Ever wondered what social media influencer marketing is? Would you buy a pair of shoes because someone you have never met on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram said they were great?
Would you choose a new phone or pick out your next car based on the recommendations of a top YouTuber?
If so, you are perhaps the proof of the effectiveness of social media influencer marketing and its growing impact in todays digital marketing sphere.
So called social media Influencer i.e. a person on social media with big followings have been under the spotlight recently for two reasons.
One reason that Social Media Influencers are in the news is that the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has revealed that following an investigation into their activities some 16 influencers had promised to be far more transparent when paid to promote a product in the future. The allegation was that they were blurring the line between paid for advertising and genuine (and crucially unbiased) product reviews.
The regulator has taken a very dim view of the recent and surging trend of celebrities posting images of themselves with an “awesome” products, without mentioning that the “amazing” company behind said products has actually paid them to be so enthusiastic about the product.
As such endorsements are not unbiased the Competition and Markets Authority have said that they fall squarely in the realm of ‘advertising’ and as such should be clearly identified as such, to protect the consumer.
Such postings will now be encouraged to display hashtags such as #ad, #sponsored or #freebie to give the followers and fans of celebrities and Social Media Influencers a clearer picture of what is paid for and not, otherwise they could land up in court.
Social Media Influencers Gone Bad – The Fyre Festival
This month also saw the release of two documentaries about the calamity that was the Fyre Festival, which appeared at the time to be the apotheosis of influencer marketing but which ultimately has shone the light of truth on the downsides of influencer marketing and in doing so, exposing the Fear Of Missing Out motivation that lies at the heart of such marketing campaigns.
The hype around the Fyre Festival showed the power that the social media influencers can have as Kendall Jenner was reportedly paid $250,000 (£190,000) for just one single Instagram post promoting tickets that then rapidly sold out.
Fyre Festival and the subsequent fallout and criminal charges raised questions about the ethics of this form of marketing.
The supermodel influencers and other celebrities were happy enough to take the money from the Fyre Festival organisers, but when the event ultimately turned into a fiasco, they faced no consequences for taking part in a very dishonest marketing campaign and distanced themselves from it.
In the corporate world there are consequences for CEO’s and captains of industry or mislead the public for personal profit.
Whilst the $20m fine only represented less than 0.1% of Elon Musk’s net worth the Securities and Exchange Commission levied the fine to Musk to settle charges of securities fraud against the Tesla CEO, which stemmed from Musk’s August 2018 tweets in which he claimed that he had secured financing to take the electric auto company private. The SEC had alleged that Musk issued “false and misleading” statements, but the terms of the deal do not require Musk or Tesla to admit any wrongdoing.
Nevertheless, Musk made a statement on social media and was brought to account for it, yet the influencers that set the chain of events in motion in regard to the Fyre Festival havent even returned the fees they were paid so it hardly seems fair in regards to accountability, or rather lack thereof.
Although, having said this there are reports that Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid may face possible subpoenas over the Fyre Festival and that subpoenas for financial information will likely include Jenner and the firms representing 25 models who starred in promotional video.
Despite a crackdown in 2017 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that warned celebrities and influencers that they must be clear about when their posts have been paid for, they cannot be held responsible for the product or event itself.
Fear Of Missing Out
Dr Mariann Hardey, associate professor in marketing at Durham University is a sceptic about influencer marketing and tells us it is really just another form of that age-old advertising technique, the celebrity endorsement.
“We can see how precarious that is in terms of the legitimacy of those campaigns. I don’t think this is the holy grail. Influencers simply amplify traditional marketing methods and strategies,” she says.
Werner Geyser, founder of the Influencer Marketing Hub, which helps connect influencers with brands, disagrees however and says he has the numbers to back up his argument.
“Recently we conducted a survey and we analysed 2,000 campaigns from influencers. And what the research displayed was that there was an average earned media value of $5.20 per dollar spent,” he says.
That earned media value turns out to include something as nebulous as “increasing brand awareness”, but Mr Geyser insists companies do see real returns in the form of extra sales and Geyser says we should not underestimate the power of these influencers or the bond between them and their followers.
“These audiences are following them for a reason. They share common interests so they almost act as a media outlet themselves. They have massive, massive reach.”
The question is how they use that influence. Too many Fyre Festivals and they may tarnish their own brands, making them less attractive to advertisers.
But even if the current social media stars fade, more will come along and brands will be eager to use them to connect to young people who live their media lives on YouTube and Instagram.
Hotel owner hits out at YouTube vloggers who flooded his business with bad reviews after he refused to grant free stays
A Dublin hotel owner has hit out after being flooded with one star reviews and abusive comments by YouTube ‘vloggers’ after refusing to give a ‘social media influencer’ a free stay.
After an online row, the exasperated owner Paul Stenson said all bloggers are now banned from the venue.
The White Moose Cafe posted an anonymised email from a 22-year-old who has over 80,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel. In it, she asked for a free stay for her and her boyfriend in exchange for posts about the hotel on her social media channels.
Refusing the offer, Mr Stenson wrote on Facebook: “Dear Social Influencer (I know your name but apparently it’s not important to use names),
“Thank you for your email looking for free accommodation in return for exposure. It takes a lot of balls to send an email like that, if not much self-respect and dignity. If I let you stay here in return for a feature in a video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room?”
“The waiters who serve you breakfast? The receptionist who checks you in? Who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay?”
He asked: “Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you’re in residence?”
Stenson then said the answer was “no”.
Outraged, Elle Darby, who has 87,000 YouTube subscribers and 76,000 Instagram followers, identified herself and posted a tearful video, telling her followers about the hotel’s treatment of her, calling the owner “malicious”.
Her furious followers, and fellow bloggers, started sending abuse to the hotel’s Facebook page and leaving it negative reviews online.
One blogger wrote: “The blogging community is a force to be reckoned with, if you pick on one of us you pick on all of us.”
Another advised her followers to never stay in that hotel, calling the owner a “troll”.
Even Jeff Bezos weighed into the kerfuffle.
Ok, so likely not the real Jeff Bezos.
Online Reputation Management consultant Lee Oakley says of the negative reviews that “whilst the old saying there’s no such thing as bad publicity had more historical than present day merit, in the modern context of online reviews the online spat maybe lost on some.”
“Genuine consumers considering the White Moose Cafe may well be unfamiliar with the negative reviews as a response from supporters of Elle Darby, and without knowing this, the chances are that once the spotlight dies down and if those reviews remain, that the negative sentiment may deter more visitors than those it gains from Stenson’s response.”
Oakley added “..however, whilst Google is quite reluctant to intervene with genuine customer reviews the White Moose Cafe has a grounds to remove many negative posts that are blatantly false.”
In a statement posted on Snapchat, Mr Stenson seemed unfazed by the negative reviews from calling out the practices of one so-called social media influencer and he told his followers the controversy “puts into question the authenticity of influencer marketing,” because “She would have spoken nicely about the hotel only because she was getting it for free.”
“I’d just like to say a huge thanks to all the bloggers for their hard work over the past two days. The publicity you’ve given us is absolutely priceless. But don’t worry bloggers, your work won’t going unnoticed. It will be featured in my book ‘How To Get Worldwide Publicity Without Spending A Cent’.
“Throughout the whole debacle, the one thing that amused me most was the fact that the bloggers didn’t think that people over 30 understood how social media works,” Stenson says.
“Here I was, completely using them to help my business get worldwide publicity, for free, on social media, and I was the one who didn’t know what I was doing.”
According to Mr Stenson, his café had been featured in 53 news articles in 11 countries with a potential reach of 120 million people as a result of the dispute.
Social media influencer marketing is undoubtedly lucrative for some who understand its power but for ever influencer such as Kendall Jenner there are tens of thousands of wannabes that seem to believe that several thousand followers on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook should entitle them to the same freebies that the Kendall Jenner’s of the world receive. Perhaps this to is simple Fear of Missing Out.