In In the Media, Social Media

Happy girl at home speaking in front of camera for vlog. Young black woman working as blogger, recording video tutorial for Instagram, Facebook and InternetIf the past two weeks have taught us anything, it’s that social media influencers can breed trouble for big name brands.

Among the many people affected by the recent “Operation Varsity Blues” college admission scandal was 19-year-old former University of Southern California student Olivia Jade Giannulli, daughter of Full House favorite Lori Loughlin. Jade (who has withdrawn from the university since the scandal erupted) is a social media influencer, known for her YouTube videos and lavish Instagram. She has almost 2 million subscribers and 1.4 million followers.

Amazon, Sephora, and TRESemme were three top brands that used Jade as an influencer on behalf of their brands.  Since the scandal, Sephora has pulled her makeup line and TRESemme is no longer associated with her.  Amazon has also cut ties with her.

All this showcases the fact that picking an individual to represent a brand has become a lot harder.  Brands are beginning to realize that their choice needs to be about more than the number of followers someone has, the reach they hit, or who they’re related to. Brands need to consider other factors when it comes to choosing the right influencer for their brands.

Here are some questions we suggest brands ask themselves as they consider approaching an influencer:

  • Are you picking this individual for who they are, or who they make themselves out to be?
  • Are you looking beyond their follower count and paying attention to content?
  • How do they interact on social platforms? I.e. handle trolls and negativity?
  • Are they already using your product/similar products?
  • Is their lifestyle consistent with your brand/mission statement?

It’s important that your influencer is genuine.  If they are already known for living the life that your brand entails, they will have a better chance of being seen as authentic customer and voice for your brand. You also want someone who has a good reputation and affiliations.  That means you’ll need to vet the influencers as you would check out any employee of your company.

So, how can your company avoid picking a less-than-ideal candidate for a partnership? Check out a few helpful tips to take away from this situation:

  • Do your research – Before you reach out, do some background checks. Take a look at their social media and/or YouTube channels. Observe how they respond to people and present themselves.
  • Detail what you expect in a contract – Specify everything you expect from your influencer and the things you don’t. For example: no controversial or inappropriate posts, no hate or negativity, nothing sexually suggestive unless it applies to the brand.
  • Monitor their activity – When you do sign with an influencer, don’t forget about them. Pay attention to what they do, and make sure what they’re doing follows your contract. They must be living your mission and following your standards or they aren’t doing your brand any good.
  • Invest in disgrace insurance – Many companies have moved forward with this decision because it helps to save image and reputation after ties with a spokesperson must be severed. It can save you millions of dollars and protect valuable assets.

Almost 50 percent of brands are already using influencers to get across their authentic voice and key message to publics. And another 32 percent are considering it according to a recent PR News/Meltwater survey. If your company falls within these groups, make sure that you’ve done your part in choosing the right influencer for your brand. Pick them for their life, not their lifestyle!

Sophia Alfieri is a member of the #MillennialPrinciple team

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