Celebrity endorsements have existed since at least the 1760s, when artisans would boast of royal approval of their goods and services. But social media influencers as we know them today have only been around as long as the platforms they operate on have existed – which is to say, not very long.
Because of the relative youth of the industry, and because of the rate of growth and change within these disruptive companies, the path to successful influencer marketing has been marred by many a poor example.
What’s so wrong with native marketing?
For the last few years at least, brands prioritised a form of ‘native’ marketing, stressing at all costs the need for any brand-influencer partnership to appear natural. This had good intentions. Working with influencers who truly believed in your product’s worth made for brilliant campaigns. Think of the long-standing positive effects of the strong association between Michael Jordan and Nike. That said, this way of thinking led to increased pressure on influencers to hide any evidence of the brand’s direct involvement.
What followed was a cat and mouse game with brands and influencers on one side, and viewers and regulatory bodies on the other. When (not if) a so-called ‘native’ post is caught out for, or suspected of willful neglect of consumer protection measures, repercussion from the the law -as well as the influencer’s audience- is swift. There’s no campaign result worse than having thousands upon thousands of ‘eye-rolling’ emojis under a paid post, except perhaps a whopping fine.
Your customers are intelligent. Treat them as such.
If your influencer strategy has so far been your attempts to one-up your prospective clients, you will not thrive under the scrutiny of a public adept at spotting the telltale signs of a sponsored endorsement. Indeed, awareness around false advertising is so commonplace that influencers who are genuinely interested in a product are often quoted as saying ‘I’m not sponsored, I just love this brand.’ They know their viewers have closely associated hyperbolic gushing with paid, undisclosed brand partnerships. Need we say more?
The solution is to treat customers as they are – smart people who have a need or want that is met by something you sell. Regulations exist for a reason. They are there to protect consumers from falsehoods around results and expectations. Your worth as a brand should not be reflected in how well you get around these regulations, but how you use them to your advantage to show off the superiority of your work. There’s more than enough room to make a lasting good impression within the confines of legality.
And when it’s done well, people don’t mind the punts. For an example, look at Youtube rising star, Logan Paul. Peppered throughout his popular channel are frequent mentions of his merchandise. Paul’s viewers don’t leave or comment negatively as a result, because 1) they understand that merchandising is a necessary component to funding content they love to watch, and 2) at no point do they feel tricked into parting with their money. Paul has achieved this seemingly-precarious balance through one part charm, one part disclosure. Think about how you can incorporate that formula into your business, and your influencer marketing campaigns can be both successful and risk-free.
Aléz Odendaal writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which helps career starters find everything from project management roles to marketing internships. Check out their listing for both graduate jobs London and graduate jobs Manchester.