Two Cheers for Facebook’s Celebrity Influencer Crackdown

In allowing verified profiles to promote brand messages, Facebook has decided, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

When the Federal Trade Commission began cracking down on influencer marketing earlier this year, it was clear that the practice had hit the big-time. More proof that 2016 was a breakthrough year for influencer marketing? Facebook is taking notice, as well.

This week, the social media giant began requiring public figures with verified profiles to adhere to its policy for advertiser-sponsored posts.

In other words, if Shakira wants to blast a sponsored message about Activia to her 104 million Facebook fans, she’ll have to clearly disclose her financial relationship with Activia. This is a turnabout for Facebook, which banned “overly promotional” branded content in April.

In allowing verified profiles to promote brand messages, Facebook has decided, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” It now touts a system that lets celebrities track and optimize their endorsements. The implication is that Facebook wants brands to pay to amplify their influencer posts.

Unfortunately, if the past is any guide, this means that “organic” (i.e. non-promoted) posts by influencers are likely to lose currency in the News Feed. That’s good for the influencer marketing business overall because in discouraging pay-for-play, Facebook inadvertently encourages authentic connections between influencers and brands.

Facebook taketh away

It’s hard to take Facebook’s announcement as anything but a threat to pay-for-play influencer marketing. When Facebook tweaks its algorithm, businesses suffer. For instance, earlier this year, Facebook decided to put more emphasis on user-generated posts in the feed rather than publisher content. That led to an overall 52 percent drop in organic reach among publishers, according to SocialFlow.

In the past, Facebook crushed Zynga’s business by de-emphasizing social games like FarmVille in News Feed. In late 2013-early 2014, publishers saw their traffic plummet after Facebook sought to reduce would-be viral content.

This change is in the same vein. While marketers (and some desperate publishers) once hitched a free ride on the followings of celebrity influencers, that ride is over.

Why this is a good thing

Facebook’s gonna do what Facebook’s gonna do. There’s no sense pretending that the company is acting in the best interest of influencer marketing, but that’s how this is going to play out.

Lacking an easy conduit to mass scale, marketers will have to earn their audience the old-fashioned way. It turns out that this is the best way. According to our stats, micro-influencers (those with five- or six-figure followings) get about twice the click-through rates of celebrities, and the cost per lead for their posts are about five times lower.

That jibes with recent research from Nielsen showing that only 8 percent of North American consumers say that celebrity endorsements resonate with them, even as 66 percent trust consumer opinions posted online.

Those stats make intrinsic sense. Everyone knows that Kevin Hart probably doesn’t drive a Hyundai, and that David Beckham really prefers an iPhone to the Samsung he’s endorsing.

On the other hand, when you’re in the market for a new car or a new phone, you’re likely to listen to people who know a lot about those items. Marketers are coming around to this truth, as well, which is why–without even realizing it–Facebook just did influencer marketing a solid.

Chris Hackney is president and chief operating officer at influencer marketing solution Insightpool.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.