Influencer Marketing really does seem to be the hot new thing on the digital marketing landscape. Though it’s been around for a while, it’s really starting to come into its own as a major, not ancillary, digital marketing channel. Still, it does leave you in the sometimes uncomfortable position of entrusting your brand or your product to a third party, and you can’t always account for all the factors. Recently, for example, there have been several instances of influencer marketing going awry.

Now, before we dive in, it’s important to state that we still have a lot of faith in influencer marketing, but, like any tool, it needs to be used carefully and deliberately. The following examples illustrate what can happen when brands are not properly diligent with influencer marketing.

Rockfish Games Failed to Vet Their Influencer

In a recent interview at Reboot Develop, Rockfish Games developer Michael Schade recounted an absolutely terrible experience working with a prominent influencer to advertise their flagship game, Everspace.

Without getting bogged down in the details, the basic gist of the game is that the gameplay loop revolves around spaceships. Rockfish paid a prominent influencer, a YouTube streamer, to play the game live for his many fans. For the exposure, Rockfish paid the equivalent of a little more than $10 000 USD. The influencer charged about $5000 per hour, and required a minimum of two hours for the booking.

It was, to put it mildly, a complete fiasco. The influencer made it clear that he had no love for Everspace. Indeed, he opened the stream by saying, “I have to stop playing Destiny 2 now because I’m on a sponsored stream to play a space game and I don’t like space games.” He went on to play “like a complete […] moron.”

In this case, the agency Rockfish had been working with relied too highly (or too exclusively) on vanity metrics. They saw the opportunity to pay for a stream on a channel with a popular streamer with a reasonably large viewership, and didn’t dig further. Had they taken the time to watch some of his past content, sit in on some livestreams, or even ask him for his honest opinion on the genre, it might have gone very differently.

As it was, Rockfish was out ten grand, for the privilege of having someone lampoon their game in front of a massive audience.

Though it had a happy ending (the resulting controversy was basically free publicity, and Everspace was on every industry news site for weeks afterward), this cautionary tale illustrates one way that influencer marketing can go awry.

Kim Kardashian’s Lollipop Gaffe Upset 111 Million Fans

Kim Kardashian’s Instagram feed boasts a massive audience. Plenty of advertisers have paid for her sponsorship, and for the most part it’s gone reasonably well. But a couple of weeks ago, she came under fire for promoting an appetite-suppressing lollipop.

Her fans weren’t happy, resenting the rather callous disregard for the severity of eating disorders, which, by demographic, many of her audience was likely to have struggled with. But the damage extended to other advertisers as well. Other brands were being tainted by proxy, and many hastily distanced themselves from the various offending social media accounts.

From a digital marketing perspective, the takeaway for influencer marketing here is that it’s important to vet not only your influencer but that influencer’s other partnerships, as well.

BooTea Shake Fails to Impress Scott Disick

Scott Disick was given instructions to post a plug for BooTea’s protein shake on his Instagram feed. Unfortunately, though Disick did keep up his end of the deal in good faith, his utter lack of interest led to him accidentally posting the instructions, verbatim, along with the content.

Obviously this was an embarrassment for both parties, but it shamed and cheapened the concept of influencer marketing in general. In effect, it pulled back the curtain, and made the whole thing seem uncomfortably transactional.

But it shouldn’t be. Influencer marketing shouldn’t be purely, or even primarily transactional.

Getting Influencer Marketing Right

Getting influencer marketing right is all about authenticity. It’s not about vanity metrics, or about breadth of audience reach. Influencer marketing is about a partnership to tell honest, engaging stories.

An influencer isn’t likely to be worth partnering with unless he or she has a genuine appreciation for your brand. If it doesn’t resonate with your influencer at a personal level, then you can’t expect that influencer to plug your brand with anything even approaching conviction.

It’s been a common refrain for us, but quality will always trump sheer quantity when it comes to digital marketing. The right reach will always, always be more important than a larger one, by the numbers.

Influencer marketing, as a partnership, needs to be something that both parties can be proud, and genuinely enthusiastic about.

Colibri Digital Marketing

We’re the only full-service B Corp-certified digital marketing agency in the industry. As such, we choose to work with businesses and brands about whom we can be proud to get the word out. When we share those stories, it’s with genuine interest and excitement because we believe that they have something great to offer. We’re proud of every single one of our clients.

If your business has a story to tell, and you’re looking to develop an influencer marketing strategy, get in touch! After a free digital marketing strategy session, we’ll be ready to help you find the people to tell your story, authentically, honestly, and proudly.