Paid influencer advertisements are nearly impossible to miss during a quick scroll of one’s social media timeline, with promotions ranging from industries all across the board: health, fitness, food, beauty, travel and more. According to the 2016 Influencer Marketing Report released by Chute, a user-generated content marketing solution, 66 percent of the more than 200 marketing professionals surveyed used social influencers as part of their marketing strategies in 2016.
Business owners have a large pool of influencer and influencer-hopefuls to select from when searching for the social media influencer best fit for their company. The most enticing and distinguishable kinds of traits that an influencer can have is subjective to the business evaluating such traits.
Sarah Hyldahl, owner of Smile Bright Teeth Whitening, said the compensation given to influencers in her company depends on how large their following is on social media. Regardless of following, Hyldahl gives all of her influencers an incentive — although she does provide more incentives to influencers with larger followings.
“A lot of the time I will give influencers a certain code and they will get a little bit of commission per kit that sells for their code,” Hyldahl said.
Accoding to Hyldahl, the commission is generally around five dollars per teeth whitening kit sold.
Ken Szymusiak, managing director of the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Broad College of Business at Michigan State University, believes that although the number of followers an influencer has is of significant importance, the importance of other traits depends on the product or service that is being promoted.
“It’s one thing if it’s a consumer good that can be applicable to all people,” Szymusiak said. “If the product of service you try to sell has a niche audience, I think there’s probably value in someone whose followers are highly engaged and the person creates very curated content around the things that they promote on their site.”
Hydahl chooses to conduct businesses with celebrities and to only collaborate with influencers that have tried her products. The business owner said in her experience, business owners commonly pay celebrities a large sum of money to promote a product that they do not use.
“When I promote my products, my tagline is, ‘Real people, real results.’ So, everybody that is talking about our product has used our product,” Hyldahl said. “I know how I can sleep at night… and it’s not by paying somebody $20,000 to talk about a product that I know they’ll never use.”
Aubrey Roskoskey of Grand Rapids said her initial interpretation of most influencer ads is that the influencer is “only promoting that item only because they’re being paid and not because they actually support or believe in that product.”
“They definitely seem less authentic because I know that influencer’s primary source of income is probably from posts such as those and they’re only posting or advertising things for the money, not to truly connect to people,” Roskoskey said.
Roskoskey, 24, particularly finds ads that contain a caption with many hashtags or links to appear as curated, posed and disingenuous.
According to Szymusiak, the steep increase of larger brands within the last few years that now use social influencer ads may also make this form of advertising appear less genuine.
“As influencers get more and more brands that want to buy into them, will they lose some of their audience?” Szymusiak asked. “Will a core follower think, ‘Oh, man. This person is pushing the Gap now when they only used to push local boutiques.’”
To Roskoskey, photos that appear to be “more in-the-moment snapshots” and “captions that sound like something the influencer or person would actually say” can potentially make an influencer advertisement more authentic, and subsequently more profitable.
Whether the influencer promoting a product on social media has a plethora of followers or just a few thousand, social media users’ perception of the influencer’s authenticity could arguably be the most significant attribute. Szymusiak finds it imperative to choose an influencer that clearly reflects the culture and goals of the company.
“It’s not about the number of followers, it’s about how authentic it seems when the person you’re working with is pushing your product. Does your mission and the product you’re offering and putting on the marketplace actually really fit well with that person’s identity that’s representing it? Or is it just you trying to get in front of a lot of people?” Syzmusiak asked.
“I think you need to have good transparency.”