where do we go from here?
For me, the most important thing about influencer marketing is trust. Users trust the influencer and in turn trust the brand that the influencer partners with and trusts the products they promote.
As a brand, if you trust the influencer that you want to work with, you trust that the influencer’s audience trusts them, then you should have a safe brand partnership.
Keep tabs on the influencers you want to work with. Watch what they post, watch how they speak to their followers and watch what they promote and how they promote.
Is there transparency with their followers? Are they honest about ads and payment? Do they have a good rapport with their followers? And are they suited to the product you want them to promote?
For me, influencers are worth the risk as the brand awareness and product sales potential is vast. However, serious vetting should always be conducted before partnerships are even considered. Know who you are working with before putting your brand reputation in their hands.