The road to ethical influencer marketing – A guide for brands

Mar 22, 2024
The road to ethical influencer marketing – A guide for brands
With great influence comes great responsibility. Consumers today crave authenticity and transparency, making ethical navigation of this space crucial for brands. Brands need to explore best practices to foster trust and build genuine connections with their target audience.

First, brands and content creators must work in synergy, for authentic collaborations to shine through, points out Ritesh Ujjwal, Co-Founder, Kofluence.

When strategizing on creative direction, brands must give content creators the creative license to do what they do best while ensuring that these partnerships align with their image and brand values, says Ujjwal. According to him, achieving a balance between authenticity and shared commercial interests is vital for fostering trust with consumers.

Why influencer marketing in India is a double-edged sword

“Sacrificing authenticity for promotional purposes undermines the integrity of the brand-influencer relationships, and ultimately often does not pass the audience litmus test. Moreover, marketing messages should be crafted sensitively, taking into account cultural and geopolitical factors to avoid offending or alienating any group of people. The phenomenon of "woke-washing" underscores the importance of genuine engagement with social issues, rather than superficial attempts to appear socially conscious. Brands must steer clear of tokenistic gestures and instead demonstrate a genuine commitment to social responsibility. By understanding the complexities of societal issues, brands can ensure that their campaigns resonate positively with diverse audiences. Finally, clear disclosures are essential to maintain transparency and trust with consumers. Audiences should be informed when content is sponsored or promotional in nature to prevent any potential confusion. Proper disclosures uphold ethical standards in advertising and empower audiences to make informed decisions about the content they consume. By prioritizing transparency, authenticity, and sensitivity in their marketing practices, brands can ethically achieve their goals while maintaining integrity and trust with their audience,” adds Ujjwal.

According to Manoj Jain, Founder & Chief Business Officer, ROI Guru, brands need to explore best practices to navigate this space ethically and achieve their marketing goals. They need to:

Be vigilant and avoid generalisations: Don’t hire someone who has millions of followers. I would propose the following approach:

Do research on influencers, starting with an educational background. If the influencer is not willing to share, then simply kick them out. They need you more than you need them, so keep the authority and positioning with yourself.
Check his/her experience and do the math right: If an influencer is a roaster, then asking him or her to sell financial courses may not make much sense. Why? Because when an influencer is busy having fun conversations, the focus of the audience will be on his or her jokes. Even if they endorse brands in between, by the time the video ends, this promotion has vanished. Most of the users won’t even remember that there was an ad in between. It is because the intent of watching a roast video is to have fun and hear some good or bad jokes. Who will remember what product the influencer promoted?
Influencers must be hired based on their knowledge and ensuring that they really understand the products or services. Influencers must divide the message into 3-4 parts during the video. The last part must be crescendo with a clear-cut CTA. This CTA must further engage the audience with influencers. Through influencer promotion, interest is created in the first place, and now it is time to build upon it.

Ask the audience to register for an hour-long introductory webinar regarding domain education and promote the product as well. For example, in the case of commodity trading, people need to understand the nitty gritty of commodity trading. Though the influencer is the face of the webinar, companies drive this whole show.

If the influencer is not engaging in further steps, then you should look for others who can do this job. Remember, nurturing prospects is extremely important, and then only tangible sales will take place. So, hire an influencer for long-term engagement. It will also benefit them, and win-win synergy is created.

Companies must retain all data gathered through an influencer engagement (it is company IP; influencers don’t have the right to ask for royalty or additional remuneration). Companies must run the business intelligence, employ an AI engine to build common patterns, and address those in any way possible. Remember, people don’t use more than 30%-40% of the features of the products or services, so focus on those common features. It will make the product extremely astounding and usable for the audience. This will ultimately result in increased sales.

Bottom line: If an influencer denies long-term engagement, then you want somebody else. The only way to secure ROI from an influencer is to ask for long term engagement with his/her audience.

Remember, the moment companies hire an influencer, then it is their responsibility to leverage this data. For example, if an influencer has 2 million subscribers, then companies don’t get 2 million subscribers. They get 2 million open gates to reach more and more people.

Digital world promotion game is centered around excellent content and moderate distribution. If the content is good and executed well, then people give you FREE promotion, that is, viral content. It is not easy but not impossible too. Quality must always precede quantity.

When influencer marketing broke on the scene in India around 2015, not many tools could analyse the quality of followers and other critical factors about the influencers, says Burzeen Bhathena, Director of Marketing, NMIMS University. However, he adds, in the last couple of years, multiple tools have given an in-depth analysis of the influencer’s follower base. These tools, according to him, provide deep insights and help identify influencers with fake followers (BOT traffic).

“However, the tools come at a cost, and if the brand is doing a one-off campaign, it does not make business sense to invest money in any tool. In such a scenario, the marketing teams must avoid looking at the follower base in isolation and consider parameters like the engagement rate, the other brands that have invested with the influencer, and the persona of followers. For sponsored content disclosures, the institutions must only invest in influencers who understand and use clear disclosures per the guidelines laid down by the individual platforms. It is always advisable to ensure that the disclosures are prominent and easy to find, not encapsulated with some captions or hashtags,” Bhathena adds.

Measuring effectiveness is quite a challenge when it comes to influencer marketing campaigns. There is no direct attribution to a conversion like registration and admission. Alternatively, brands must set metrics like website visits, traffic quality (measured by average time spent and bounce rate), increase in brand search volumes (Google Trends can show this data) and growth in followers on the brand’s handle. Influencers should also be given tracking (UTM) links embedded in their posts or bio to track the clicks and conversions. These metrics are in addition to the engagement rate on the post on the influencer's handle.

According to Ramya Ramachandran, Founder-CEO, Whoppl, brands can ethically navigate this space by prioritizing authenticity, engaging in genuine partnerships with influencers who resonate with their brand values, and maintaining open communication channels to ensure alignment with marketing goals while being ethical.

Source: adgully