24/02/2024
Influencer marketing

The Ethics of Influencer Marketing: Should We Be Concerned?

There is always something happening in the world of digital marketing, but few things have made a splash as big as influencer marketing. Forbes defines influencer marketing as being “a relationship between a brand and an influencer” where “the influencer promotes the brand’s products or services through various media outlets, such as Instagram and YouTube.” A lot of businesses have been using celebrities to market their products and services for many years. But, influencer marketing as a business works in a slightly different way. 

For a business to benefit from influencer marketing, the influencer must be a trusted figure within an online community. They need to have a loyal following. They should be seen as someone with knowledge or experience about what they are advertising. It’s not simply a case of a celebrity telling people to buy a product. To be successful, influencer marketing relies on someone influencing their followers to use the same products that they do. 

The Evolution of Influencer Marketing

When influencer marketing first became popular, businesses and brands focused on getting big influencers onboard. They prioritised working with big names in the industry. They chose people with millions of followers. But, there has been a shift recently. Now, a number of businesses are working with micro-influencers. These are influencers with a smaller audience, but one that’s a lot more engaged within a specific niche. By doing so, it’s possible to build a more authentic relationship between a brand and an influencer. Followers are more likely to assume that the individual genuinely uses a product or service, rather than it being just another of the many things they are paid to advertise.

Influencer marketing has also expanded beyond lifestyle and beauty niches, where it first started, to a wider range of industries. Health, finance and technology are just three of the many industries that use influencers as part of digital marketing campaigns. As a result, influencers with specialised knowledge and expertise are increasingly being used to share insights. After all, someone is more likely to take a recommend from someone who knows what they’re talking about.

Potential Concerns Associated with the Influencer Industry

Despite its popularity, there are concerns associated with how ethical influencer marketing is. With influencers being paid to suggest products and services to followers, who’s to say if their recommendation is an honest one? To ensure authenticity, influencers should only endorse products and services they genuinely use and believe in. Even when paid partnerships are involved, authenticity is crucial. If an influencer doesn’t genuinely like a product, they shouldn’t work with the brand to imply they do.

It’s very easy for an influencer to be drawn in by the pursuit of lucrative brand partnerships and sponsored content deals. Instead of promoting products that they genuinely love, they could end up showcasing products just for financial gain. When influencers fail to clearly disclose their paid partnerships or when they endorse products they don’t actually use or believe in, they risk deceiving their followers. This not only destroys the trust of their followers, but it also raises concerns about the responsibility of influencers and the brands they collaborate with.

The Importance of Authenticity in Advertising and the Risks of Misleading Content

Unlike traditional forms of digital marketing, influencer content often feels like a recommendation from a trusted friend. It doesn’t feel like a sales pitch. It doesn’t feel like an advertisement. Instead, it feels real and trustworthy. This sense of genuineness can help to build a stronger bond between influencers and their followers, leading to higher engagement rates and increased brand loyalty. However, this very authenticity can be easily compromised. If influencers are dishonest about the products they recommend and use, they run the risk of blurring the lines between personal endorsement and paid promotion.

This is also why there are specific rules and regulations surrounding being transparent about paid advertisements. Disclosure of paid partnerships is key to avoid misleading audiences. The use of hashtags – such as #ad or #sponsored – can help distinguish promotional content from organic, genuine posts. Followers want to know when someone is being paid to recommend a product. If influencers and brands are secretive about marketing, the target audience is unlikely to trust what they have to say.

There is no denying that influencer marketing is here to stay. It’s a form of digital marketing and advertising that brands will continue to use. But, to do so successfully, authenticity and transparency is key.

Written by
Scott Dylan
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Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

I’m Scott Dylan, Inc & Co Co-Founder. I oversee the company's strategic direction and work to acquire and invest in distressed and viable companies, helping businesses improve their business processes and setting strategic directions.

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