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16 August 2018

Trust in Influencer Marketing is Diminishing. Here’s How we can Rebuild it and Drive Success

Written by: Blaine Doherty, Influencer Strategist at Edelman

Digital Trends

Influencer marketing has had its ups and downs in 2018. The positives; Snapchat have moved to provide influencer analytics on their platform and Facebook appear to be working on influencer identification software. The negatives; marketing heavy hitters are massively concerned about influencer follower fraud and some people are fed up with repetitive influencer posts. The points being made are valid, but with influencer marketing spend set to rise in the next 12 months, how can we address these issues and work to create successful influencer strategies for brands?

How to Audit Influencers for Follower Fraud

The frustration around follower fraud is well founded. Let’s say I want to target people in the UK for an upcoming client campaign and I partner with an influencer, so far so great. Campaign goes well, and content is high quality, yet when we get to reporting, things start to go awry. Content that should have been served to a UK audience mainly saw engagement from a Turkish one. Incoming ROI nightmare and an angry client!

Keith Weed has also addressed this issue at Cannes and Unilever (client) are fully devoted to not working with any influencers who have fake followers. Influencer tools like Demographics Pro can help you identify potentially fraudulent followers. Look out for a large number of followers from a strange country or an influencer’s follower growth stats, if you see a huge spike in growth, it could indicate that the influencer purchased followers. If you don’t have access to influencer tools, then you can identify follower fraud manually on Instagram by looking at the influencer’s engagement rate compared to their following (anything under 1% is a HUGE red flag).

Research + Analytics = Good Creative

47% of consumers are fatigued with repetitive influencer posts and 23% believe the quality of influencer content is slipping. With this in mind, we need to be able think of ways to create unique pieces of content that cover key brand messages, are authentic and actually drive engagement. Notice that I wrote “are authentic” there, not “appear authentic”. Influencer content that pertains to be authentic but is, in reality, anything but is a bit like being catfished by someone you agree to meet up with on a dating app. Anybody who engages with it will instantly see through it, inevitably be disappointed and certainly won’t come back again.

This is no easy feat, but by studying influencers, the content they create and content their audience has engaged with online, we can start to devise concepts that will align with an influencer’s content style, connect to the audience’s interests and provide the influencers and their audiences with content that won’t be deemed repetitive or boring. For example, here is some PayPal influencer content we created that connected to a key moment in time for our target audience, summer music festivals, that authentically included key brand messages and that drove positive sentiment and engagement.

Analytics are an important part of influencer strategy. With the help of various tools, we’re able to understand more about influencers’ audiences, what outlets they engage with online, other influential accounts they follow and conversations they’re involved in online. This sort of information is gold dust and can help us identify a cultural truth to our audience that we can build our influencer content ideas around. Many people seem to focus on the relevance of the influencer, which is important, but they often neglect the relevance of the brand and content they wish to create for the audience that’ll view it. If we can address this in our creative concepts, then we lessen the risk of audiences deeming branded influencer content to be “repetitive” and can increase positive sentiment, drive engagement etc.

Paid Strategy

Somewhere, inside a hollowed-out mountain fortress with thunder and lightning in the background, social media platforms made the decision to limit the organic reach of brand channels. Ok, maybe I’m being dramatic here, but social media is INCREASINGLY becoming pay to play and has been going this way for quite a few years now. While there is no confirmation from social platforms to back this up, if  you look at the likes of Fun for Louis, we can see a serious reduction in his viewership over time. A video of his posted one month ago garnered 73k views, whereas a video posted over a year ago garnered almost 500K views. It doesn’t seem like his content quality has dipped or that he has alienated his followers, so something else must be at play.

This means that if we’re going to have an influencer create content, we should ensure their content is backed up with a solid paid strategy. Facebook’s tag business partner feature enables marketers to whitelist influencer content and put paid support behind it, which can help ensure we’re increasing reach among our target audience.

Influencer content can also be repurposed for brand channels, where we can put paid amplification behind them or incorporate the content into various social media ad formats to help drive reach and app downloads, sign ups or whatever the call to action for your campaign is.

Disclose Branded Partnerships

People lose trust when influencers don’t disclose sponsored content. This reflects badly on the influencer, you or your agency and the client. This is a trifecta of horribleness and not something you want to happen. Simply include #Ad above the line, not #Spon or any other version, or even use Facebook’s tag business partner I mentioned earlier. Moral of the story, disclose sponsored influencer content clearly so you don’t have audiences, influencers, clients and the ASA up in arms.

So, to help address the diminishing trust in influencer content we can do the following; Disclose branded partnerships, build a paid strategy around influencer content, repurpose for owned channels, audit influencers for follower fraud and research the influencer AND their audience to come up with ideas for good, authentic and engaging content.

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