When you think of social media influencers, celebrities and star athletes might come to mind. However, an influencer is anyone with a substantial following on social media. They have the power to influence other people's perceptions and decisions.
Brands study three key attributes when deciding who to partner with:
- Reach: The number of followers a person has
- Credibility: The person's perceived knowledge or authority on a topic
- Tact: The person's ability to convince others of a particular point of view
Influencer marketing is a way for modern brands to reach their target audience. When done right, it can earn a great deal of success. However, purchasing content can be pricey.
Influencer marketing has grown in popularity, with companies investing up to $100,000 on a single campaign. To stretch this investment, many repurpose content. According to one survey, 83% of marketers reuse influencer content on social media. Others repackage content for digital and programmatic advertising.
There's nothing wrong with repurposing content — brands do it all the time. However, with just one misstep, things can go horribly wrong.
A lost delete key
The goal of influencer marketing is total authenticity. Brands should partner with a person likely to use their product or service — not just someone with a buzzworthy name. Ideally, the message should come straight from the poster. However, that's not always the case.
In reality, a team of marketers carefully craft each message. Influencers follow a set of instructions on what to post and when. If done right, people are none the wiser. However, two celebs caught heat when they forgot to use the delete key.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell partnered up with Adidas to deliver a heartfelt message on Instagram. The post included a picture of Campbell with new shoes on each hand. Unfortunately, she forgot to delete the directions with a sample message of what to post, along with the specific name of the Adidas shoe line.
Campbell is not alone. Scott Disick, from "Keeping up With the Kardashians," made a similar mistake. Posed in the kitchen behind a jar of Bootea protein shake, he forgot to delete the instruction, "Here you go, at 4 pm est, write the below," followed by a prewritten post on a supposed summer workout routine.
A case of mistaken identity
With today's digital tools, marketers can't help but spruce up repurposed influencer content with Photoshop. However, it's crucial to refine photos in a measured way. Editing mistakes, such as something too perfect or fake-looking, will be pointed out immediately.
Take Coach, which received plenty of feedback after releasing a bizarre influencer campaign with Selena Gomez. The star is posed in front of a city-scape, dressed to impress — but she's barely recognisable.
Users shot back against the luxury brand, claiming Photoshop was an unnecessary enhancement, especially for an already-glamorous celebrity. One user commented, "Shame on @coach from perpetuating the thought that even the best of us are not good enough. THIS ISN'T REAL."
Today's consumers crave authenticity. Their radars go off at any content that looks promotional or fake. When repurposing influencer material, it's crucial to consider how your message will sound to your audience.
A venture into hostile territory
What happens when repurposing influencer content turns into copyright infringement? In the case of Kendall and Kylie Jenner's Vintage Tee Collection, you get sued. The fashion-loving duo debuted the shirts online in 2017, featuring faces of artists like Biggie, Tupac, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and more.
The Doors sent a cease-and-desist letter. Jeff Jampol, manager for the Jim Morrison estate, said, "This is a case of people who … are famous for being well-known but don't actually do anything trying to utilise and steal and capitalise on the legacies of those who actually did…"
Voletta Wallace, the mother of The Notorious B.I.G., spoke out online. She claimed, "The disrespect of these girls to not even reach out to me or anyone connected to the estate baffles me." She went on to say the act was disrespectful and exploitative.
Families of the deceased weren't the only ones upset — consumers thought the move was in bad taste, too. The sisters quickly pulled the line, followed by an Instagram apology. Still, the blunder lives on as a lesson in what not to do. You're putting content out into the world. The least you can do is obtain the right to use it.
A doomed partnership
Authenticity is a primary theme in influencer marketing. Some of the biggest blunders arise when companies ignore rule No. 1 and choose an unlikely influencer. When EA decided to partner up with the frontman from Breaking Benjamin, Benjamin Burnley, it forgot to do its research.
EA asked the musician to post on social media about his love for the new "Star Wars Battlefront" game on Xbox 360. Though an admitted "Stars Wars" fan, Burnley had different ideas.
Instead, he went online and told his followers about the offer. He went on to claim he hated the game, and even launched into a tirade on why it sucked, including poor pawn placement, overpowered weapons and a lack of reward system. To top it off, he posted his message with a photo of the game's disc, broken into pieces.
Marketers need to find influencers who genuinely love their products or services. Otherwise, it's a recipe for disaster. At worst, the influencer will outright spurn your brand. At the very least, your audience will be able to see the post for what it is — an attempt to sell to them.
A new type of encounter
We've all seen an unreadable hashtag. With a bunch of words shoved together, it can be hard to parse the true meaning. That problem came to light for Warburtons after their attempt to utilise influencer marketing.
The bakery firm launched a competition and invited customers to share photos of themselves eating a crumpet. Users had to include the hashtag "#crumpetcreations" for a chance to win VIP tickets to The Christmasaurus Live Shows.
What Warburtons' marketing team didn't know was that its hashtag was already in use by another group — the furry community. In fact, @crumpetcreations is a 31-year-old woman and a furry enthusiast. Her costume is a goat named Crumpet, a name derived from a British friend.
Warburtons took the mishap in stride, with a message that read "We will be doing a bit more research next time! We've changed the hashtag and the competition is still on." They agreed that, while social media is a great place, it's easy to get it wrong.
An attempt at deception
How do you craft an influencer campaign that captures attention? For most, the answer revolves around authentic and relevant content. Others, like the Chinese sneaker brand Kaiwei Ni, attempt deception.
Back in 2017, the brand released an ad debuting its Black Friday sneaker sale. It was designed to trick users into believing a hair was on their phone screen. Instagram users accidentally swiped on the ad, trying to remove the hair, only to be directed to the company's website. As you can imagine, this didn't go over well with consumers.
This type of scheming is also in violation of Instagram's ad policies. Kaiwei Ni was barred from advertising on the platform, and its account was disabled. Worse, users assume the company practices deception in other aspects of the business as well.
Kaiwei Ni made the mistake of deceiving users for increased website traffic, and the strategy didn't pay off. Today's internet users are smart, wary of trickery and deals that are too good to be true. The best route to a successful influencer campaign is an authentic and honest message.
Influencer marketing: the good, the bad, the ugly
Influencer marketing is a crucial tool for marketers who want to reach their audience. However, many are too eager to repurpose material, relying on unlikely celebrity partnerships, stolen content and outright trickery. In the end, the masses always win.
Your audience will always be the first to point out your mistakes. When reusing influencer marketing, taking the wrong step could lead to online ridicule. Some can bounce back, such as the case of the mistaken crumpet. Others, however, can get sued into oblivion.
Effective influencer marketing relies on the blend of promotion and authenticity. Brands need to establish a clear voice on social media, but they must toe the line between friendly advice and sales pitch.