How to Make Use of Social Media Influencers (And The Risks of Using Them)
Influencers are all over the internet, and nowhere are they more powerful than on social media platforms and YouTube. Three digital influencers have been featured on the latest Forbes 30 Under 30: Cameron Dallas, James Charles, Kylie Jenner, and the power of digital influencers will only grow as the next generation comes into their own as a buyer market.
Social media advertising meanwhile has become more interesting, and more diverse, in recent years. Everything from clear paid ads to sponsored content abound, with their importance and usage well documented. But what about influencers?
Social media influencers exist in a somewhat grey area of advertising. How you can use them to market your product, and the risks involved in using them at all, are much less clear cut. Here’s what you need to know about their influence and platform limitations.
Influencers can buoy a market
Social media itself is a powerful tool for both online and offline purchases; with Facebook influencing 52% of customers online. Combined with the immense online clout of social media influencers, they therefore offer tremendous potential for those looking for maximum engagement and brand awareness online.
As a result of their increasing social media power, influencers have the ability to buoy a market through their large, dedicated and interested audience. One of the clearest indications of this is with the rising popularity of cosmetic products like diet teas and procedures like lip fillers. This is best demonstrated by 2017’s Forbes 30 Under 30’s inclusion of Kylie Jenner, who is perhaps most well known for 2015’s lip challenge fad, where fans tried to recreate her infamous pout.
But her enlarged lips aren’t the result of natural genes, with Jenner openly admitting to using lip fillers in 2015. The trend caught on globally, and quickly: WhatClinic, a WebMD site for cosmetic clinics, reports that enquiries to their London lip filler clinics rose 35% from 2015 to 2016. Data like this shows how much of a direct correlation there can be between influencers and audience behaviour.
Transparency in sponsorship is key
For those looking to work with social media influencers on a smaller scale, there is one clear rule: make sure your sponsorship is transparent.
Audiences are particularly trusting of their favourite social media stars and YouTubers. However, this new breed of celebrity isn’t above scrutiny from fans. This should be one of the main considerations for those looking at social media influencer advertising: you need to be selling something your audience may actually want or use.
Secondly, and crucially for brands, the ISBA (“Voice of British Advertisers”), has made influencer marketing one of their key areas of concern. Social media platforms all have differing rules on when ads have to be made clear and how, however there is no clear line for vloggers and social media influencers. To protect the consumer, ISBA created a template contract for working with these individuals.
But being transparent doesn’t have to mean shouting “THIS IS AN AD” in big letters, or limiting the social media influencers’ own style; they know their audience, and how they will respond best.
Audible is a case in point of how it can work well. They advertise with a huge number of influencers, but allow them to customise their promotional mentions, like YouTuber and author Mamrie Hart who raps her recommendations. Paired with more traditional ad reads on podcasts and social channels, like Tyler Oakley’s promotional tweet to his 5.71million followers, brands can be showcased in the most accessible way.
What are the rules, by platform for influencer content?
Ad rules vary with the possibility for background sponsorship between brands and influencers allowing for posts to go live unmarked. But here are the key rules across the main platforms:
Facebook – Facebook’s Ads policies state that “branded content must tag the featured third-party product, brand or sponsor.” They insist that whether you are using content integrations or product placements, the user needs to know it’s an ad.
Instagram – Instagram’s own policies are limited, but share many of the same rules as Facebook (who bought the photo sharing platform in 2012). While many users have taken to using the hashtag #ad or #spon to mark paid content, this is not a hard and fast rule from Instagram.
Twitter – Similarly, Twitter influencers are using #sponsored or #advert to mark their content as paid for. But there are no rules within Twitter support which relate directly to influencers.
The advantage for brands is that there are very few rules for working with social media influencers at the moment, but with the uptake in this kind of advertising partnership, combined with their growth in power, we will almost certainly see new, more formalised policy changes soon.
Featured image: Cara Van Broklin