Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed has called time on follower fraud in the influencer community, stating that the world’s second biggest marketer will no longer invest in influencers that have fake followers.
Weed was on stage at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this week, speaking about how influencer marketing has experienced staggering growth over the past couple of years.. However, Weed believes that the burgeoning field needs greater transparency and accountability, and he’s taking steps to change the industry for brands, influencers and their followers.
The industry certainly has a problem with fake followers, and Weed highlights problems of influencers buying followers, which often affects how much a brand will pay to work with them. Some influencers also use bots to share and watch content, boosting view counts and again potentially pushing the price up for brands. Weed said that he has heard estimates that up to 40 percent of influencers have been involved in this at some point, although sometimes accidentally. This is backed up by Points North Group, who found that fake followers make up about 20 percent of mid-level influencers’ audience, categorized as those with between 50,000 and 100,000 followers.
However, I would argue that paying to work with influencers based on metrics like follower numbers and impressions is not the smartest way for brands to assess the value that they are getting from influencer marketing. These are dated metrics, from when a million views on YouTube used to be something that was remarkable.
Influencer marketing delivered effectively isn’t about views but rather authentic influencers creating brilliant content that is perfectly crafted for their highly engaged audience. So instead, marketers should be looking to set up and run their campaigns based around solid business objectives and the ROI they get from that. For instance, trackable links provide clients a look at the genuine click-through rates, and it’s then possible to assess specific details, such as if someone goes on to make a purchase, enter a contest or genuinely engage with the brand.
Marketers should be demanding a target watch time, swipe rate, number of genuine views and engagement rate that are agreed upon in advance, based on their business goals. Agencies should be able to supply the cost per click, as purchase decisions based on this content are easy to determine with the right tracking measures in place.
Weed is championing the need for transparency from influencers, from brands and from partners, such as the platforms that host influencers who can drive transparency and supply accurate measurements. I believe that influencer agencies also need to be at the forefront of this drive for transparency, supplying their clients with metrics that relate back to their business goals. The influencer model is one of the easiest media types to track—much more so than TV or radio that still rely on outdated audience surveys. I believe that agencies should be willing to guarantee the results that they will get for a client, taking as much of the unpredictability out of the process as possible. And influencer agencies shouldn’t be representing the influencers that they recommend that brands work with, which is something we’ve seen all too often.
Keith Weed’s stance should drive greater transparency and accountability in the influencer marketing space, but the responsibility for building that and helping clients to feel confident in this space also comes down to agencies who need to prove and deliver ROI for their clients. Influencer marketing can deliver awareness, desire, interest and action and be tracked with quantifiable metrics at every stage of that journey. It’s important for marketers like Keith Weed not only to look for transparency in terms of views and followers, but to ensure that they are clear about the actual impact that influencers are having on their brand.