It used to be taboo for musicians to allow their songs to be used in commercials. That’s clearly no longer the case. In fact, I recently noticed that a Ford commercial features a song by my beloved Lake Street Dive.
Now, it looks like influencer marketing is going in a similar direction. Online influencers gained popularity in large part due to their perceived authenticity. But, as these individuals have grown their online influence, many of them want to monetize it by doing deals with the brands they espouse. Many people think that is entirely OK – that is, as long as everybody is clear on who’s paying whom.
That’s why Instagram is now providing tools explicitly designed for disclosing paid endorsements. It’s encouraging the use of such tools by giving brands and content creators/influencers access to unique content performance metrics when they use those tools.
Part of the goal is to help legitimize paid online endorsements by influencers by making them transparent to social media users. Doing so, the thinking goes, enables both influencers, and the social media platforms on which they connect with their followers, to maintain a high level of authenticity. Authenticity – or at least the idea of it – is everything these days.
A Fast Company article on authenticity defines the term as “being consistent in word and deed, having the same fundamental character in different roles, and being comfortable with your past.” An Ad Age article from last year says authenticity means “real, genuine, of verifiable origin.” That same article notes that authenticity is especially valued by the 75 million millennials in the U.S., who, it says, don’t like being advertised to.
“A community that becomes overrun with sponsored posts that aren’t properly disclosed – intentionally or not – erodes the sense of authenticity that’s central to Instagram’s success,” according to Mediakix.
The Instagram effort on this front also appears to be in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s recent interest related to social media influencers. The FTC earlier this year sent more than 90 letters to athletes, celebrities, and others that truth in advertising standards apply to Instagram just as they do to other forms of media.
The FTC’s (News - Alert) involvement in this conversation illustrates just how much clout social media marketing now has. According to MarketingSherpa, 95 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 follow a brand via social networks. Good Relations PR says that 57 percent of consumers have made a purchase solely based on the recommendation of an online influencer.
Edited by Erik Linask