TL;DR: Influencer marketing had a rocky start to 2018. But bad press doesn’t mean you should abandon ship. Here are three takeaways from a recent string of negative influencer publicity to help you avoid making similar mistakes in your own programs.
Influencer marketing is no longer a trend. It's an industry. A recent report revealed that in 2017, more than 1.5 million posts used the “ad,” hashtag, a 198 percent increase year over year.
Just because everyone has hopped on the #Sponsored bandwagon, doesn’t mean everyone is doing it well. In fact, influencers have been making headlines in January with a slew of bad press.
These missteps shouldn’t scare you away from influencer marketing all together. Instead, here are three takeaways to avoid repeating these mistakes.
1. Choose influencers who share your brand values
Right after the new year, YouTube megastar Logan Paul shared a video with his more than 16.5 million subscribers detailing his journey into Japan’s infamous “Suicide Forest.” The video stirred controversy when Paul showed the body of a man apparently killed by suicide.
The video provoked immediate backlash not just against Paul but also YouTube for its poor response — the video remained live for 48 hours before removal and the platform issued a lackluster statement, void of any apology.
I’ve already written about how ethics in influencer marketing is going to be hot button topic this year. Logan Paul is just the tip of the ice berg.
So, what can we learn from this latest YouTube controversy? The responsibility of ethics in influencer marketing is a topic that warrants its entirely own conversation. But a small step you can take starting today is to partner with influencers who share your brand or company values. The best partnerships give influencers guidelines of what is on or off brand without hampering their creative expression. If an influencer balks against a contract, fights your brand guidelines or has a history of going off script, it’s time to part ways.
2. Candidate Vetting Requires More Time and Care
An email exchange between British YouTuber Elle Darby and a Dublin hotel, White Moose, went viral in January when the hotelier published a screenshot of the vlogger’s email, requesting a free hotel stay in exchange for social media “exposure.” In his response, the hotel owner ridiculed Darby, charging her with making an outlandish ask and admonishing her for lacking self-respect (that’s putting it all very mildly).
Was the hotel right in the way it — in some opinions — publicly shaming the influencer? No. But could the influencer have done better? Absolutely. And now the two are in a very public feud.
With any industry, the larger it grows the greater the disparity between experts, novices and hacks. The lesson here is that as your brand simultaneously grows, so will the number of candidates — good and bad — reaching out to you. Candidate vetting demands more time and care to identify real partnerships that will actually deliver on your marketing goals.
Influencers who approach you without the goods — media kit, case studies, client referrals — don’t deserve any time or attention. Just move on.
3. Demand More Data
If you missed the New York Times' "Fake Follower Factory," then you must have been on a well-regimented digital detox. The widely-shared article probed into the not-so black market for paid followers including companies that don’t just sell followers, but engagement (likes, retweets, mentions) as well.
How do you avoid getting duped by fake influence? Brands need to demand deeper insights from their influencers as well as do their own independent analysis.
At Sparkloft, we’ve developed a detailed rubric to measure multiple data points on a sliding scale of influence. Influencers with high follower counts but dismal engagement rates should be a red flag. We like partnering with influencers who — using platform insights and third-party tools — can give a detailed breakdown on reach, audience demographics and more.