Working With Influencers in a Polarized World

By now, everyone knows the value of influencer marketing — consumers respond well to “real people” working as influencers because they tend to be more genuine and relatable. If customers see a little bit of themselves in an influencer, they are likely to engage with that individual on social media and trust the products and services they promote.
However, influencers often come with opinions on topics beyond just the items in their sponsored posts. We are seeing this in today’s highly polarizing social environment: Individuals from all industries and walks of life are becoming activists, and social media gives them a platform to address the issues that are important to them, often to large audiences.
Most of the time, an outspoken influencer does not have any impact on the brand he or she works with. If the influencer has values similar to the brand, taking a stand for or against a particular issue will likely not cause any friction. However, lately we have seen some extreme examples, both where influencers make controversial statements and where influencers and brands display conflicting opinions, and the resulting actions have the potential to alienate customers and damage the reputation of the brand.
Brands that find themselves in this situation need to be careful with how they handle backlash when an influencer posts something controversial. In today’s environment, a brand must have a keen understanding of three things: its own goals, its audience and how to appropriately respond to possible backlash.