When brands and influencers screw up

Influencer marketing continues to heat up on Instagram thanks to the platform’s new algorithm that rewards brands’ relationships with social media stars. But brands and the influencers themselves often run into problems in the still-nascent area thanks to miscommunication, inexperience and conflicting objectives. There are even instances in which influencers simply copy and paste marketing instructions from the brands that they represent.

Here, we break down three common marketing slip-ups on Instagram, as told by both the influencer side and the brand side.

Influencers accidentally post their correspondence with brands.
It’s a common practice for brands and agencies to give social influencers a suggested caption, especially when they are working with those who have more than 100,000 followers, according to Victoria Reitano, CEO of social media agency CreatiVix Media. In doing so, brands can make sure that all hashtags, tags and short links are shared as desired to create highly engaging social experience for their audience.

But with so much control from brands, things can still go wrong. Last week, in her sponsored Instagram for Adidas, supermodel Naomi Campbell — who has around 2.9 million followers on the platform — accidentally pasted everything that the Adidas marketing team gave her. Campbell’s original post read:


So nice to see you in good spirits!!!
Could you put something like:

Thanks to my friend @gary.aspden and all at adidas – loving these adidas 350 SPZL from the adidas Spezial range. 😘 😘💜✊ @adidasoriginals

After she spotted the error, Campbell simply took out the first part of the caption and kept the rest, without any further edits.


TV reality start Scott Disick made the same mistake when he endorsed Bootea protein shake mix on Instagram.

“It happens because some influencers or their agents don’t pay much attention,” said Reitano. “To avoid this, marketers can share a cleaner ad copy without any citations or work with smaller influencers who don’t just consider social media as a business.”

What starts as “native” frequently ends up squarely promotional.
Sometimes there’s lack of authenticity in influencer partnerships. Rebecca McCuiston, svp of influencer marketing at agency 360i, explained that brands don’t necessarily see higher ROI from influencers with millions of followers – instead, smaller influencers whose content is relevant to a brand can craft more engaging posts on behalf of the company.

“It’s not only about an influencer’s social footprint, but also about their interactions, their content style and the demographics of their followers,” said McCuiston.

The copy and pastes from Campbell and Disck, as well as Kim Kardashian’s paid post for morning sickness medication Diclegis are not good influencer-marketing examples because they all look too promotional, added Nicolas Miachon, CMO for influencer marketing company Upfluence.

“Influencer marketing is PR 2.0. I can understand how deceptive those ‘too promotional’ posts can be for their fans. They are irrelevant,” he said. “Conversational content generates more [interactions] than promotional content. Some brands need some education on this.”

Meanwhile, both McCuiston and Miachon believe that brands should brief influencer precisely on editorial perimeters, key visuals and other requirements, as well as give influencers more creative freedom.

Influencer campaigns are not in compliance with regulations.
The Federal Trade Commission requires that social followers “need to be aware of the relationship between the influencer and the brand.”

In March of this year, department store Lord & Taylor just resolved the allegations with the FTC that its influencer campaigns on Instagram didn’t disclose sponsored content. Legal documents show that Lord & Taylor paid 50 select fashion influencers somewhere between $1,000 and $4,000 each to post one Instagram photo of themselves wearing its Design Lab dress during the weekend of March 27 and 28, 2015.

While Lord & Taylor asked those influencers to mention “@lordandtaylor” and use the campaign hashtag “#DesignLab” in their photo caption, the company didn’t require them disclose that they had been compensated.

“It’s really important for brands to play by the rules,” said 360i’s McCuiston. “Lately, there has been lots of media coverage about the FTC compliance, so I think brands now have a better understanding of how to work with influencers.”


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