Let’s talk about influencers. What do they do and who do they influence?
Influencers are often people on social media and the internet that amass a number of followers through promoting products, services and experiences that other people relate to and go on to purchase themselves.
Influencers usually have their own niche whether this is travel, fashion, books or gaming and more often than not, their followers will be interested and engaged in this specific niche.
When it comes to promoting products and brands, the follower trusts (that’s what influencing is all about – the trust between influencer and follower) that the influencer has used this product and is recommending it not for financial gain, but because they genuinely like and have experienced value from having the product themselves.
So when you see reality TV stars and minor celebrities promoting detox teas and meal replacement smoothies that they very clearly don’t use themselves, they can lose that trust with their following and receive a lot of backlash.
Related: Influencers and Their Influence
WHERE DOES ANGLIA RUSKIN UNIVERSITY COME INTO THIS?
Ok so now that we’ve covered the influencer basics, we’ll get into the latest faux-pass in the influencer marketing industry.
Firstly, let’s discuss university. Think about the following questions (or answer them in the comments, be my guest) about your own university choice:
- Why did you choose the university you attended or are currently attending?
- What factors influenced your decision?
- Did an influencer post or advert influence your decision?
- Was your decision based on real-life experiences and anecdotes?
- Or did you enrol to the university based on the word of someone that had never actually attended?
Anglia Ruskin University situated in East Anglia, has recently come under scrutiny for working with influencers to promote their university, even though those influencers have never attended the university or even visited the campus.
So think about this, would you decide to enrol to a university based on an Instagram advert by an influencer who had never actually attended said university?
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Related: Why I Chose to Study at LJMU
AUTHENTICITY IN INFLUENCER MARKETING
Everybody likes to complain about influencers don’t they? I mean, I do sometimes and I know some people can be quite jealous of the money Instagram stars are making, but we’ve all go to make a living and they can do it by creating content, so why bother them?
However, as someone working in influencer marketing, it does annoy to see partnerships fail or get a lot of media coverage for all the wrong reasons, quite like this campaign.
What we try to promote in influencer marketing is that there is authenticity in the advertising, after all, that was what influencer marketing stemmed from. It was someone that you followed online that you trusted like a friend or neighbour and purchased products based on their recommendations.
And so it grew, and grew, and grew and is now one of the biggest industries today.
Alas, it annoys to see a campaign that lacks authenticity and trust which then casts a negative light on the influencer marketing industry and influencers on the whole.
ARE THEY DOING IT FOR THE PAYCHECK?
Some of the influencers involved in this campaign (mostly all) didn’t make it very clear in their captions that they never attended Anglia Ruskin University, but spoke about the positives of entering higher education.
I can understand where some influencers may have viewed this as a positive thing, promoting education to their followers, but does this relate to promoting a degree in general or promoting a specific university; one that none of them had attended?
One influencer who posted a paid ad, told vice that it was merely a ‘business transaction,’ which for me, takes away the trust from everything else that this influencer promotes as it would make me question whether every paid partnership was just a ‘business transaction’.
It is extremely important what influencers agree to promote on their channels as one wrong partnership could damage their reputation and authority in an influencing space.
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Related: Can Influencing be Taught?
WHAT ANGLIA RUSKIN SHOULD HAVE DONE
Instead of finding influencers based around the world with no allegiance to their university, Anglia Ruskin could have researched their own alumni records and discovered past students with a significant following and asked them to work with them.
A significant following doesn’t have to be 100,000 followers as the university worked with influencers of 5,000+ followers for this campaign. We know the benefit of nano and micro influencers and it probably would have been very worthwhile for Anglia Ruskin to consider this route.
Researching their alumni records would probably take a lot of time and effort, but the results of this would surely have been worth it.
Working with past students of the university would have been authentic, it would have included personal anecdotes and stories that really happened and it would have created a better rapport with followers who would be considering attending ARU. How can an influencer that has never attended the university answer questions about that university?
FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES
I do have to commend the social media campaign in that it was executed correctly on the platform with all influencers declaring ads and paid partnerships in visible parts of their captions.
Although the captions weren’t too clear about the influencers actually attending the university, it was clear that these posts had been paid for by ARU.
Although, all of this backlash begs another question: Who is at fault here, the influencer or the organisation? And who should take the flack?