With all of the territory that influencer marketing has gained while growing into a legitimate alternative to traditional advertising, a few aspects of it demonstrate that it’s still clearly in its nascent stage.
One example of this is an instance where a group of influencers was caught out trying to promote a fake diet drink that contained hydrogen cyanide. This highlights the fact that although companies are ultimately responsible for their products, the people promoting them should be just as vigilant as any other regulatory organization.
Trust in influencer marketing is diminished by cases like these, and it won’t be long before an influencer who carelessly promotes products from whatever company offers decent incentives will lose credibility with their audience.
If you don’t want to fall for traps like these, it’s important to follow a couple of guiding principles before agreeing to partner with a brand.
Manage your priorities
If a company approaches you with an enticing offer, it’s tempting to just nose-dive into a relationship with it. Still, you should remember that your audience comes first!
The rapport an influencer has with their audience is more important than brand relationships. Weigh that into your decision.
Product promotion opportunities should always take into consideration how this may affect your own legitimacy with your followers. When you start to gain a regular following, no matter how small it is, you now have your own brand to worry about.
Good brands are responsible, diligent, considerate, and accountable to their respective “base”. This is how you build a reputation that merits trust and all the benefits that come with it.
If your own personal brand has a bad reputation, you’ll lose otherwise fantastic money-making opportunities. Think about this before you give an enthusiastic reply to a brand that wants to cooperate with you.
Remember, you are a brand, too!
Do your homework
As part of your own personal brand, your followers view your content with the expectation that you’ve done your research before promoting a product. Act with the same skepticism as someone who just got a free sample.
What are the ingredients in this product? Does the company have any reviews yet? Are there any “too good to be true” claims made by the marketing?
Ask as many questions as you can and address them to the company while doing your own research behind the product you’re being asked to promote. Don’t let yourself get hung up by the possible money-making potential.
Spot the red flags
Here are some red flags you should look out for:
- If the company refuses to provide further information or waves smoke and mirrors at you in their responses to your inquiries (i.e., using language that is meant to mislead), then this should immediately raise an eyebrow.
- Visit the product site. If there’s no brick-and-mortar (e.g., mailing address, phone number) contact information listed on the contact page, it’s possible that the people behind this product aren’t very transparent about other things, either. Exceptions exist, and you should look out for those, too. Make sure you search for contact information elsewhere as well!
- Watch for articles written about the product from reputable sources. This may give you an idea about what you’re getting into early on. Reviews also help but make sure they’re written by real people. Look for reviews complaining about the product and contrast that with your own experience. Never agree to promote a product you can’t get your hands on!
Take responsibility and be transparent
Sometimes, even with all the due diligence in the world, you still might promote a brand or product that’s a bad apple. It happens to the best of us.
If the worst-case scenario happens, as long as you did everything you could to spot out the red flags, there are things you can do to redeem yourself with your audience. Be transparent with them about what research you did.
Take this opportunity to start a conversation with your followers about what you could have done better. Be upfront about what happened, and demonstrate that you’ll go the extra mile to make sure this never happens again.
You may be surprised to find out that your followers might trust you more after being completely transparent about what happened. It provides a human touch and shows that you’re prepared to be accountable for your own decisions.
As long as you do your best to avoid promoting products that don’t serve people’s best interests, you’re already several steps ahead of others who use their influence as a cash-grab opportunity. Being authentic is key to establishing and maintaining the rapport you build over time!