By Joshua Hodges
To fame – or to obscurity, social media influencers can make or break a brand’s image. Whether you’re a rising social media star trying to navigate brand deals or looking for tips on how best to work with influencers in brand marketing, it can be a difficult space to navigate, so we’ve got some tips to help make sure you end up on top.
Ads perform better when the influencer is present in the post. There are a lot of brands that ask the influencer to merely post a picture of the product to show it off, and have a showcase on a platform with numerous followers – but not all exposure is effective exposure. For an ad to perform well, the influencer posting needs to be visible and front and center. It might seem counterintuitive, but ads where the product is merely an accent to tack on to the influencer’s image seem much more natural to the audience and are better received – they follow for the influencer, not for the advertisements, so it is absolutely vital to intertwine the two (Jin & Muqaddam, 2019).
It’s also crucial to note that the influencer not being present in an ad won’t just make the ad less effective. Posting advertisements without the influencer present has been shown to actually sharply decrease the social credibility/reputation of the influencer and negatively affect brand attitude – an ill-placed and ill-created ad could very well result in lasting damage to the reputation of both parties, so it’s best to be careful and connect the two in a natural fashion.
Ads Need to be Believable
Believability is absolutely key and crucial. The ad needs to seem like it could have been voluntarily posted by the influencer. In many brand deals, influencers are required to say certain phrases or hit upon certain points – when an ad is clearly not in the influencer’s own words, the audience is far more likely to react in a negative fashion and gain a negative perception of the brand being featured. Instead, a more popular technique that has been on the up and coming is facilitating collaboration between the brand and influencer. If the influencer is able to make the posts in the way they would like to, the advertisements are far more likely to come across as natural and feel consistent with the content that the audience is used to.
It may actually be in your favor to address cons alongside the pros of the featured product, as well. Research suggests that showcasing both the good and the bad of a product, known as two-sided messaging, appears far more credible to a consumer than simply going over the upsides (Jin & Muqaddam, 2019). This isn’t to say you address the greatest weaknesses of your brand, or that an influencer should treat a product harshly – lightly covering one or two minor downsides to a product can still do wonders, and provide a mostly positive impression when compared against the high notes that the influencer will also be covering.
Keep it Natural
Finally, it’s important to ensure that the brand or product itself is actually congruent with the image of the celebrity. This might seem like the most obvious point, but it’s the most important by far. A fashion blogger can easily get away with posting ads from clothing companies, for example, but might find themselves in hot water when promoting a furniture or sports deal. If an ad clearly doesn’t belong, consumers feel as though it’s intrusive, and may believe that the influencer is only posting for the monetary benefits (Jin & Muqaddam, 2019). An audience overwhelmingly believing that an influencer is only doing something for the money can spell disaster – for smaller influencers, this can severely damage their credibility. Larger influencers feel the effects of this less, but damage to reputation can add up over time if not careful. Interestingly enough, brands will consistently take hits to their overall credibility when advertisements go awry, so navigating these waters carefully from the get-go is key; before extending an offer to an influencer, or before accepting an offer from a brand, the first step is always to consider if this will feel natural.
Promoting sponsored content on social media is a very fragile effort, and can easily become a double-edged sword for brand and influencer alike. However, it also remains one of the most effective ways to garner social credibility and reputation both offline and online, so it’s an important practice to engage in – just make sure you take care in your efforts, and keep it natural!
Felipe, M.C. (2020). Woman in black and yellow crew neck t-shirt holding blue and white box. Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/sztWS6R3UlA
Felipe, M.C. (2020). Woman in black long sleeve shirt holding white smartphone photo. Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/ZKJQCWsKmPs
Jin, S.V., & Muqaddam, A. (2019). Product placement 2.0: “Do brands need influencers, or do influencers need brands?”. Journal of Brand Management, 26, 522-537. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41262-019-00151-z
Lotz, G. (2019). Person using Android smartphone. Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/-UsJoNxLaNo