Influencers Need to Clean Up Their Act

Opinion: There are people who believe that rules don't apply to them

Ask a legitimate influencer, and they agree that it’s time for influencers to clean up their act
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It’s a shame that there is a tendency to paint the whole influencer marketing industry with the same brush. This negatively impacts those who work very hard to create authentic content that genuinely connects with the engaged audience they built over time.

Hours are spent not just on their content, but on answering and conversing with their audiences. It’s a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week job.

When you hire an influencer, you are leveraging the influencer’s knowledge of the audience and their expertise in knowing what kind of content their audience will engage with. That said, there are influencers who game the system: buying followers, faking engagement and more. Ask a legitimate influencer, and they agree that it’s time for influencers to clean up their act.

I recently reached out to two influencers to get their take on the industry.

Instagram pods should be shut down

Beau Coffron, the Lunchbox Dad, is an amazing influencer. Lunchbox Dad has been seen on Good Morning America, The Steve Harvey Show, People, E! Online, Yahoo, CNN, HuffPost and more. You need to see the creativity and thought he puts into his content.

When I asked Coffron if he thought influencers should be penalized, he had this to say: “I am all for influencers being forced to get rid of shady practices. If they are penalized for buying followers and buying engagement, I think it would help a ton. But, of course, I have said for years that as long as the brands keep hiring them, nothing will change. However, now brands are getting more hesitant to hire all influencers because of the shady practices.”

He added, “Same with Instagram comment pods. I think all of those should be shut down. When I am working my butt off to get true organic engagement and someone else just has other bloggers leave 75 comments and they get the brand deals, something is wrong. Brands and public relations people need to start looking at true engagement numbers, and influencers who try to game the system definitely need to be penalized.”

Group tweeting is not engagement

“This won’t be popular to say, but when you see influencers on Twitter getting 85 retweets, 102 likes and zero comments, you know that it is all just a group of other bloggers who have agreed to retweet stuff. There is no value in brands with that,” Coffron said.

Beware of secret or hidden loop giveaways

There are some Instagram-specific shady practices around international loop giveaways or silent loop giveaways. “If an Instagram account has a spike in followers—I am calling a spike 15,000 versus 200 followers per day—chances are they participated in a giveaway or promotion that was open worldwide and was marketed to them, the influencer, as gaining thousands of followers in a short period of time,” according to Sarah Mock of Savoring the Good.

“A secret or hidden loop is like a traditional loop, but the participants don’t have to have the image on their account. A bigger account (500,000 to 2 million) will tell their followers to follow the participants listed below and be sure to comment and like the last three images on each of the participants. Each participant will get the exposure, ‘engagement’ on each post and gain followers. But the comments are usually a heart emoji or the same comment, usually in a foreign language. All of these engagements push the account higher in the algorithm. At first glance, the huge number of followers is impressive, and numbers open doors. With these loop giveaways, there is no guarantee that a prize is issued and the payment goes to the organizer,” Mock added.

Look out for influencers ‘on the bubble’

“Influencers on the bubble are not celebrities, but they make a sizable income. These influencers are just not at a level that would draw the attention of the Federal Trade Commission. In my opinion, they take liberties in interpreting the FTC guidelines and abide by and implement them as they, the influencer sees fit. In life, there are people who believe that rules don’t apply to them, and the influencer space is no different,” Mock said.

Is it time for the FTC to fine influencers that aren’t celebrity influencers?

Yes, it is. Otherwise the influencers who participate in fraudulent practices will continue to do so and negatively impact the livelihood of those who legitimately earn their living as an influencer.

Meanwhile, what is a brand to do? Brands need to do their homework. We at Inmar recently announced our Brand Safety Guarantee to help clean up influencer marketing with third-party verified analytics on all blog content views and ad impressions and verified, server-based traffic data. We are taking the charge to lead the influencer marketing industry’s efforts of ensuring that influencers abide by a certain ethical model when working with brands. In turn, brands know what to expect when incorporating influencers into their marketing mix.

Holly Pavlika is senior vice president of marketing and content at intelligent commerce provider Inmar.