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Talking Business: It’s time to pull back the curtain on Instagram influencers

Solberg Audunsson

Solberg Audunsson

Solberg Audunsson

The social media platform Takumi recently conducted the largest survey of its kind, investigating the media industry’s attitudes and approaches towards influencer marketing.

This study of more than 500 PR and marketing executives reveals that social media influencers have now overtaken traditional celebrities in popularity for brand campaigns, thus ushering in a new era in which musicians, models and sports stars are being overlooked in favour of the online user with as few as 1,000 followers.

From our own data we know the fashion industry is one of the most prominent sectors driving forward the adoption of the new tastemakers. Those who follow fashion-focused accounts have complete trust and faith in the Instagrammer to deliver honest recommendations.

Consumers are likely to be inspired by advice from these content creators, and to make purchases based on their endorsements. In some cases, the influencer may have been paid to promote a product and may not have told their audience. On behalf of our industry, I feel compelled to reveal the inner workings of this practice – it’s time to pull back the curtain.

Instagram is the most popular social platform for millennials, so it is no surprise that fashion brands are capitalising on it as a new way to reach customers. An influencer is a user with more than 1,000 followers, and brands are exponentially interested in forming partnerships with them to create content that promotes their products.

Six in 10 admit they don’t abide by the requirements set out in the Committee of Advertising Practice’s code

Our recent study found that six in 10 admit they don’t abide by the requirements set out in the Committee of Advertising Practice’s code, the official rules for conducting campaigns with online influencers. This states that any paid-for activity must be signposted as such with the hashtag #ad, #spon or #sp. This shows there is a lack of understanding in the industry about how to deliver influencer campaigns correctly and effectively.

The origins of this issue lie in the original family of influencers, Zoella et al, and their lack of clarity about their commercial links. Although most started out sharing content for pleasure, many eventually amassed a following that allowed them to monetise their channels. Rather than celebrate their status as influencers, some of them sought to hide the commercial aspects of their roles, and the idea of a sponsored post became a taboo. The media was quick to jump on this and warn of the illegitimacy of any endorsements.

Influencers allow brands to have access to their networks and often spend hours creating carefully thought-out and beautiful imagery, but it is important that the brand owns the rights to the resulting assets and has the right to repurpose them.

To obtain such a selection of high-quality, creative approaches would otherwise cost into the hundreds of thousands of pounds, which is why it is essential – and a good thing – that an influencer is paid for their work.

The traditional approach of recruiting a celebrity ambassador to lend their clout to a piece of marketing and broadcast that message is becoming increasingly redundant in the face of the more strategic and targeted micro-influencer approach. By allowing an influencer to deliver a creative twist on a marketing message and relay it to their following from their perspective, brands achieve fame and scale in an authentic manner and gain valuable content, particularly when employing users with between 1,000 and 10,000 followers – analysis of 12 million posts worldwide found that these “micro-influencers” were the sweet spot for engagement (likes or comments).

As this practice continues to grow there are key points for all parties involved to learn.

Brands must accept that they need to pay these content creators for space on their feeds and their creative skills. Influencers must continue to promote only products that are relevant and interesting to their audiences. It is their selectiveness that acts as a self-policing mechanism, ensuring that users don’t become frustrated with sponsored posts. And consumers need to allow those whom they follow to form partnerships with brands, knowing that it will facilitate greater content and reward the content creators for their hard work.

Above all else, all parties must always be authentic.

Solberg Audunsson is one of the co-founders of Takumi, a platform that connects brands with influencers on Instagram


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