Due Diligence in Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a whole new ball-game taking ad spend from traditional avenues by the bucket load, and putting pressure on marketers to deliver meaningful results from this medium. Don't get caught out by being 'impressed' or 'overwhelmed' by not looking into what it all really means.

BY NATASHA CORMIER – DIRECTOR OF PARTNERSHIPS, GRAVITAS INFLUENCERS

The growth of social media has given rise to influencer marketing, now one of the fastest growing categories in advertising and projected to be a $5-10 billion market by 2020*.
A larger percentage of the advertising dollar being invested into this component of the marketing mix naturally means greater pressure on marketers to deliver meaningful results from this medium. There is now an emphasis on conducting due diligence when planning your influencer campaigns, especially around your influencer selection, and in particular their followers.

This divides the professional influencers, the amateurs and the fakers. Some people will have genuine influence over an audience that will be worth paying for.

There are many pressure points in influencer marketing to focus on in 2018. Audience Verification and Legal Pitfalls are two of the biggest.

Influencers’ level of influence is largely dependent on how many followers they have, specifically relevant and engaged followers. But how many of those followers are actually your target audience, active users and human?

As more and more people attempt to establish themselves as influencers, it is becoming increasingly challenging for social media users to grow followers organically due to an abundance of content being created and ever-changing algorithms. It can be tempting to look at ways to artificially increase your numbers.

A MANUAL DISCIPLINE

There is, and will remain, a manual process in discovering more about your content creators.

1. Real Relationships

Have a deep level conversation with those influencers you are considering. Build a relationship with them, and from there ensure they understand the brief, what is expected of them and that they can deliver.

2. Follow Them

Follow them, read the kinds of comments they are getting and how they respond to ensure it’s not only POD or BOT engagement. Get a feel for tone of voice and whether that is right for your brand. There are so many nuances that can be picked up this way, nuances that you will not get any other way than manually.

3. Benchmarking From Past Work

Look at other sponsored content, case studies they have created and how it has performed and from this look at benchmarks to help manage your own expectations on the results you might expect from your campaign.

4. Audience Data

Basics like getting them to send screen shots of their audience data such as %AU audience % reach into your target audience from their platforms such as IG, Facebook and Google Analytics. For real due diligence you can now pull this from most online tools and platforms.

MANAGING FRAUD

Tackling fake followers head-on triggers preventative measures that will keep influencer marketing a valued channel for brands.

What are the implications where an influencer has misled an advertiser about their following? Particularly where this leads to the advertiser paying for the influencer’s services on the basis that they have a certain following and on the understanding that they would have a significant reach to consumers?

According to Stephen von Muenster, Partner at DVM Law, under section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), a person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive. And under section 29 of the ACL a person must not, in trade or commerce, in connection with the supply or possible supply of services or in connection with the promotion by any means of the supply or use of services, make a false or misleading representation that the services have sponsorship, approval, performance characteristics, accessories, uses or benefits that they do not have.

Influencers must therefore be aware that falsifying their followers, or maintaining
a dark past of ‘fake’ followers in order to represent to advertisers that they should be engaged to promote the brand, could see them fall foul of the Australian Consumer Law and breach sections 18 and 29. In some cases it may amount to fraud.

THIRD PARTY AUDIENCE VERIFICATION TOOLS

There are many to look into. Here are a couple worth considering:

FOHR Follower Verification

Free service for creators/influencers. As a brand you will need to ask the influencer to send this to you. The reports are super easy to read and understand.

In April 2017 Fohr launched Influencer Follower Health Scores to Identify Fake Followers and Prevent Fraud. Their goal in releasing Follower Health was never to put fakers on blast, but instead to celebrate those influencers who had denied themselves the temptation of easy (fake) growth and build authentic, real followings. Since then they have released Fohr Verified Followings.

On average, the Fohr influencer platform found that 7.8 percent of those followers are fake.

Each Fohr Card influencer grants permission to scan their account’s followers via an API. A Follower Health Score is determined by automated scanning of followers’ usernames, bios, activities on other social platforms, how recent their posts are, and the ratio of their own followers compared to the number of Instagram users they follow.

Each Instagram influencer is also given a score from 0 to 100, reflecting Fohr Card’s assessment of the quality of that influencer’s followers.

How much are influencers to blame for fake followers?

According to James Nord from Fohr, many influencers acquire fake followers without any effort on their part, because bots want to establish credibility by following a diverse group. But, he acknowledged, some influencers probably subscribe to bot farms to pump up their numbers.

Why aren’t other influencer platforms undertaking similar efforts?

Most are now and claim to have inbuilt systems to identify bots, but as Nord says, there’s a “look the other way” attitude in the influencer industry, since the bot influencer problem — if Fohr’s finding of 7.8 percent on Instagram is any indication — it has not yet reached crisis levels.

Hype Auditor

100% AI powered. Audience Quality Score (AQS) for Instagram allows advertisers to check influencers before they actually work together.

How it works: Audience Quality Score (AQS) 1 to 100 metric which consists of three components: Engagement Rate, Authentic Engagement, Followers Reachability.

Mass followers are accounts of shops or public pages who subscribe to an influencer to make them check the account and subscribe back. Mass followers don’t see the influencer’s posts.

Suspicious Accounts can be Instagram bots or people who use tools for Growth Hacking or exchanging likes, comments and subscriptions with other influencers via blogger communities.

Many platforms now offer a community of bot-free influencers to choose from however it is still worth doing your own work on anyone you plan to pay to create content for your brand to avoid issues or disappointing results.

LEGAL PITFALLS

There are quite a few legal drawbacks in influencer marketing. Australia is yet to
see lawsuits like there have been in the US and the UK.

Control over content, the need for disclosure, content ownership and balancing marketers’ needs against influencer independence are all pressure points right now.

There is currently a lawsuit involving Alo Yoga and Influencer Dana Falsetti in the U.S. The company recently sued body positive yoga influencer Dana Falsetti (@nolatrees). The resulting backlash has raised questions about influencer agreements and contracts.

Make sure you have a clear agreement in place before commencing the partnership.

Items worth including:

Disclosure – Hashtags such as #ad #spon #collab or Paid Partnership. Disclosing paid endorsement deals is critical to avoiding lawsuits and maintaining good relationships, but more importantly, transparency prevents consumers from feeling duped about a brand or product.

Content ownership – this is a murky area that needs discussion up-front so all parties are clear about how the content, once created, is going to run. Where, how and for how long is just the starting point.

Influencer’s behaviour – such as inaccurate brand messaging or rogue behaviour
that leads to major damage to a brand’s reputation. The agreement needs to be clear about expectations around this.

INFLUENCER MARKETING DUE DILIGENCE CHECK LIST

  • Audience verification via manual and third party online tools
  • Proven track records – check out past work, case studies, benchmarks
  • Real Relationships – talk to the creator about the job and make sure they understand what is expected
  • Quality briefing – the better the brief the less likely you’ll be disappointed by the results
  • Agreements/contracts – clear guidelines about the job, expectations, how you’ll be measuring success
*Adweek Jan 15, 2018 Influencer Marketing in 2018-Becoming an efficient marketplace.

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