Brands realized this at the dawn of the advertising industry when celebrities and athletes were first contracted to plug products during public events. Today, brands tap into the world of social media stars to have them promote their products to their more-online-than-off audiences.
The influencer game has become insanely lucrative. In fact, the top earners in the influencer world are making six figures -- it’s easy money. Even the median range social media influencers can pull the salary of a traditional job.
So it’s no surprise that a lot of people are trying to fake their way in. And more importantly, it’s no surprise that those same people by and large succeed. Right now, two concepts are at play in the brand-influencer relationship: all publicity is good publicity and there are no wrong ways to succeed at business. But when aspiring influencers fudge the numbers in an attempt to climb the ladder, businesses can easily become casualties of the quest.
It’s a real concern, and it’s getting worse. In fact, The Atlantic just published a piece on the rise of wannabe influencers who even go so far as to pretend they’ve already established corporate sponsorships to give the appearance of legitimacy.
Greg Forsythe, the Senior Director of Innovation and Brand Strategy at Deka Lash, has developed a keen eye for spotting influencers that seem too good to be true. He ignores numbers and looks instead at engagement activity to determine whether an influencer really is, well, influencing.
“If it’s consistent, it’s not just one hot post -- every time they put something up, [hundreds of] people like or share it, that person is an influencer,” he said.
And, contrary to popular belief, not all influencers are going to have burgeoning follower counts. A few bucks can artificially inflate follower counts to 5,000, 20,000, or even hundreds of thousands. “But it doesn’t always mean anything,” Greg said. “They could have 500 followers but a really loyal following, and that person is more valuable to you as a company.”
As he considers influencers for partnerships for Deka Lash, Greg keeps his mind open. He weighs all types of personalities and what that could bring to the Deka Lash vibe. “Mommy and Me blogs, maybe a collegiate student that’s very active, there’s a number of ways to build a following,” he said.
To be clear, avoiding partnerships with faux-influencers isn’t about the ethics or even the optics. Plain and simple, it’s about business strategy. A relationship with any influencer requires thought, time, energy and money. Those are four commodities that companies should never waste. When you devote those items to an influencer who doesn’t genuinely have the audience to attract new eyes to your product, it’s like plastering billboard ads inside an abandoned alley.
Separating fact from fiction is increasingly difficult in all aspects of social media (“fake news,” if you will), and when business becomes involved, the stakes are even higher.
“Referrals are still the #1 source of marketing -- word of mouth,” Greg said. “[Social media] is really our best way to solicit that. You can hand out coupons … but the new way of building that word of mouth, referral, is through influencers.”
Ensure that when you partner with an influencer, it’s a relationship that will mutually benefit both of you: Pay attention to their previous posts. Read the comments. Notice any negative or politically incorrect content. Steer clear of those accounts. If you diligently vet these influencers, you’ll feel better their involvement in your brand’s reputation.
To see how modern retailers use brand advocates to widen their client-base, watch episode three of our Business Impact Workshop with Dekalash.