Brands Must Demand Influencer Transparency

Jonathan Gardner

Brands know that the right content shared by a hot influencer can lead to engagement and ultimately to sales. However, as recent reports in The Atlantic and elsewhere point out, it’s getting more difficult for marketers to know who’s worth doing business with or who’s simply scamming the brand. That’s why, in an era of uncertain influence, ShareIQ gives brands the insights and analytics that make influencer programs just as transparent and accountable as the rest of their marketing.

The Atlantic story highlights the hotel industry, a luxurious marketplace where influence has become crucial currency, but one where the brands and the influencers find a credibility gap and divergent goals. The article, “Instagram’s Wannabe-Stars Are Driving Luxury Hotels Crazy,” says some hotels report being so overwhelmed by influencer requests that they've simply opted out of influencer marketing completely.

Influencers argue that the promotions they offer allow hotels to directly market to new audiences in an authentic way. They're not completely wrong. Most hotels acknowledge that there's some benefit to working with influencers, it's just that determining how to work with them -- and manage their requests -- is a challenge.

Hotels evaluate influencers on several criteria, trying to sift through an enormous amount of BS. “We have quite a strict process,” said one hotel marketer. “We look at engagement more than anything else ... We have to filter out influencers who have basically bought bots. There's a lot of those these days.”

Whatever the industry, a call for transparency is being heard more often. Unilever, one of the world’s biggest marketers, teased at the Cannes ad festival that it’s going to start pushing for an end to the opacity in influencer relationships.

There are enough conflicting opinions out there about influencers to make marketers feel like they’re under the influence or have a bad case of “influenceza.” Fraud and scams abound. One well-known influencer recently detailed a laundry list of nefarious practices -- such as bot and pod strategies that fake engagement -- that are rife within the industry. Upstart, hot challenger brands have shown that influencer strategies are key to building brands with non-traditional engagement via social media and earned media. Major players like CPG giant Unilever need to be in the game to keep up with the young startup brands. At the same time, transparency worries have made them cautious.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, midlevel influencers -- those with between 50,000 and 100,000 followers -- often have about 20% fake followers. It’s estimated that brands pay influencers millions of dollars each month to reach followers that are fake. The rise of fraud in the sector has been a wake-up call for marketers who pay influencers based on the number of followers they have.

“At best it’s misleading, at worst it’s corrupt,” Unilever marketing chief Keith Weed said in an interview. “For the sake of a few bad apples in the barrel, I believe there is risk in the area of influencers.”

ShareIQ customers want to understand the story behind their content engagement: who is engaging with it and what value it is creating. They want to take action on this activity and on the insight. In the end, all that should matter to a marketer is whether people engage with their content and if they do something real: make a purchase, download more info, etc. The creation of imaginary engagement can’t possibly be in the interest of -- or the ultimate goal for -- any brand.

At its core, the ShareIQ platform gives access to the insights, data and analytics that show a brand how audiences engage with visual content across social media and the web. Any brand that wants to get their content shared and engaged with needs to get sophisticated about how that content is seeded and shared by consumers who have influence and can help create genuine engagement and virality.

This year we launched a series of enhancements to the Influencer Tools in our platform. As the top tech site ZDNet reported, ShareIQ’s “comprehensive dashboard delivers insights” and “gives marketers a real-time view of what is being shared, where and by whom. Brands that want to get their content shared and engaged with will need to get sophisticated about how it is being shared by audience members who have influence and can create engagement and create viral content.”

We also launched a new product that for the first time gives marketers an instantaneous self-service report on the value of their earned media marketing on Facebook. Brands no longer need to worry about not knowing the ROI for their social media campaigns.

The free ShareIQ Facebook Earned Media Value Report creates a report for each Facebook page you select for analysis. The analysis is run using impression data obtained from Facebook directly. The new tool has met tremendous demand from more than 500 brands thirsty to calculate the value their Facebook content is generating, and from influencers that want to quantify the value they bring to brands.

This helps to level the playing field and create a common currency -- earned media value -- as the KPI that brings the brands and influencers together in a language they all understand. Our mission is to give brands an unprecedented deep level of insights and analytics about the performance of influencer programs, the ROI of their earned media marketing, and how to tie it all together for higher overall engagement and revenue.

Check out the new free earned media measurement tool used by more than 500 brands

Brands know that the right content shared by a hot influencer can lead to engagement and ultimately to sales
Jonathan Gardner

Jonathan is vice president of marketing for ShareIQ, based in New York City.