Consumer goods giant Unilever has said that urgent action is needed. An irrevocable breakdown in influencer trust is inevitable unless immediate action is taken.
“At Unilever, we believe influencers are an important way to reach consumers and grow our brands,” chief marketing officer Keith Weed said, Variety reports.
“Their power comes from a deep, authentic and direct connection with people, but certain practices like buying followers can easily undermine these relationships. We need to take urgent action to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.”
The company has confirmed that it will not work with influencers who have purchased followers, will never allow its own brands to buy followers and “will prioritise partners who increase their transparency and work to eradicate nefarious practices throughout the digital ecosystem”.
Unilever also revealed that an influencer with 100k followers can earn up to $2,000 for a promotional tweet. A million followers ramps that fee up to around $20,000. However, the problem comes when those follower numbers are falsely inflated. A company called Devumi, for example, has to date sold around 3.5m automated accounts for just that purpose.
As well as increasing the cost of influencer marketing, this all makes measuring its effectively more difficult. Even if ad impression numbers are true (and there are also fears that they are often not), how many of those eyes are ‘real’ eyes is an additional worry.
Added Weed, as reported by The Drum: “The key to improving the situation is three-fold: cleaning up the influencer ecosystem by removing misleading engagement; making brands and influencers more aware of the use of dishonest practices; and improving transparency from social platforms to help brands measure impact. We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.”
In February Weed accused both Google and Facebook of failing to deal with content that “creates division in society and promotes anger and hate”.
“As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online," he said. "We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain – one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to our consumers – which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency.
“Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children – parts of the internet we have ended up with is a million miles from where we thought it would take us… It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this. Before viewers stop viewing, advertisers stop advertising and publishers stop publishing.
“We will prioritise investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society.”