How to Select a Social Media Influencer for Your Campaign

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Social media marketing campaigns often involve hiring influencers to promote a company’s products and services. Although influencers can be effective marketing ambassadors, such arrangements have a much higher chance of success if the company and its legal advisors choose their influencers wisely.

Following are several key legal issues that every company should consider when selecting and working with a social media influencer or other third-party endorser.

Selecting an influencer

In social media parlance, an “influencer” is an individual with the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others due to their:

  • Position
  • Authority
  • Fame
  • Expertise or knowledge
  • Authentic relationship with their audience or followers

A “macro-influencer” is someone with a large social media following and a “micro-influencer” is someone with a following among a specific niche audience. 

There are many types of influencers—bloggers, enthusiasts, online personalities, sports figures, celebrities—so the logical first steps are to:

  • Identify the target audience the company wants to reach.
  • Decide which type of influencer would be most effective in reaching that audience.
  • Decide which social media platforms (such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter) will best connect the influencer with the company’s intended audience.

Evaluating an influencer

Influencers are de facto spokespeople for the company and its brand, so it pays to be extremely careful when choosing an influencer. 

To be sure an influencer can responsibly represent the company’s products and services, it’s important to check off some boxes first: 

  • Investigate the influencer’s background and online presence to identify any past indiscretions, scandals, criminal activity, or organizational affiliations that might conflict with the company’s image or damage the influencer’s credibility.
  • Review publicly posted material by or about the influencer to ensure their values and persona are consistent with the company’s brand profile.
  • Ask if the influencer has any other third-party endorsement deals that my conflict or compete with their work for the company.
  • Research the influencer’s audience to determine their degree of engagement and trust.
  • Make sure the influencer is someone who is perceived by their audience and the general public as credible and trustworthy. 

Preventing fraud

One of the worst things that can happen to a company is to suddenly discover that their chosen influencer is misrepresenting themselves or is actually a fraud. To avoid being deceived, take extra care to investigate any prior accusations or incidences of fake followers, or activity involving the influencer or their management company. 

For additional guidance, the Influencer Marketing Council (IMC) publishes a complete list of tips to identify influencer fraud. 

Among the IMC’s potential warning signs: 

  • Abnormal spikes in follower numbers that might suggest the use of fake followers or bots.
  • Large follower counts with low engagement rates, possibly indicating the followers are fake.
  • Posts with repetitive language or unusually poor grammar and typos, which could indicate that the posts are created by bots, not people.
  • Influencers whose audience is in one country but whose engagement is mainly from other countries is also a red flag for fake followers and activity. 

Watch and learn

If an influencer is or has been involved with other corporate sponsors, make sure the affiliations and products are real, and watch the influencer in action to see how they handle disclosures about their sponsor affiliations. Open, honest disclosures are an indication that the influencers themselves are credible.

Influencers who are generally trustworthy but lax about disclosing their connection to their sponsors should be avoided or engaged with caution. Failure by influencers to disclose material connections leaves a sponsor open to liability for false advertising.

Social media influencers can be powerful promoters of a brand, but thorough due diligence is important to make sure the influencer doesn’t represent a potentially harmful legal risk. Follow the above steps and that risk will be substantially diminished.

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