You might have heard of Netflix’s new documentary surrounding the catastrophic ‘luxury festival’ in the Bahamas hosted by Fyre, the brainchild of young entrepreneur Billy McFarland (who is now serving a 6 year prison sentence for fraud). If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t heard of what happened at Fyre Festival, then I recommend you look into it - it’s comically disastrous.
It wasn’t until the documentary’s release however, that people began to take more notice of some of the issues it explored. Most notably, the increased spotlight on ‘influencer marketing” Influencer marketing occurs when influencers on social media (those with high numbers of followers), most commonly Instagram, endorse products or services from businesses and companies in exchange for payment or gifts.
You may have noticed that some influencer posts on Instagram are accompanied by the ‘paid partnership’ tag, or a simple ‘#ad’ in the caption. These are the legal requirements of the agreement between influencer and business, so that consumers - in this case, followers - are not being tricked or encouraged to purchase products unfairly. The followers of these influencers must be aware that the product being promoted is the result of a business arrangement, rather than the opinion of the influencer.
However many influencers are neglecting to do this and with limited repercussions from either Instagram or the relevant authorities there has been no deterrent. The Fyre documentary has seen attitudes towards influencer marketing begin to change. Influencers are finding themselves under increasing pressure to ensure that their posts are advertised as paid ads when applicable. For example, the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK recently announced that it has secured formal commitments from some 16 celebrities with regards to their future endorsements on social media.
But why don’t businesses themselves crack down on these influencers when they fail to include ‘paid partnership’ or ‘#ad’ labels on their posts? Well, a lot of the time, it’s the businesses themselves that encourage the influencers not to. Businesses don’t want consumers to think that influencers are just posting about their product because they’re being paid to do so. It seems counter intuitive, when the whole idea behind influencer marketing is to make people believe that these celebrities use their products by choice.
Consider TV ads that include a celebrity endorsement. The only real acknowledgement to the viewer that the celebrity is partaking in an ad is the fact that it is viewed during the advertisement break. There is no banner on the screen saying ‘paid partnership’ or ‘#ad’. To the viewer, there is no way of learning from the ad itself whether the celebrity or influencer taking part in the ad is being paid for their participation. They deduce this from their own common sense. So why is influencer marketing on Instagram any different?
Well, it comes down to the fact that influencers can use their personal Instagram accounts to share personal posts. They are not solely used for paid partnerships, which tends to be the case for most TV ads. Unless they are marked as such, sponsored posts by influencers might be treated as personal posts, there could be no other way to tell. Common sense cannot prevail in these instances (as it would with TV advertising), because Instagram is primarily a platform for sharing personal, unpaid posts. It would be fair for an Instagram user to assume that any post they see - unless marked by the ‘paid partnership’ or ‘#ad’ - is a personal post.
The fact of the matter though, is that influencer marketing is a supremely successful marketing tool. Consumers are very easily persuaded to invest in a product or service if they think it is something that popular Instagram influencers use. However, the result of Netflix’s Fyre documentary has been to spark a wider debate and encourage more strict regulations surrounding the use of these paid partnerships online. When the influencer marketing division of social media alone is worth a colossal $6.5 billion, it comes as no real surprise.
But what can influencer marketing do for small businesses? Most businesses don’t have hundreds of thousands of pounds to pay Instagram users for a single post (Kendall Jenner received a reported $250,000 for one post promoting Fyre Festival). Universal names with a universal appeal, like Kendall Jenner, command extortionate prices for a single post because they can market a project to millions of consumers instantly. However, if you are a small business wanting to appeal only to consumers in your area, you can appeal to local influencers with a much smaller following online (but one that is based predominantly in your target area), and as a result, with a much smaller price per post.
Yet, influencer marketing is just one way in which you as a business owner can utilise social media to generate income and interest. It serves to highlight the importance that social media plays in the world of marketing nowadays. If we compare it to television, we can see that TV advertising revenue saw an increase of 7.1% in January 2018. You might say that this is an impressive increase, but it is less than half of the 16.8% increase in digital ad revenue over the same period. This isn’t even examining social media ad spending specifically, which increased by 42%, with Facebook alone increasing by 55%.
Ultimately Netflix’s Fyre documentary may have highlighted the potential perils of influencer marketing. However, what I find more interesting, is that it has brought to light something that many people are only beginning to appreciate; that social media is becoming the most important tool when it comes to marketing a business, product, or service.
Are you wondering where to begin with influencer and social media marketing for your own small business? Give us a ring on 028 9260 7928 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to organise a free consultation.