Today’s digital marketing environment is one that has seen influencers pave the way for brands to make money through the appeal of mass social media followings. With influencer marketing becoming a major part of brand sales and growth, the digital space has also seen the rise of bad practices by influencers who take advantage of the new digital landscape by purchasing fake followers.
This means that many brands are building business relationships with influencers who are not actually creating authentic relationships with their followers.
Fortunately, there are companies out there who are aware of the bad practices going on in the digital landscape, and they are determined to combat them. Four such examples are Unilever, Samsung, eBay, and Diageo, who are committed to creating meaningful and positive experiences for the people buying their products. This includes being transparent about who they partner with while refusing to partner with influencers who participate in bad practices and fraudulent activity such as purchasing followers.
All three companies have publicly made a commitment to combat influencers who purchase fake followers, promising to work with partners who give consumers a voice.
"At Unilever, we believe influencers are an important way to reach consumers and grow our brands. Their power comes from a deep, authentic and direct connection with people, but certain practices like buying followers can easily undermine these relationships,” Keith Weed, chief marketing officer at Unilever, said at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
eBay, Samsung, and Diageo reflected this sentiment during a panel session at the festival.
"What I want to do is give our sellers a voice, rather than influencers who have a following and are willing to write a post. It should be from people who are authentic and genuine. I am going to try and shift our influencer spend to that class of influencers, they are specific to eBay and authentic and their stories will be helpful to buyers,” said vice-president and chief marketing officer of eBay EMEA, Godert van Dedem.
Chief marketing officer of Samsung Electronics America, Marc Mathieu, stated at the panel that Samsung wants to tell a story about creators. Diageo also has a unique approach, which is to focus on influencers — but only selectively.
Influencer marketing is changing. It’s no longer about signing the biggest influencers and using them to sell or endorse a product. Influencer marketing is shifting towards a focus that builds relationships with consumers by working with influencers who truly care about a brand and its customers. It’s about partnering with influencers who share common interests that resonate with people on a deeper level than just purchasing a product.
Brands are now determined to work with influencers who are authentic and have an engaging audience. This means working with influencers who have an audience that actually engages. Influencers who purchase followers just to increase their following don’t have this type of engagement — and it’s obvious.
Consumers and brands alike are starting to be able to tell the difference between authentic influencers and influencers who are in it for the money. This is why many brands are now partnering with influencers who have authentic reach while distancing themselves from influencers who participate in fraudulent activities to gain followers.
It has been reported that 48 million of all active Twitter accounts (a whopping 15%) are automated accounts designed to look like real people. Facebook has also reported that there are roughly 60 million fake accounts, while in 2015 Instagram disclosed that the platform had up to 24 million fake bot accounts. These numbers are pretty staggering.
With the rising number of bot accounts appearing on various social media platforms, it is becoming more and more important for brands to rethink their influencer marketing strategies by starting to develop meaningful connections with consumers.
Edward Kitchingman, author of Influencer Marketing, a Journey, suggests changing the way brands partner with their influencers. Kitchingman states that brands should start off by disregarding the size of an influencer’s following, instead looking at the community itself and the engagement it produces. He also suggests focusing on how an influencer can creatively contribute to a brand while focusing on long-term growth and relationships.
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Florind Metalla is the Director of Relations at Social Pulse Marketing Inc., a leading influencer marketing agency. He specializes in developing strategic online marketing campaigns that help companies grow through effective online marketing strategies, improved sales performance, and overall customer experience.