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Some unscrupulous influencers have faked their social media followings to give the appearance of being a legitimate marketing platform for third party brands, yet it’s all smoke and mirrors, warns Ashlee Froese of Froese Law.
Love them or hate them, influencers have become an integral part of many brands’ marketing campaigns.
The benefit of influencer marketing campaigns is that the influencer’s endorsement targets a specific on-brand demographic. Moreover, influencer endorsements can have the appearance of being more authentic: everyday people using everyday products in their everyday lives.
Influencer: friend or foe?
Influencer brand campaigns are almost the antithesis of the highly engineered celebrity campaigns that we are used to seeing in magazines and on TV commercials.
Brands partner with influencers in exchange for monetary compensation, free products or perks, such as free attendance to events as ‘press’. Rightly so, brands expect a return on investment, namely increased sales and/or exposure.
Many influencers have created professional, authentic and sophisticated marketing platforms that legitimately benefit third party brands.
However, there are also influencers who have faked their social media followings to give the appearance of being a legitimate marketing platform for third party brands, yet it’s all smoke and mirrors.
Once you become familiar with the various social media platforms, it’s easier to spot the pretend influencers. Take for example the Instagram ‘influencer’ with 24,000 followers who posts consistently, yet gets only between 100 to 200 likes per post, with only a handful of comments per post. The math between the number of followers and the followers’ engagement simply doesn’t add up.
There’s a good chance that the influencer has purchased the followers, who are not real, and may also have purchased the engagement. Any brand willing to invest in these fake influencers is almost guaranteed to see no return on investment.
What is Instagram’s position?
Social media platforms derive their revenue from brands’ marketing spend. Thus, in order for social media platforms to flourish, they need to ensure that brands buy into the platform.
Instagram, recognising that the mushrooming of fake influencer accounts devalued Instagram as a third party marketing platform, has taken steps to crack down on fake influencer accounts.
Specifically, Instagram shut down ‘botting’, whereby influencers subscribe with third party companies who create fake automated traction on the influencer’s Instagram account (ie, fake follows/unfollows, fake comments, fake likes, etc). With Instagram’s crack down on botting, the traction on some influencers’ accounts will significantly decrease.
If you are a brand that is launching a social media influencer campaign, do your due diligence.
Look at the number of followers of potential influencers; consider the ratio of followers vs comments vs likes. Look at the quality of the comments: do they make sense to the actual content posted? Or are they generic and irrelevant to the content? Use your common sense and consult with a brand strategist.
"Carefully design a social media influencer agreement and codify the terms, rights, obligations and expectations."
Carefully design a social media influencer agreement and codify the terms, rights, obligations and expectations.
You should also strategically create the termination provision for unmet performance milestones and be sure to structure contractual representations and warranties so that the influencer must produce an authentic influencer engagement.
If you are a legitimate influencer and have put in the work to become a sought-after marketing platform for brands, structure your business properly.
Make sure you protect your own IP.
When entering into influencer agreements, ensure you have the right type of protection that guards against non-payment and negotiate strong indemnification clauses that protect against third party IP infringement and/or non-compliance with governing legislation.
A word of warning for fake influencers: by padding your actual reach you are denigrating a flourishing industry and taking advantage of brand owners who are investing in you.
Ashlee Froese is a branding and fashion lawyer. She is the founder of Toronto-based boutique branding firm Froese Law. Her scope of practice includes trademarks, copyright, domain name, social media, marketing, advertising, packaging and labelling, licensing and commercial agreements. She can be contacted at: @froese_law
Ashlee Froese, Froese Law, social media, Instagram, influencer, marketing, branding, marketing campaign