Navigating Influencer drama; ensuring value & brand safety
The community of social media creators and ‘influencers’ is currently experiencing an interesting period of change. It’s a transition which has largely been watered down as a series of ‘one-off’ controversies, but now, has turned into a raging beast of its own.
That’s right – I’m talking about influencer drama.
Ask any teenager and they’ll be able to tell you all about the scandalous controversies, break-ups, fall-outs between some of YouTube’s top personalities. If influencers hadn't already reached the status of fully fledged celebrities, then they sure have now. It won't take you long to find drama, scandal and a running commentary of top influencer's private lives splashed across social media, and dare I say, the mainstream media.
Influencer and creator-focused tabloids have even spawned into existence. Channels like 'DramaAlert' on YouTube provide an endless commentary on the scandals and 'beef' between creators.
However - it's not like we haven't seen this drama coming. The past 18 months has seen its fair share of influencer/creator scandals hitting the mainstream news cycle. Brand safety problems on YouTube, creator PewDiePie being dropped by Disney and even the Kendall Jenner Pepsi protest saga are just a few of the creator scandals that may have caught your attention.
My personal favourite is the current popularity of ‘dis-tracks’ - songs and raps produced by creators to attack other creators on the platform. They’re often explicit, lined with foul-mouthed arrows that trigger a mountain of ‘reaction videos’ and often, even more drama. One of these 'dis-tracks' made by US-based influencer, Jake Paul, even made it to number #1 in the US iTunes charts.
It all attributes to an environment where for brands, safely investing in influencers is now harder than ever. Although we haven't seen this 'drama-storm' hit Aussie shores as hard as it has in the UK and the United States, I think it raises two important questions to consider:
1. How can I ensure brand safety when working with influencers?
2. Can brands still secure value in a drama-inspired social media environment?
Defining what ‘safe’ is for your brand depends on several different factors that are unique to each brand. Generally, if you’ve done your homework and are well prepared, you’ll encounter few problems along the way. When introducing influencer campaigns, we encourage our clients to undergo a process of assessing what values are important to their brand and consider how these values stand with various influencers, in various situations. This practically looks like considering several common 'what if' scenarios and measuring how your brand responds and feels about the scenario. The results will be unique to each brand and will outline specific 'red' areas to avoid. The framework is then used as a benchmark when considering future influencers to work with and whitelisting them.
Doing this won't just weed out the influencers which aren't right for your brand, but it'll also provide an on-brand method to select the right ones. Whilst it's not a ground-breaking strategy, doing it right will reduce the chances your brand is left high and dry in an awkward situation.
Moreover, the value influencers provide generally comes through the content that they create – not just the eyeballs they deliver. The quality of the content is likely to align with the performance of an influencer campaign; so, you can see the problem that’s generated with ‘drama’ content. Whilst audiences may rush in their hundreds of thousands to check out a juicy piece of drama, this won’t translate into quality content and brand engagement.
The solution here isn’t simple, but it’s most likely concerned with finding the right fit. Spending the time to search out, consider and land on an influencer who reflects your brand values and meets your previously established safety criteria. This can be a drawn out and sometimes tedious process – but the 'off-the-shelf' method of approaching influencers like paid media, limits your campaign and doesn't reflect influencer marketing’s full potential.
Seeking out an influencer who you can build a relationship with and engage in your brand, will produce far more effective results than just putting a cheque in the mail. Remember that behind those 1 million followers is a real-life person and if you can get them excited about creating content for your brand, then their audience will see and respond to this content too. Human nature suggests that if you care about a relationship, you’re likely to try and protect it. For influencers, this means they’ll be more aware of the content they produce as they value the relationship that exists with your brand. Suddenly drama and scandal are a less likely part of the equation.
The moral of the story? Love your influencers, treat them right and communicate your concerns to them.
At WE THE PEOPLE, we help brands become great storytellers. And we believe influencers are great storytellers. We help brands develop meaningful and effective relationships with social media influencers through our INFLUENCE network, a group of high quality and whitelisted influencers & creators.