Brands should follow Unilever’s lead and prioritise influencer integrity

Vamp - Unilever says prioritise influencer authenticity
Reading time: 3 minutes
Posted on | Insights | By: Aaron Brooks

Influencer authenticity is paramount

Unilever has announced they will no longer work with influencers who bought followers. Their chief marketing and communications office, Keith Weed, confirmed that more transparency and integrity was needed as Unilever’s Magnum and P&G’s Pampers ranked among the top 10 brands found to be using paid influencers with fake followings.

They are right to crack down. Unscrupulous influencers who choose to buy followers or use bots are damaging to both the community’s reputation and the brands they represent.

Why do some influencers buy followers?

The practise is easy to rationalise. Since influencers have historically been paid on a sliding scale, with more followers securing them a higher fee, some have seen it as a short cut to a much coveted career. Marketers pay influencers with more than a million followers up to over $130,000 for a single post, according to a study by Rakuten Marketing.

But the process is as short sighted as it is pointless.

Falsely inflated followings are easy to detect either through software or a trained eye and calculation of their engagement. Few likes and comments, in relation to a large a following is a tell tale sign of a largely dormant – or fake – following. Reputable agencies and switched on clients will soon realise and the influencer will lose their contracts. Once a influencer’s reputation is tarnished, its very difficult to repair.

Of course it’s important to remember that with legitimately large Instagram followings, a small proportion is likely to be bots. Many influencers work tirelessly to block these uninvited hangers-on – keen not to be associated with those that enter into the process on purpose.

What happens when you are invaded by an Instagram bot? >

For every bad apple, there are plenty of genuine, authentic and talented influencers.

Unilever’s stance is one that every company should be taking. There absolutely is another way. Fake followings needn’t be tolerated as an inevitability of influencer marketing. Brands should demand more.

Quality over quantity

It comes down to the age-old quality over quantity argument. Influencers are an effective marketing strategy, but choosing any kind of ambassador for your business should be taken seriously. They should embody your values and represent you positively. Rushed influencer campaigns without background checks, or self-serve platforms that allow anyone over a certain number of followers to submit content, are leaving brands open to fraudsters.

“Authenticity will reign” agrees Adam Ballesty, Diageo Australia’s marketing and innovation director. “The bullshitters will be found out. New metrics and standards will come so the influencer agencies that are real will win. Others, that buy followers, will fail.”

Unilever also appears to have wised up to the fact that influencers with fake followings are incredibly ineffective and not worth their precious marketing budget. After all a bot can’t ‘swipe up to buy’.

The fixation on large followings has to end. It’s time to get back to basics. The focus shouldn’t be the number of eyes on your ad, the focus should be on the number of people who are likely to take action after seeing it.

Why the rule of quality over quantity means Instagram bots won’t last >

Micro over macro

Marketers have long been distracted by large followings when actually it’s the micro and macro influencers with smaller followings that hold the most engaged audiences. They’ll have the potential to interact with more of their followers. As a result, followers feel a greater connection and form a more trusting relationship.

This spotlight on influencer authenticity is a perfect time to take stock and reconsider your approach to influencer marketing. Every content creator on Vamp’s platform has been verified and meets our strict quality standards, affording our clients confidence in their approach – and results.

Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is the co-founder of Vamp. Aaron and Ben McGrath co-founded the company on the principle that influencer marketing is key for brands to succeed in today's digital economy. An advocate of Vamp's talent, Aaron believes that influencers are their own brands and product placement in an influencer's channel is most effective.
June 20, 2018

Brands should follow Unilever’s lead and prioritise influencer integrity