When you Google “influencer marketing”, you’re likely to find most websites gush about how incredible this type of marketing is. You’ll read statistics about its effectiveness, find out about its ROI, and maybe even get a list of great influencers to work with.
But little does anyone ever tell you about the challenges that come with influencer marketing. Because just like anything in the world, this incredible marketing technique has its drawbacks. In this article, we’ll explore some of the key dangers that you need to watch out for and address if you do plan to invest in influencer marketing.
Let’s get started.
Danger 1: Instagram is not performing as great as before
Of all the social media platforms that influencers use, Instagram has, for years, been the home ground for this type of marketing. In 2020, over 6.12 million posts were created solely by influencers on Instagram. With its colorful and highly interactive features, Instagram allowed influencers to engage with their audience constantly.
But here’s the thing. The number of Instagram users is steadily declining every day. Studies show that by 2025, monthly Instagram growth (i.e. sign-ups) will be at 3.1%, which is lesser than today’s 5.8% monthly user sign-ups. What’s worse is that by this time in 2021, Instagram monthly user sign-ups stood at 16.5%. So, the drop has been steep in the past year.
Not just this, but even engagement is reducing on Instagram, as more people clamor after platforms like TikTok and Clubhouse. Since 2019, the platform has seen a steady decline in engagement rate from 1.54% to 0.9%. If your influencer is on Instagram, they’ll notice this drop in engagement in the form of fewer likes, comments, and shares.
Investing in influencers when the platforms they typically use spiral downwards can bleed a lot of money out of your business.
Danger 2: Influencer marketing is always at risk of becoming inauthentic and ineffective
Here’s an ugly truth about influencer marketing – some influencers actually don’t believe in the products they endorse. When such influencers promote your product, they won’t be able to make their messaging sound as genuine; as it would otherwise sound from someone who actually likes the product and believes in it.
Such a danger typically occurs when brands fail to spend time with the influencer and don’t check for a personality-lifestyle match. Here, the brands make the mistake of only considering the influencer’s reach metrics and popularity when choosing them to promote their products. They don’t do more research about the type of products the influencer actually uses in their day-to-day, offscreen lives.
The thing is, since people are so used to seeing influencers every day and everywhere, it’s very easy for the audience to get a sense of how authentic a marketing message is. If the message does not feel genuine, it becomes less effective and your brand will risk alienating customers because of this.
Danger 3: Copyright infringement and absence of consent/credits is a crime
This is a particularly troubling problem for influencers and brands alike. A large part of an influencer’s job is to create fresh content that represents their brand partner’s products and services in engaging ways. This takes a lot of effort to do.
While it’s okay to seek inspiration from someone else’s post to create your own content, it’s certainly NOT okay to copy-paste an entire piece of content from someone else or share photos/videos they take without credits. But this is a very real risk of influencer marketing, especially if your chosen influencer does not do sufficient research or does not offer credits to the actual creator.
Plagiarism can destroy the credibility of your brand. Even a simple mistake can make people question the integrity of your products/services. In some cases, you may find that you’ve landed in legal trouble costing thousands or millions, because of a questionable social media post by your influencer.
Companies need to be mindful of creating stringent laws about content originality, consent during sharing, and content credits provision when signing a contract with an influencer. You’ll also need to monitor your influencer’s posts to make sure they fulfill these contractual requirements.
Danger 4: Hiding relationship with brand partners create intense legal and ethical dilemmas
Organic content, that is not branded, exudes a sense of authenticity that is often missing in paid content. Since influencer marketing is essentially a paid form of marketing, any posts influencers publish about your company, will be branded adverts.
In order to reduce the promotional feel of the post, some influencers choose to hide their commercial relationship with the brand. Their posts will resemble personal anecdotes, tried-and-tested endorsements, and innocent opinions. This can be problematic because of the legal and ethical dilemma this causes.
According to the FTC, all influencers must visibly let their audience know that they stand to make money from any purchases that result from each post. Hiding the professional influencer-brand relationship online is akin to fraud. Secondly, some products contain risk factors as well. When influencers don’t disclose their brand relationships online, they may not feel obligated to report the stated risk factors related to the product. This can create a dangerous situation where an unaware customer trusts the influencer and buys a product that is unsafe for them. (This is exactly what happened with Kim Kardashian and Diclegis).
Your brand too may be penalized by the FTC for not being transparent and engaging in deliberately misleading communication with customers.
Danger 5: Purchased followers and engagement can ruin your influencer campaign’s credibility
Another danger with influencer marketing is paid/purchased followers. There are many companies that sell paid subscribers, comments, likes, shares, and views. New influencers may try to use this underhanded method to get noticed by brands and land contracts.
If you don’t do your due diligence and choose such an influencer to partner with, you’re sinking your brand’s future from the start. While purchased followers and likes may seem harmless, these are actually black hat tactics that can get the post/website penalized by the social media algorithm. Your influencer’s posts may be shadow banned or your brand may receive a black mark for resorting to unethical ways to gain visibility and reach.
If your influencers are found to have lied about their follower base and popularity, even genuine followers may drop them quickly. This can result in huge losses for your company.
So, what should you do when faced with these problems?
It’s important for brands to protect themselves against these dangers and make mindful decisions about which influencers they hire. When vetting influencers, do a comprehensive check of their performance and popularity metrics, in addition to their career history and their personal preferences for the products/brands they use. Consult an influencer marketing company that can give you thorough background about influencers in your industry. They can help you find a person who is the right fit for your brand.
In doing so, you’ll ensure you have the right influencer and your campaigns are honest, authentic, and successful always.
Tracy is the Design Manager here at Redwood Creative. She’s been designing amazing graphics and web layouts for large and small businesses for upwards of 7 years.