How to be an ethical influencer, as told by an influencee

By Erin Mikail Fuss

Influencer marketing can get a bad rep, and to some, they all look the same. Millennial pink, round face, rose gold iPhone and Macbook; you get the picture… and those pictures are all the same. It’s no wonder that these individuals sometimes come off as seemingly self-obsessed but let’s slow down and give that bad rep a hard look. 

Photo by Alexey Suslyakov 

I work in the ecommerce space and have worked with influences to promote brands, increase brand awareness and encourage people to sign up for the call of action of the week. Influencers can be great when you work to make a brand feel more human. You are tapping into an audience of people that so many people know and love, but at the same time, they can also appear inauthentic, and be more trouble to work with than it’s actually worth. As I said in the episode, the influencer marketing game is growing exponentially, and for good reason, because it’s almost like a friend recommending you to buy a certain product. But I think if not done ethically, it can result in social media continuing to perpetuate false narratives on what is authentic in this online space. 

So here’s my humble hope, some dos and don’ts, based on the research I have done and also based on personal experience of how influencers can make social media a more equitable and positive space:

DOs

  • Be transparent about who helped you, what was an #ad or #sponsored, or even – heck the fact that you had people help you get ready today. 
  • Measure actual return on investment (ROI).  Having clear expectations, and defining what success looks like is an important part of this process. Measuring things with affiliate links, or how many increased impressions garnered during a time period are important statistics to be aware of (want to dive into the nitty-gritty, there’s a good article here.) This will let you know what influencers were most effective at what.  
  • Take into heavy consideration what fits your brand. Coffee influencers look different from mommy bloggers, look different from scientists, look different from doctors on TikTok, but at the end of the day, they’re all still influencers.  Finding someone who matches your brand tone will have a stronger pull to their audience. 
  • Follow FTC guidelines! An influencer is getting paid to influence you. The FTC considers this advertising, make sure that there are appropriate disclaimers and images are tagged as being an ad where necessary. 
  • Know that this industry is all about constant change: just as the social platforms they exist on change, the tactics used with influencers have also changed. What worked last year, may not work the next.   

DON’Ts

  • Be blinded by solely aesthetics. Instead remember to look at engagement, likes, and values both of your platform and of your users as well. Remember that there are people on either end of the screen so speak to them, not to the algorithm. 
  • Lie, cheat, steal (this should be a given). All too often it’s easy to use the #AD or #Sponsored as if you actually were, but that’s a troupe of inauthenticity.  Disclose rules, regulations, and details where it’s needed. Nots sure what that looks like? Don’t do what @bucketlistfamily did.  
  • Limit yourself to one platform. Influencers don’t just exist on Instagram. Platforms like TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are all good places to find influencers to collaborate with.

As usual, we swear we are not just trying to shit on the influencer industry on the whole, in our episode. We appreciate and respect the efforts that go into maintaining an influencer account , we just think they could be more transparent.

What do you think of the influencers and the influencer industry? Drop a note in the comments, or shoot us a tweet. Either way, we’re here for you.

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