Influencer Marketing has become the hot new thing on the digital marketing landscape. It’s been around for a while now, and it’s really starting to come into its own as a major digital marketing channel. Still, it does require you to entrust your brand or your product to a third party, and that may come with unanticipated drawbacks. In the news lately, there have been several stories influencer marketing going awry.
Now, we want to make it clear that we have a lot of faith in influencer marketing. However, as with any tool, it needs to be used with care and deliberation. The following examples explore the results of brands not using influencer marketing carefully.
In a recent interview at Reboot Develop, Michael Schade, developer at Rockfish Games, recounted their nightmarish experience with a prominent influencer, during their advertising campaign for their flagship game, Everspace.
Without getting bogged down in the details, the basic gist of the game is that it’s about spaceships. Rockfish paid a prominent influencer to play the game on his live-stream for his many (many!) fans. For the exposure, and the chance at building some hype, Rockfish paid the equivalent of just over $10 000 USD. The influencer charged about $5000 per hour, and the minimum booking slot was two hours.
It was a fiasco. The influencer made it clear that he had no love for Everspace. Indeed his first words on the subject were “I have to stop playing Destiny 2 now because I’m on a sponsored stream to play a space game and I don’t like space games.” He went on to play, as Schade put it, “like a complete […] moron.”
In this case, the agency Rockfish had been working with relied on subscriber count and vanity metrics to pick an influencer. They saw the opportunity to pay for a stream on a channel with a popular streamer with a reasonably large viewership, and didn’t dig any deeper. Had they taken the time to watch some of his past content, sit in on some livestreams, or even ask him for his honest opinion on the genre, they would have quickly realized that he was a poor fit for their particular product.
As it was, Rockfish was out ten grand, for the privilege of having someone trash-talk their brand in front of thousands of devotees.
Though it had a happy ending (the resulting controversy was free publicity, and Everspace was headline news for weeks afterward), in most cases this sort of cataclysm can be enough to sink a brand.
Kim Kardashian’s Instagram feed has a massive following. Plenty of advertisers have paid for her sponsorship, and for the most part those partnerships have been successful. But a couple of weeks ago, Kardashian came under fire for promoting an appetite-suppressing lollipop.
Her fans weren’t happy. It seemed to trivialize eating disorders, something many of her fans had struggled with. As a result of the gaffe, other advertisers she had partnered with were tainted by proxy, resulting in a number of hastily pulled sponsorships and a lot of carefully worded press-releases from advertisers, distancing themselves from the offending product.
From a digital marketing perspective, the influencer marketing takeaway is that it’s important to vet not only your influencer but that influencer’s other partnerships, as well. As the saying goes, if you advertise with an influencer, you advertise with all their other sponsorships, too.
Scott Disick was given instructions to plug BooTea’s protein shake on his Instagram feed. Unfortunately, though Disick did keep up his end of the deal in what can generally be called good faith, his apparent lack of real interest led to his posting the advertiser’s instructions, verbatim, along with the content.
Obviously this was an embarrassment for both parties, but in pulling back the curtain, so to speak, it shamed and cheapened the concept of influencer marketing in general. It made the whole thing seem uncomfortably transactional.
But it shouldn’t be! Influencer marketing shouldn’t be purely, or even primarily transactional.
Influencer marketing is all about authenticity. It’s not about vanity metrics, or about breadth of audience reach. Influencer marketing is about a partnership to tell honest, engaging stories.
An influencer isn’t likely to be worth partnering with unless he or she has a genuine appreciation for your brand. There should be a real conviction behind your influencer’s support, and if that enthusiasm is missing, then it isn’t really a strong partnership.
When it comes to content, or digital marketing in general, we have always held that quality will always trump sheer quantity. The right reach will always, always be more important than a purely larger one.
Influencer marketing is a partnership that both parties should be proud of.