The blogging industry has evolved to play a major part in operating a business, but not only that; blogging has now become a popular starting point for the creation of many businesses. Take Cupcakes & Cashmere, what started out as a blog has now become a multimedia brand empire, with a dozen or so members of staff hired to work on the blog, as the brand evolves into other areas like books, fashion and homeware.
Over the last 5 years, bloggers who once started out their blog as a part time hobby have now been able to thrive into businesses, becoming influencers for brands. Influencers are playing an important part in promotion for brands, and now you may find that many businesses have a bigger budget allocated for influencers than they do for the traditional advertising forms like newspapers and magazines.
But are these influencers acting ethically? As the industry booms, with more than 10,000 influencers in the UK alone, authenticity and transparency is becoming an issue for many, resulting in consumers becoming less trusting of these influencers. Millennials and Generation Z, the main target audience for influencers, are media-savvy and know that what they see isn’t always what is true, thus turning against influencers that they view as fake.
There are many ways that influencers can make money; this can be through sponsored articles, social media promotion, affiliate marketing, product reviews and much more. Blogging started out as the initial way for influencers and brands to work together, however this has now filtered down into YouTube brand deals and most recently social media, in particular Instagram.
When brands work with influencers they are essentially paying for the influencer’s audience, therefore it’s essential that brands find the right influencer that will fit both the influencers audience and values, along with the values of the brand. It’s also important that the content is relatable and covers topics that the audience would potentially be interested in. If this isn’t the case, influencers and brands risk the audience turning against them both, breaking the trust that has been built up.
Letting the audience know that content, featured on a blog or social media, is sponsored is essential. This means that the individual has the choice to make an informed decision on whether to purchase or interact with the brand or product that is being promoted. Because of this some brands may ask an influencer to avoid mentioning that a post or product is sponsored, but this is illegal, so is best to be avoided at all costs, and can highly damage both the influencer and the brand.
Even if a product has been sent freely to an influencer, it is the duty of the influencer to mention this, if they decide to promote, or even just mention the product or brand featured on their blog or social media. It is also key that influencers work with brands that are the right fit and share similar values that match their own, otherwise they can risk losing the audience that relates to them.
In September 2018, Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched new guidance making it clear where the rules lie when it comes to Influencer Marketing. This may help to regulate the blogging industry in a better way, making sure that influencers and brands are not toeing the line when it comes to promoting their products, thus protecting consumers at the same time. If you are thinking about working with an influencer in future campaigns, authenticity and transparency is vital, along with believability that an influencer does actually use a product or service they are advertising on their channels, for the campaign to be successful.