How to protect your brand when working with micro-influencers

In a world where fake followers and phoney accounts are becoming an increasing problem and potential threat for brands, how can you make sure your brand stays safe and maintains trust when working with influencers?

We’re in the age of the influencer – or shall we rather say the age of the micro-influencer? Influencers with less than 100k followers are increasingly becoming a popular way for brands to grow advocacy, scale, and quality content at a grassroots level.

The new challenge we’re facing is how some of these influencers have built these pretty substantial followings in a relatively short space of time, given that the world is moving so quickly and the influencer market growing so rapidly.

Fake followers were the hot topic of the summer, as Instagram cracked down on buying followings and named and shamed a number of high-ranking influencers in the process. This is good news, as for those influencers working hard to grow their communities through quality content, relevancy and hard work, the idea of losing out to those using the quick-fix method must be really frustrating.

Similarly, for agencies and brands looking to run Instagram-led campaigns, fake following makes the process of influencer selection an even more complicated and time-consuming process. The big task at hand is to vet those ever-growing influencer lists and guarantee authenticity and genuine content are still as prevalent to influencer marketing as they were.

Five things to take into consideration for successful influencer campaigns

Instagram is doing its part to make this less daunting, but there are actually a number of things you should look into to protect your brand and your campaigns.

  1. Identification: Don’t default to big follower numbers, look at engagements, content styles and quality and patterns in activity as a way to determine whether an influencer has a genuine audience, a community that they’re engaging with and influence within that community. If an influencer has 100,000 followers but the engagement rate for a post is scoring below the 1% benchmark, it’s worth a double take.
  2. Analyse previous content: Rigorously vet potential influencer profiles and search through their previous content to monitor authenticity, tone and ongoing engagement levels. Look for spikes/jumps in engagement between posts. Tools and dashboards can help to pull out those with strong stats, but there is a manual layer of scrutiny that is still crucial to ensuring genuine accounts. Working with partners, management and agencies to activate campaigns can be a great way to access talent, but I’d still recommend researching and sense-checking those shortlisted for content issues.
  3. Leverage measurement metrics: Measuring influencer content is an evolving process, and so it can be tough to build robust frameworks for safely measuring genuine content too. However, in addition to the softer metrics around content quality and styles, calculating engagement rates for an influencer’s last 10-20 posts, as well CPE and CPM, can help to measure cost-effectiveness against other media. Doing this can help to flag surprising or strange results, and ultimately help to ascertain if their work and community is relevant and genuine.
  4. Build and lean on relationships: Through building strong, ongoing relationships with different influencer stakeholders, you will be able to tap into a valuable pool of influencers. Agencies usually have a number of contacts who are well trusted and with whom they have already worked on a number of times for different clients. At Omnicom, we have a group-wide approach to this, in order to create scale and leverage the power of the wide-reaching network. With micro-influencer campaigns, working with large numbers of influencers through agents and partners, pre-approved influencer lists, and shared stats can help you to negate challenges.
  5. Work with platforms: Work as closely as possible with social media channels to firstly, stay ahead of what they’re doing to combat the problem, and secondly help them to identify and respond to problematic accounts and campaigns. Instagram has introduced ‘Shadow Banning’ to monitor profiles’ behaviour and will suspend accounts that don’t adhere to guidelines. We’re also lucky in that we can leverage Omnicom Group relationships with social networks to ensure that we’re all working to the same rules, tools and responses when approaching influencer campaigns so that we’re consistently policing the work we do.

There will consistently be new challenges in an area of the industry that is growing so quickly, and it’s our role as an agency to make sure we’re doing all we can to protect clients from potentially damaging scenarios, whether they’re expected or not. There is no foolproof method for this yet, but we’re constantly evolving out processes to adapt to the changing landscape to develop a layer of safety that will help keep brands and clients confident in influencer campaigns.


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