One of the top challenges facing influencer marketing is one common across the entire arena of digital marketing: brand safety.
At this year’s Cannes Lions,
Unilever’s Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed warned that influencer marketing has an integrity issue. The proliferation of fake followers, aided and abetted by a lack of transparency and proper
measurement reporting, threatens to destabilize the entire industry.
Weed warned that the industry must take “urgent action now to rebuild trust before
it’s gone forever,” and he pledged that Unilever’s brands will never buy followers nor work with influencers who buy followers.
Any brand conducting influencer marketing programs should heed the call to ensure greater transparency and integrity.
The relationship between social media and influencer marketing is at a crossroads. To be clear, the challenge is not one of growth: According to a recent study by the Association of National Advertisers, 75% of brands use influencer marketing, and almost half are planning to increase budgets in the next year. However, in order for influencer marketing to continue to thrive, brands will need to improve their campaign strategies.
Brand safety is of paramount importance in the development of influencer marketing tools and in ongoing campaign monitoring and management. Campaigns – and the technologies that support them – should be designed to track telltale signs of suspicious activity such as sudden bursts in followers or suspicious letter replacements in profile names, such as the use of “1” to replace the letter “I.” More sophisticated algorithms can flag dramatic shifts in performance and unanticipated engagement patterns.
In addition to ensuring transparency and integrity, influencer marketing campaigns should focus on authentic engagement. Influencer marketing is inherently social; when implemented well it
can be an open (but directed) conversation that is amplified to the masses. This is why it is vital to focus on follower engagement.
While metrics like volume are of course important (e.g., follower count, posts per day/week, etc.), engagement may have the biggest impact on meeting or even exceeding KPIs. One of the highlights of influencer marketing is the opportunity for a brand to leverage an influencer’s unique voice. That unique voice has a big impact on the type of content an influencer can produce for brands — and it is that unique, authentic voice that ultimately drives consumer engagement with the branded content.
For brands, a trusted environment is one of the most effective places to engage consumers. Passionate
influencers who authentically weave branded stories into social platforms that consumers trust are the ones who deliver powerful results.
Whether it is a story told through
a blog post, video, a picture, or any combination of these, working with influencers can bring brands and products to life with engaging, custom content delivered to the right audience —
amplified through the channels that has the potential to make the greatest impact.
But to help ensure that this marriage between influencer marketing and social not only survives, but thrives, it is up to everyone in the industry to work to ensure that engagements remain authentic, honest, transparent, and measurable.