Unilever’s chief marketing officer Keith Weed called for “urgent action” to clean up the influencer marketing ecosystem, immediately committing to stop working with any influencer found to be buying followers and prioritise partners who are actively trying to improve transparency.
“The key to improving the situation is three-fold: cleaning up the influencer ecosystem by removing misleading engagement; making brands and influencers more aware of the use of dishonest practices; and improving transparency from social platforms to help brands measure impact,” Weed said.
“We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.”
Brands including L’Oreal, eBay, Samsung and Diageo were all in agreement – it’s a problem and one they have been quietly trying to figure out their own solutions to.
Many media and social agencies The Drum spoke to have also let out a collective sigh of relief that an advertiser of Unilever’s might ($7bn in annual ad spend) had publicly called for change.
“It’s about time,” said one agency chief executive.
“It was a no brainer this would happen,” said another.
How did the industry get to this point?
The first challenge in combating the problem is pinning down a figure on real versus fake accounts on social media – a virtually impossible task. According to some estimates, as many as 15% of Twitter’s ‘users’ may be fake while up to 60m Facebook accounts could be automated, or bots.
Despite this opacity, the influencer marketing sector has been growing at a rapid rate, with one company, Mediakix, estimating it to be a business worth in excess of $1bn in 2017 and one which is predicted to continue growing exponentially over the coming years.
Marketers, meanwhile, are willing to splash out as much as £75,000 for a single social media post which mentions their brand by someone with over one million followers and they would pay ‘micro-influencers’ – those with under 10,000 followers – an average of £1,500 for a mention.
In a survey of its members, the Association of National Advertisers found that 75% of marketers currently work with influencers and of that 43% plan to increase spending in the next year. And of those who are not currently using influencer marketing, 27% indicated they plan to do so in the next 12 months.
Yet only 36% said they judged their influencer marketing efforts as effective and 19% admitted they thought that the money spent was ineffective.
All of these stats can be boiled down to the following: the costs of influencer marketing is increasing, as are the budgets to fund it, but there is no standardised measurement to judge effectiveness, giving way to a market where less-scrupulous influencers can earn some quick cash with few repercussions.
Source: The Drum