With the digital marketing world constantly evolving, influencer marketing is a consistently effective approach to securing attention for a brand. Influencer marketing is when a business collaborates with an impactful person on social media to promote a product, service or campaign. These individuals, also known as social media influencers, generally have established a large and engaged following.
It is no surprise that influencer marketing relies most heavily on Instagram. In 2018, Instagram announced the number of users worldwide reached 1 billion. In 2017, there were 12.9 million brand-sponsored influencer posts on Instagram.
A study gauging American agency and brand marketers’ attitudes toward influencer marketing showed 89 percent believe influencer marketing can positively impact how the public feels about a brand.
Is influencer marketing the key to brand success? Possibly, but companies should proceed with caution. Influencer fraud occurs when influencers utilize fake followers, which can result in inauthentic marketing. An article on Digiday reported a single day’s worth of posts tagged #sponsored or #ad on Instagram contained over 50 percent fake engagements.
Snapchat recently partnered with Luka Sabbat, an Instagram star, to promote Snapchat’s Spectacles glasses. Spectacles are sunglasses with cameras on the lenses that allow users to directly post what they are currently seeing. Snapchat sued Sabbat for failing to fulfill the agreement of their partnership.
According to NY Post, “[Sabatt] only posted one Instagram feed post and one Story about Spectacles, which weren’t submitted to the firm beforehand for review.”
To avoid situations like this, a brand that is considering investing in influencer marketing should analyze several aspects of an influencer’s social media presence before committing to a partnership:
Is there an immediate increase in followers?
Fake followers, or Instagram bots, are available for purchase. Social media influencers’ salaries often rely heavily on the number of followers their accounts have. In theory, the more followers an individual has, the farther their content reaches. Keep an eye on the fluctuation of followers before partnering to ensure an influencer is not gaining fake followers in hopes of an increased salary.
Does the engagement align with the number of followers?
Compare the number of likes and comments on posts to the number of followers. If the following is large and the engagement levels are low, that is a red flag. Although the number of followers is important for determining reach, the number of followers should not be the primary deciding factor of an influencer’s worth. Utilize engagement levels to best gauge the impact and effectiveness of an influencer on the account’s audience.
Are the comments related to the posts?
Generic comments that appear spammy or ingenuine often suggest the use of fake followers. Comments that are associated with the promotional post illustrate effective outreach.
Influencer fraud is on the radar of companies but it does not discourage them from investing in influencer marketing. An article on Marketing Week reported that 65 percent of brands plan to increase spending on influencer marketing.
The process of partnering with an influencer requires extreme caution. Trust should be held at utmost importance between businesses and customers. Ensure you are partnering with a reliable and trustworthy influencer before committing, and pursue influencers who genuinely love your brand. Followers sense an authentic promotion of a brand versus a paid one. Research the influencer, examine their social media accounts and develop a thorough agreement with the influencer. After all, they will be a huge representation of your brand.
The influencer-marketing trend is popular for a valid reason. It is an effective way to reach audiences and grow a brand by using social media accounts that users willingly follow. To that end, never sacrifice your customers’ trust in the pursuit of awareness. Most importantly, always stay true to your brand.
Elizabeth Summers is a senior majoring in public relations and minoring in general business at The University of Alabama. She is an editorial writer for Platform Magazine, an online student-run publication at UA that is sponsored by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. She plans to attend graduate school to obtain a masters in marketing, specializing in digital and social media. Check out Elizabeth’s website here.