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Do Trust and Clarity Still Exist in Influencer Marketing?

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“Platforms need to put in a lot more work because they know [influencer] fraud is happening but it’s not in their interest to stop it.” Adam Williams, Chief Executive Officer, Takumi

Fraud undermines one of the core strengths of influencer marketing as a whole — that brands can use it to tap into authentic, engaged audiences for the purposes of enhancing their campaigns. This battle is not new and continues to present friction in our industry. In fact, fake followers are predicted to cost advertisers $1.3 billion this year alone.

During a SMWLDN session hosted by Takumi, Adam Williams (Chief Executive Officer, Takumi) dug into this topic addressing key questions such as do trust and clarity still exist in influencer marketing?

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Companies Are Willing to Spend More on Influencer Marketing
  • Marketers Want Improved Ad Guidelines
  • Disclosure is Integral to Maintaining Audience Trust
  • Influencers Crave Creative Control
  • Brands Pick Up Inauthenticity
  • Influencer Fraud is a Real Problem

Companies are willing to spend more on influencer marketing

Williams notes that there’s been an $8.5 billion spend in influencer marketing this year and that companies are willing to spend more on it, so it’s important they’re investing their money wisely.

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“Trust is still high but it’s becoming more nuanced,” he says, “we [Takumi] did a survey involving 4,000 people across the UK, Germany and the US. We asked marketers, influencers and consumers about their thoughts on the influencer industry.

There’s still room for improvement with the ASA guidelines

Takumi found that 88 percent of marketers felt that the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) respective guidelines on labeling paid-for influencer content were clear, 56 percent felt that, although clear, needed more development and 19 percent flagged influencers not labeling posts correctly as a concern. Across all three territories, 62 percent of influencers have been pressured by brands to contravene the guidelines at least once.

Disclosure is significantly important when maintaining audience trust

At Takumi, #ad needs to be the first thing influencers mention in their post – 37% of UK consumers surveyed trusted influencers to clearly signpost paid partnerships using #ad or paid partnerships tag. “The industry seems to be self-regulating, as 67% of consumers said they’d unfollow an influencer if they discovered they’d incorrectly labeled posts,” says Williams.

”Without trust, the industry is nothing. Influencer marketing can build trust quicker. Especially with influencers who have specialist knowledge in certain topics. For example, beauty, health, fashion, fitness,” he concludes.

Influencers need and want creative control

The survey also found on a global scale that creative control is the influencers no.1 priority when working with a brand, although 36% of UK marketers feel that they should have it over the written captions and visual elements of an influencers post they’ve paid for.

Williams stresses, “in the US, 36% went up to 45%. The influencer understands their audience more than anyone else, so you have to allow them to take you brand and communicate it in the right way to their audience. If you have complete control, you’re going to reduce the creativity, cut through and awareness.” It’s important to get the influencer in, early on in the process.

The marketing rubix cube

Arjoon Bose, Marketing Head of New Ventures, Europe at General Mills recognises the importance of influencer marketing. “Starting up, we put influencer marketing at the heart of what we wanted to do so we put 30% of our budget on influencer marketing because we really believed in that stream,” he says. When it comes to influencer marketing itself, he calls it a rubix cube puzzle. “We have to solve a puzzle where you’ve got content, context and eventually commerce, and you’re going to have to juxtapose that with reach, resonance and relevance. Think of it as the three c’s and the three r’s coming together to help you solve that puzzle.”

Brands pick up inauthenticity

In makes no sense for Rahul Titus, Head of Influence at Ogilvy, to not give an influencer creative control. “The whole reason with working with an influencer is that you trust them to get to an audience better than the brand can do themselves. You’re not being authentic to them as an influencer. If you have a partnership that doesn’t work for the influencer and the brand, walk away. The biggest mistake you can do is be inauthentic, as the brand will pick it up.”

However, he reminds us that, by definition, influencing is not limited to Instagram. “It is magazines, TV, radio; everything. I can categorically tell you that when it comes to those channels, influencers may not have a point of view on that, but when it comes to their channels, they definitely will. That balance is where we need to end up and we’re not there. It’s not as smooth as where I want it to be right now.”

Fake followers are becoming easier to spot

Influencer Ellie Jansen (@petiteelliee) has never bought followers and denounces those who have. She takes work that is relevant and authentic to her brand and that she knows her audience will enjoy. She also mentions tools that can be used to determine whether an influencer has bought their followers, unfollowed and followed in bulk and pods, such as Social Blade and Brand Audit, though reminds that influencers are humans too and that you can just ask them to provide their metrics and insights.

Fraud should not be ignored

Fraud is an apparent overruling theme and whilst influencer marketing is suffering a dip and difficulty with its authenticity, it can and will get better if consumers, marketers, and influencers are educated properly. “I think the platforms need to put in a lot more work because they know fraud is happening but it’s not in their interest to stop it because it’s not going to drive revenue dollars. As an industry, brands who are spending money on the paid stuff need to start pushing the platforms to sort [out] some of this,” Williams offers.

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