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Social Media Influencers: How to Use Them

Social media influencers are a relatively recent phenomena. They are a result of the internet age and digital innovation. We live in a tech led world where things develop so fast that legislation, regulation and sometimes even common sense, fall behind. Social media influencers are a good example of this. 

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) turned its attention to social media influencers back in 2018. It was of the view that influencers were not properly declaring their advertising, and there have been a string of investigations and interventions by the CMA since that point, with increasing vigour. This attention will undoubtedly lead to an increase and clarification of regulations and legislative attention. Read about digital growth, algorithms and Competition Law in our recent post.

Businesses have utilised social media influencers with varying degrees of success. Social influencers regularly utilise businesses to leverage all sorts of things, from new makeup to expensive hotel trips for dogs. The most successful even get paid to feature products.

Possibly because of the rapid advancement of the digital world, and the inability of legislation, regulation and social culture, to keep pace with global digital transformation, the world of social influencing has developed rather piecemeal: it is something that people do but don’t seem to think much about. It has become one of the norms of digital, but in doing so, has avoided the level of questioning, care and caution that every normal business deal should be treated with. 

So before you give away your hard earned cash to a social media influencer, give some thought to the following points: 

Should I use social media influencers?

should I use social media influencers with influencer behind


Consider carefully before you choose to rely on social media influencers. Firstly, you have no control over their ‘brand’. As we saw in the pandemic, many influencers fell foul of the public for continuing to travel to luxurious resorts when the rest of the world was in lockdown. Their responses (‘it’s hard work’) only infuriated the public more. Brands aligned with them also suffered. Be careful aligning your brand with an influencer. Influencers are more prone to ill-considered actions and posts because they usually do not have a whole PR department carefully considering their actions. They also do not have your businesses’ best interests at heart - they are a business themselves, and they are their own brand. Their business is being sensational - they will do whatever it takes to keep their views, follows and likes high.

Influencers will always put their own interests, and their brand’s interests, above yours. The luxurious Covid trips are the perfect example of this - influencers had to keep on earning, they had to keep showing a glamorous life to protect their brands and their incomes. They were fighting to survive and they didn’t think about the consequences.

How to protect yourself if you do use social influencers

If you do choose to utilise them, you must treat the transaction as a normal business transaction. There have been multiple reports of businesses sending expensive products to influencers, and then receiving no meaningful coverage. If you send a product free of charge to an influencer, with no contract or proper agreement in place, it will likely be considered a gift by the legal system. You will have no recourse if they do not promote your product, or if they do it negligently and cause you loss. But you will be out of pocket. So make sure you protect yourself:

Get a formal, written contract in place

In order to ensure you get a return on your investment you must have a contract in place. Make sure the contract is specific. Include:

  • How many posts of each variety (facebook, instagram etc) are expected, 
  • Wat sort of quality of post you expect,
  • The prominence your product should have in those posts, 
  • At what time intervals they should be posted (e.g. 1 a day for 1 week, 1 a month for 3 months)
  • Be clear about the other content within the post, and the posts around it, to ensure that your product doesn’t appear in a post that would harm your brand. For example, would it be acceptable to you for your product to appear in a post that features smoking, profanity, face-mask wearing or no face-mask wearing, other product features, alcohol, dark imagery, nudity, satanism etc? These are all things that would be totally fine, and even encouraged, by some brands but totally unacceptable by others. The influencer won’t know what is acceptable to your brand unless you make it absolutely clear. 
  • Make sure you include everything that is relevant to your brand 
  • Consider which jurisdiction the contract will be covered by - if you are based in the UK and they are in Bali, you wouldn’t want to have to litigate in Bali.

Is there a better way to utilise social media without influencers?

The optimum approach, in the long term, is to build your own brand, through your own channels. Social media influencers can provide a quick boost to your strategy, but it is better not to rely on them long term. If you are going to utilise them, make sure you choose them wisely and have a contract in place to ensure you get what you are expecting. 

Alternative ways to boost your brand

You may find that running a carefully considered social media contest would serve your strategy better. A competition to win a weekend at your hotel, or win your product, rather than giving it away to an influencer, could provide far more momentum for your business than an influencer would. Think carefully about the optimum way to utilise your resources, including any giveaways to social media influencers. A giveaway contest can turn thousands of people into your brand advocates rather than just one.  

Discover how to build a winning team, or explore our other blog articles.

At Volanto we are digital growth consultants specialising in digital transformation, tech growth and business strategy. Utilising social media influencers is just one of our areas of expertise. Contact us now to see how we can help you unleash your potential. Do you have experience of using social media influencers? Leave a comment below to let us know how you found it.

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