Brands and influencers still at loggerheads over campaign control – but progress is being made

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

How much influence should an influencer have over the material they push? A new study from Takumi has found that half of marketers polled want complete control over influencers’ marketing posts.

The report (pdf, email required), which polled a mix of more than 4,000 consumers, marketers and influencers across the UK, US and Germany, found something of a disconnect between marketer and influencer trust. 86% of marketers polled suggested they trusted influencers, yet Takumi – an influencer marketing platform, it must be noted – suggested brands were likely to ‘stifle results by controlling the creative process.’

Influencers, the report agreed, are facing more scrutiny than ever. When Marissa Casey Grossman (nee Fuchs) unveiled her ‘surprise’ engagement on Instagram in June which was in eventuality a series of carefully-orchestrated stunts pitched to the nth degree, the industry naturally took a sideways glance. It can impact brands as well; Philip Morris fell foul of its own rules on such campaigns back in May, as originally reported by Reuters.

While the industry slowly grapples with gaining ROI, the issue of trust is a more important one. This is particularly given the report’s claim that influencers are gaining authority, particularly among the youngest consumers. According to the report, three in five consumers aged 16-24 credit an influencer with a purchase they have made over the past six months.

Brands need to be clear, but not controlling, the report noted. Almost two in five (39%) US and UK marketers polled said they wanted complete control over the caption and visual of an influencer’s post. In other words, they see it as the same as any other advertisement. This number rises to more than half (55%) for German marketers polled.

Influencers, Takumi argued, want three clear goals from any deal; creative control, a clear brief, and the potential for a long-term partnership. Overall, the report found influencers ‘on the whole’ trust brands to work with them on a fair and transparent basis, but some form of creative control was the most important factor. Influencers felt that including too many key messages ‘made captions feel scripted’, with shorter copy providing better engagement.

Naturally, clarity comes from both sides. According to the report, ‘disingenuous endorsements’ was the most popular reason users unfollowed influencers, cited by almost three quarters (72%) of respondents. Users were also concerned that influencers promoted unrealistic or unsustainable lifestyles (69%), or had bought fake followers (68%).

If you want a sign that the industry is maturing, both from the user and platform perspective, then the gradual phasing out of ‘vanity metrics’, such as engagement data and follower count, is one to look for. This is already happening with some social media companies – Instagram’s experiments at ‘hiding’ likes in certain geographies – and so transparency and authenticity are key.

“Social media platforms are evolving to help influencers and marketers explore metrics that demonstrate deeper engagement and prioritise creativity,” the report added. “These may include measurements such as the number of direct messages an influencer receives about a story or post, how many times their photo or video is saved, [or] the rate of comments and emoji reactions to stories.”

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