The impact of untruthful information shared on social media has been debated heavily in recent months. Can we trust the information that we are presented by the social algorithms? Is this news or fake news? And, did they really say that?
This is a hot topic, but one that has been a big issue across many forms of communication for a long time. This constant downward spiral and feeling of distrust has serious repercussions, especially when we look at the relationship between brands and consumers. Trust is at an all-time low, and if we’re not careful, influencer marketing will implode because of this ongoing trend.
NIELSEN published a global trust report detailing that the most trusted communications form was ‘Recommendations from people I know’, with a staggering 83% trust. This was followed by content on ‘Branded websites’ with 70%, and ‘Consumer opinion posted online’ at 66%. Comparing these earned and owned media channels to paid advertising – 63% trust ‘Ads on TV’, 48% ‘Online ads’, 46% ‘Social Networks’, with ‘Online banner ads’ at a low 42%. Both the earned and owned space are considerably more trusted than the paid-for equivalents.
These factors have all contributed to the explosion of influencer marketing, as this form of communication seemingly offers a more genuine and direct way to disseminate a brand message, which is then more trusted and respected by audiences. Followers see their social media stars as their digital friends, and inherently trust their views and recommendations. Whilst this is true, let’s be honest, this is under serious threat when you throw payment back into the mix.
This new marketing format is increasingly under pressure from the same trust problem as we’ve seen before. As the world of influencer marketing matures and we start to see serious campaigns delivered by various brands globally, the explosion of sponsored or paid-for content has resulted in a reaction from audiences, which isn’t always positive. Do they really like that product or brand? Or have they just been paid to say that?
With recent legislation making it far clearer by requiring the use of #Ad or #Spon, followers can now see more easily what they’ve been paid for, and what they’ve not. Fundamentally, influencers are influencers because their audience respects their opinion. On the occasion this opinion has been sponsored, the value of this influence can diminish as their audience question if the views shared are real. This is a natural and human reaction, and one that is sound in logic.
Trust in brands has had its day. Now people trust their peers or in the influencers they follow on social media far more than the ads that they see. The issue is that if an influencer has been paid, is this media still going to be effective?
It is vitally important that brands, agencies and influencers address this issue and ensure that the lure of payment does not compromise the core of why influencer marketing is a strong channel to communicate. If it is going to succeed and maintain a level of effectiveness, we need to ensure that editorial control is never up for sale. If we sponsor content, this is merely reimbursement for their time, not their opinion. Only with this definition and separation of commercials and editorial are we able to preserve this highly effective mode of communications.
This article was first published on PRMoment.com