Whitelisting? Embrace The Human Side Of Influencer Marketing

Digiday reported recently a growing trend of whitelisting influencers. As a result of PewDiePie’s inappropriate joke and the Fyre Festival debacle, brands are looking to ensure brand safety and whitelisting is the resulting answer. But whitelisting, the practice of creating a trusted list of influencers, is not going to solve the issue. We all need to remember influencers are human beings. They aren’t perfect. And even though you’ve personally vetted and whitelisted an influencer, it doesn’t guarantee “perfection.”

In fact, it’s the lack of perfection, that makes influencers real and often influential. We love them for their honesty and their flaws. And while typos aren’t professional, they show the content isn’t written by a robot. Whitelisting won’t guarantee perfect photos or a well-drafted story with even the best and most trusted influencers you’ve used many, many times over. All it takes is for them to get overwhelmed or be in a hurry for a mistake to occur. Let’s be truthful here. You can have years of historical data on your influencers. You can know them personally like we do. You can keep track over time of their quality of content, ability to follow directions, along with engagement, amplification rates and more; even still, human error can occur. Even machines can miscalculate.

Eight things brands can do:

1. Influencers should be given guardrails for any campaign completed with direction provided from any brand. Within these guardrails/briefs, there should be any pertinent information regarding the dos and don’ts of the use of the product prior to any campaign.

2. Contracts should include language that requires instruction compliance. And the influencer’s payment should be withheld for any non-compliance. If any influencer creates anything inappropriate, it is totally correct to ask them to rewrite or remove the content.

3. Provide a checklist the influencer can use at the end to make sure they’ve complied. All content needs to checked against the brief as a part of the campaign process. It is the brand’s responsibility beyond that to verify any product use case. We typically and strongly recommend making sure the brief has specific direction to avoid asking influencers to redo content.

4. Allow influencers enough time to do the work. Influencers take pride in making creative and accurate content but this requires time. Remember they are often juggling numerous assignments.

5. Provide ongoing education for influencers that educates them on expectations and the process. Influencers want to do a great job for the brands and companies they work for.

6. Work only with influencers who have experience creating sponsored content. With experience comes knowledge, so consider more seasoned influencers who have a track record of working with brands.

7. Ask for any influencer company or platform to provide their vetting criteria. Ask how active the influencers are. What kind of information do they have on the influencers? It’s important to know the company process for accepting an influencer as a part of the network/community, as it is when selecting them for a campaign. It shows an extra level of care and protection.

8. Use discretion or avoid altogether web celebs and celebrities. The power middle influencer or micro-influencer puts more effort into the work they do with brands because it means more to them as they grow their personal brand. Celebrities aren’t influencers. They might be influential, but they are celebrities first and foremost. And studies show celebrities have little impact on driving sales: non-celebs are 10x more likely to drive in-store purchases.

Most importantly, brands and marketers need to remember there is a big difference between brand marketing and influencer marketing. When doing influencer marketing, you are dealing with humans and their real life experiences; when you do brand marketing you "place the ad" and control the outcome.

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