Monday, 17 October 2016

Honesty, Disclosure and The Future of Influencer Marketing

Who like getting free stuff?

Answer? Everyone. There are so many companies out there right now that I speak to every single day looking to gift people with more than a thousand Instagram followers, or more than 3,000 monthly page views on their blog. It’s fun right? But do you actually trust the majority of the reviews you are reading? I want to talk about a taboo subject here in my little space today – Are We Being Honest?

Here’s the process. A brand emails you and they say, oh hey, we like your internet shizzle, we want to send you some products and we’d love to see a review of them on your blog! So you pass over your address and you receive the package and much excitement! Say, you have the whole of a cosmetic brand's new collection in your hand. So, you start using the products and then you take some photos and you post up a hopefully well-written ‘review’ in which you ensure you fulfil the brands expectations by including a call-to-action such as pointing your readers towards an online retail space where they can make a purchase. Then the products are yours and everyone moves happily on with their day – the company is happy because of your lovely comments about them and the content you have created and you are happy because your drawers are brimming with products you wouldn’t have the budget for.

So, what happens if it’s a really awesome brand that loves working with Influencers (yes, that’s you!) and you usually love their stuff, but on this occasion you aren’t that thrilled with the product they have sent you and you actually feel that if you were completely honest, your review wouldn’t be as positive? I mean, you won’t do that, because they won’t send you products again, right?

This is the issue. In order for Influencer marketing to develop as an industry, there need to be standards in place. We are all familiar with recent high-profile cases in the US that have led to people getting into trouble for not disclosing that they are being paid to advertise a brand – by posting a positive review.

Guys, know this. It’s not a review if you are only able to give a positive opinion. A ‘review’ is a rundown of the pros and cons and your experiences whether good or bad with a product. If you have been told what angle to take – you are creating advertising content. It’s not a review.

I’m worried that bloggers and Influencers are starting to lose their authenticity because they don’t want to be seen to be sharing negative comments about a brand that has paid them – because the brand might not come back with more free product or payments – and why would they? With a million identikit beauty bloggers out there, brands have their pick of the bunch right now and if someone is posting to their audience that their eyeshadows aren’t as pigmented as a competitor, they’ve essentially paid out for bad press – with 74% of consumers using social media to make purchasing decisions, a negative comment about pigmentation can mean a difference of a lot of money for a popular cosmetic brand.

What’s the answer? I mean, brands want to send product out to bloggers and bloggers want to receive it, in the majority I don’t actually think many bloggers care if they are being 100% authentic as long as the packages keep rolling in and their audience is reacting and engaging with them. As far as anyone is concerned at the moment this could be a relatively short-term bubble anyhoo – and by the time it bursts most people just want to achieve collaborations with brands that they love and possibly have a few more pennies in their bank accounts - There’s no loyalty from the Influencers either; I’ve seen three separate detox tea adverts on the same Insta feed this week – if there’s money offered, people are going to take it, however much talking they do about only working with brands that are cohesive to their aesthetic, if a brand flashes enough cash, product or free trips to Bali, they can usually get the Influencer they want on board, and if not, there are a million waiting in the wings.

 Personally, I don’t think this is a problem with Bloggers and Influencers – it’s a brand issue. I’m finding that brands are becoming increasingly complacent about the laws surrounding disclosure – possibly because we haven’t had any high profile bloggers in the UK getting into trouble for non-disclosure; but it will happen. Brands aren’t shy about asking directly for positive reviews. They aren’t checking if disclosure is happening and they aren’t worried about reaching out to multiple Influencers to get the coverage they want. Read more about disclosure and the law here.

In order for the Influencer industry to survive, brands and marketers need to understand that the true value of reviewing a product comes from honesty.  I want to push this agenda in my job at a major Influencer agency and in my personal blogging life, because as soon as the buying audience of Instagram and the blogosphere start to feel like they are only getting one side, the positive side, of a product story, you lose the thing that's valuable in the first place - the ability in influence purchasing decisions.

I'd love your thoughts & experiences in the comments :)

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