I’ve been writing about the benefits of influencer marketing for a few months now, but with these potential benefits come some serious issues that all brands and retailers need to be aware of. As influencer marketing continues to gain steam in both the B2C and B2B communities, regulations from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are becoming stricter, and new tools/bots are creeping in to make it harder to trust advertised follower counts and “likes.”
Most recently, the FTC sent reminder letters to 90 or so influencers and marketers to ensure they are adding the correct disclosures within sponsored social media posts. Kamiu Lee, VP of Business Development & Finance at Bloglovin’, told Retail TouchPoints that if sponsored content is not properly disclosed by the influencer, it’s the brands and retailers that will have to face the storm.
“When [Bloglovin’] works with brands and influencers on a collaboration, we always brief brands on the latest requirements from the FTC, and how it may differ between mediums,” said Lee. “For example, on Instagram, #ad #advertisement is preferred, but #collab #partnership aren’t clear enough as a disclosure. It also shouldn’t be mixed in with a bunch of other hashtags, and should be above the ‘more’ button under the image.”
While social media may be the biggest target for regulators, there are also important considerations for other channels, such as the influencer’s own blog. “On blog posts, it should be disclosed at the beginning of the post, preferably right above or below the hero image, and not all the way at the end of the post,” said Lee.
If you’re a brand or retailer that’s looking to reap the benefits of influencers and comply with the FTC guidelines, Lee suggests marking the FTC guidelines in an influencer’s contract. Platforms like Bloglovin’ also make it easy, as they can insert correct hashtags via the platform.
Beware Of Bots
FTC guidelines aren’t the only things that influencers and marketers need to be aware of. Recently, WWD revealed that some influencers or bloggers use services that let them buy social media followers, and even “likes,” in the form of bots. For brands that are looking for influencers with a lot of followers and engagement, this can be a problem, since influencers with larger followings tend to charge correspondingly higher fees for partnerships.
The WWD article highlighted research from Fohr Card, which analyzed the quality of followers of 20 million Instagram accounts. They found that approximately 7.8% of the total followings were actually bots. Fohr Card offers “Influencer Follower Health Scores,” which helps companies realize how many real followers (versus fake bot followers that they may have purchased) an influencer really has.
It’s Not Just A Numbers Game
Bloglovin’s Lee noted that some brands prefer to look past the number of followers and focus more on aesthetic/brand affinity.
“We recently polled 100 marketers on what they consider to be the most important when it comes to picking influencers for a program, with quality/authenticity of content, size of audience and engagement as the top three factors,” she said. “We have found that in the last year, engagement and brand affinity have really come out to be important factors.”
Many brands are now working with micro-influencers, or influencers with small reach, according to Lee: “Placing much more importance on the aesthetic/brand affinity (i.e. Is this influencer a natural ‘spokesperson’ for your brand and creates content that jives well with your own brand ethos?) and engagement, versus just going after the top tier household names with mega reach,” she said.
I hope these insights are helpful when you’re working with influencers. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure your influencer marketing strategies follow necessary protocol.
Interested in learning more about how to kick off an influencer campaign? Check out this article I wrote about five ways to maximize influencer marketing impact.