Influencer marketing is transforming online platforms more than ever before. The 2019 consumer has gone completely digital and the best way to reach them is through influencer marketing. Consumers are interacting with social mediums such as blogs and Instagram profiles before purchasing an item, with good reason why. As stated in a study by Collective Bias, 60% of in-store shoppers are influenced by social media and blog posts. Also, 70% of millennial consumers make purchasing decisions based on recommendations from peers. As companies and brands begin their explorations into the world of influencer marketing, it is important to note the entirety of this branch of marketing and how it works.
What is Influencer Marketing?
To understand this type of marketing, we must first explore the term “influencer.” An influencer in the practical sense is anyone who has the power to influence the perceptions of other people. Having this strong connection to other people gives an influencer the power to change the way people do things. They ultimately have the capability to encourage their followers/viewers to buy from a certain brand or business. Businesses have taken notice of this booming trend and have altered their marketing strategies to include influencers.
When it comes to influencer blogging, it is important to note the rules and ethics that lie behind its glitzy façade. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) controls the rules and regulations behind advertising in the marketplace. Its sole purpose is to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices.
When it comes to advertising on social media, the FTC is only concerned about endorsements that are made on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser. The FTC requires an influencer to disclose on endorsement relationships with a business whenever there is a “material connection” that exists. A material connection includes being paid by a company, receiving a gift, or even having a relationship with the business.
The ethical component of influencer marketing comes down to one word: transparency. It is imperative to make sure your followers/viewers are aware when you have been given something of value or paid for a certain advertisement. To recommend and promote a product or service that you have been accommodated for without saying so doesn’t just go against FTC’s guideline’s, but it also discredits you as an influencer. Even though the crackdown on social media by the FTC seems rather harsh, it is benefiting the digital world by diminishing dishonest marketing.
Challenging the Rules and Ethics in Real Life
When considering the rules and ethics behind influencer marketing, the infamous disaster of the Fyre Festival comes to mind. In 2017, the catastrophic failure of the fraudulent music festival caused many to begin questioning the legitimacy of influencer marketing. Billy McFarland, the optimistic 27-year-old founder of the event, promised a VIP experience on the island of Great Exuma in the Bahamas. But what did people actually receive from this promising festival?
While guests were promised a luxurious VIP experience promoted by supermodels, they instead received a hellish reality. Festivalgoers arrived on the island, only to immediately realize their dream experience had become a nightmare. A majority of the music performers pulled out before the festival even began due to contracts and payments not being upheld. The luxurious sleeping villas that were promised as accommodation were actually rescue tents. Lastly, the top-notch catering services were replaced with cheese sandwiches.
The dishonest marketing of the Fyre Festival gained major attention from a worldwide audience. Billy McFarland is now facing 6 years in prison due to mass fraud of his investors and ticket buyers. The unethical influencer marketing strategies the Fyre Festival presented to the public will forever be known in history as one of the most disastrous social events in the 21st century.
With the fraud committed by the Fyre Festival in mind, it is important to understand the ethics and rules behind influencer marketing. Influencers can take this example into account by first knowing their rights as a social media marketer, and then understanding how to ethically administrate their influence to their audience. Influencers should promote to their audience in an ethical way because it makes them more relatable and authentic, which in return boosts engagement.
It is important for an account to promote products and services that they would actually use themselves. It is easy for an influencer’s audience to see past the misleading façade they fabricate on their social media platforms. This causes an influencer’s following to lose trust in what they have to say- thus making their words and posts insignificant. The bloggers and social media gurus who use their knowledge and following in a positive and ethical manner have a more supportive and loyal following than those who don’t. If you plan on entering this type of marketing, be sure to know how to ethically relate to your audience and promote with purpose.
A way influencers can manage the way their posts relate to their audience is through the help of a public relations firm. At Fletcher Marketing and PR, we specialize in influencing consumer behavior and developing relevant and beneficial work for our clients. Visit our website or call 865.249.8371 for more information!