By: Amelia Groothuis
Influencer marketing is a powerful tool that brands use to reach their target audience. By partnering with social media influencers, companies can engage with their followers and create a unique connection with their target market. However, there are responsibilities that come with influencer marketing, and mistakes can be made if these responsibilities are not taken seriously.
One of the biggest responsibilities of influencer marketing is transparency. Influencers must be transparent with their followers about their partnerships with brands. This means they should disclose when they are being paid to promote a product or service. This is not only ethical but it is also required by law in many countries. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States requires influencers to disclose their partnerships with brands, and failure to do so can result in fines. “If you endorse a product through social media, your endorsement message should make it obvious when you have a relationship (“material connection”) with the brand. A “material connection” to the brand includes a personal, family, or employment relationship or a financial relationship – such as the brand paying you or giving you free or discounted products or services…As an influencer, it’s your responsibility to make these disclosures, to be familiar with the Endorsement Guides, and to comply with laws against deceptive ads. Don’t rely on others to do it for you.” This makes for the best communication all around for brands, customers, and influencers, as it’s best to be as clear as possible when doing paid endorsements.
Authenticity is an additional responsibility of influencer marketing. Influencers should only support goods and services in which they firmly believe. They run the danger of losing the confidence of their followers if they promote something they don’t genuinely enjoy or use. Additionally, this can hurt the reputation of the brand they are advertising. The reputation of the company could be jeopardized if the influencer’s followers learn that they don’t genuinely enjoy the product. Making clear standards is yet another error. Influencers should get clear instructions from brands on what they are expected to promote, how they are expected to do so, and the ultimate objective. The influencer could not provide what they were looking for if they don’t set clear expectations, which can lead to a campaign’s failure.
“Authenticity is essential in influencer marketing. People listen to influencers who are honest and relatable. In addition to the moral problems I mentioned above, brands and influencers must also follow FTC rules, community guidelines and terms of service on social media platforms.”(Forbes)
In addition to these obligations, influencer marketing also carries the risk of errors. Not conducting enough research on the influencer is one of the worst errors. Brands should ensure the influencer they are working with shares their values and appeals to their target audience. They should confirm that the influencer’s followers are real and look into the influencer’s engagement rates. They run the danger of misusing their marketing investment if they collaborate with an influencer who has fake followers or low interaction rates. Not assessing the campaign’s success is another error. To determine whether their influencer marketing initiatives are successful and meeting their objectives, brands should monitor the results. This involves keeping tabs on sales, online traffic, and engagement rates. They won’t know whether they are receiving a return on their investment if they don’t evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts.
An example of an influencer not following the FTC guidelines is Kylie Jenner. As talked about in the article Truth in Advertising, how Kylie Jenner promoted Vlada Haggerty and didn’t make clear whether it was an ad a shoutout a paid promotion, or what it was, you’ll see her exact Instagram post which the caption is only a sentence long. She’s telling her followers to check out their makeup but is not communicating what the goal of this picture is whatsoever. This endorsement by Kylie broke the FTC guidelines, linked here. She is misleading her followers about the relationship she has with this brand as well, she’s directing her followers in a certain direction but with no explanation for anything.
In another Instagram post, Kylie Jenner then posts the picture you see below, and this made Haggerty upset because it’s very similar to her work and social media posts, which is now violating other guidelines since this is not Kylie’s work. Their connection to each other wasn’t disclosed and these two companies aren’t usual collaborators, even so, Kylie did not give credit where it was due and this made Haggerty upset. “Haggerty objected to Jenner’s Instagram for the Kylie Cosmetics holiday collection that had featured the gold hands saying it was too similar to Haggerty’s work. She had previously called Jenner out for another Instagram depicting cosmetics images that touched on similar themes as her own. Haggerty reportedly turned to legal counsel and threatened to sue for copyright infringement.” After breaking the FTC guidelines, now Jenner is being accused of copyright infringement which is a whole other way of her not being ethical on social media and her business. After this dispute, Kylie had finally given credit where it was due, and the issue was resolved between the two companies.
These ethical responsibilities can tend to be forgotten, even by major celebrities who are navigating the influencer world. The FTC does a great job of outlining the rules and regulations to ethically be able to abide by what is right to do when influencers have the opportunity to do endorsements with brands. In conclusion, influencers need to make sure that they are brushed up on these guidelines so as to not face punishments and or break relationships with brands and followers due to a mistake.