In an age of a fractured media marketplace, short attention spans and cynical consumers, many marketers are tempted to grab a bit of stardust by teaming up with a social media influencer. A heartfelt endorsement from a favourite YouTuber or reality TV star can cut through and catch the attention of the all-important youth market. But it’s easy to get things wrong, as a rising tide of regulator enforcement shows. Here are our top tips for running a compliant influencer campaign.
- Choose your partner carefully.Influencers trade on their social media presence, but sometimes they’ve built that presence on an irreverent or even controversial approach. Look back through their accounts, and check them out using web searches, to make sure there are no obvious reputational issues waiting to emerge. If you’re marketing products with restrictions on marketing to children, like alcohol or high fat, salt and sugar foods, check their audience too – many influencers have surprisingly young followers.
- Sign them up. Make sure you have a proper contract. This should at least cover what the influencer will do (how many posts? At what times? How often?), what they won’t do (nothing offensive or controversial, and no undermining your brand or praising your competitors), your level of control (will you write the posts for them, or vet their posts? And always make sure you can get their posts deleted!) and how you can terminate. If they have an agency acting for them, sign them up too, and get them to make sure the influencer complies.
- Make clear their posts are ads.The most common reason for upheld ASA complaints against influencer ads is that it’s not clear they’re ads. That’s a breach of advertising rules – and potentially even a criminal offence. Make sure the influencer includes “#ad”, at the top of the post, and without burying it in a sea of other hashtags. YouTube videos should make clear that they’re ads, both in the title and at the start of the video. All the work-arounds have been tried, and they all fail – that includes saying “#sponsored” or “#gifted”, putting “Brand Ambassador” in a profile, and expressions like “in association with” or “thanks to [brand] for making this possible”.
- Comply with other advertising rules. Paid-for influencer posts are your ads, and all the usual rules apply. If the influencer exaggerates the benefits of your products, or break any of the other rules, you’ll be responsible, so make sure you keep control over what they post.
- Keep an eye on them. Advertisers often try to defend ASA complaints by saying that the influencer went off-brief, and that never works, so it’s not enough to sign an influencer up to your rules – you have to make sure they follow them. Nominate someone in your team to follower the influencers’ accounts, and use your rights in the contract to get problematic posts taken down.
If you choose your partner carefully, and follow the rules, influencer tie-ups can be a great addition to your marketing mix.