BY:RIP BEYMAN AND MATTHEW C. LEFFERTS
As social marketing platforms have expanded, so has the influence of individuals who, with a knack for creating engaging and organic content, have developed large followings.
Brands want to maximize the return on their advertising investment and many have discovered the intrinsic value of the endorsement of these influencers who can reach a desired target audience.
The allocation of advertising money to influencer marketing speaks for itself. From less than $2 billion reportedly spent in 2016 to a level which was anticipated to approach $10 billion in 2020. The emphasis on physical social distancing brought on by the Covid 19 pandemic is expected to enhance the use of social media platforms and accelerate this trend.
Here are five key elements for brands to consider when turning to an influencer as a paid product endorser.
Having a strong social media following may show numerical success but it does not mean that the influencer is the right fit as an endorser for the brand.
In addition to the marketing consideration of whether the influencer reaches the right audience, a brand needs to do its due diligence to ensure alignment with its reputation and goodwill. Apart from reviewing the influencer’s prior posting history and social media presence, a more thorough background check is often advisable.
The brand must ensure that that the influencer adheres to Federal Trade Commission guidelines for endorsement. Prohibitions against deceptive advertising require that an influencer endorsement be truthful and disclose a “material connection to the brand.” This can be done in a variety of ways depending on the nature of the endorsement and the platform being used, but the disclosure needs to be clear and hard to miss.
In addition to FTC compliance, the brand should consider its own social media guidelines such as avoiding salacious, derogatory or overtly political content. This is particularly important when the influencer will have leeway to create their own content to post on behalf of the brand. While this takes advantage of the influencer’s natural storytelling, it creates risk which guidelines and consultation can help ameliorate. The brand should ensure that the influencer agrees to its guidelines across the whole of the influencer’s social media presence during the campaign.
The brand will want some degree of exclusivity. The exclusivity should be in the appropriate category of goods or services and it should include a window both before and after the campaign that the brand is executing. To maximize the impact of social media posts on behalf of the brand, contractual exclusivity can also include a quiet period surrounding individual posts for the campaign so that there are no other posts from the influencer on the same platforms or perhaps across all of the influencer’s social media accounts.
The brand should have the right to repost what the influencer provides across its own social media and in other marketing.
In addition, so called “whitelisting” allows brands to run paid ads in proximity to the influencer’s posts in order to expand their reach. This may require permission from the influencer for the platform involved and the brand should specifically negotiate for this right to maximize the impact of the paid endorsement.