The good, the bad and the ugly side of Influencer Marketing

The good, the bad and the ugly side of Influencer Marketing


You may have read my previous articles and now you know what’s needed to successfully run an Influencer Marketing campaign. You’re expecting a great ROI for your efforts. In this final article of the series, you’ll be able to see the good and the bad side of Influencer campaign planning and management, or the lack thereof.

The Good

I’m sure you’ve already heard of all the amazing success stories of various Influencer Marketing campaigns, but what does it really mean to be successful in Influencer Marketing? At the moment, there is no industry standard for calculating ROI. As such every Influencer marketer provides his/her own definition, which too often considers reach only. The problem is that reach does reflect anything else other than potential impressions, and not the real impact. At R-Squared Digital, we believe that reach alone, without engagement, is empty.

By tracking the correct metrics, such as engagement, one should be able to calculate a sound ROI for the campaign. Social Media Today (following research by Nielsen) reported that, on average, Influencer Marketing delivers 11x higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing. Various studies have shown that businesses that employ Influencer Marketing earn, on average, $7.65 of media presence for every $1 spent on Influencer Marketing. Campaigns designed and executed by Influencer Marketing experts can expect these results as an average, so how does your campaign compare?

It’s no secret that these benchmarks will continue to rise in the foreseeable future, as the industry grows, with many businesses expanding their Influencer Marketing budgets regularly.

According to Klear, Influencer Marketing has grown by a staggering 198% on Instagram over the previous year, with Social Media Today reporting that 48% of surveyed businesses plan to expand their Influencer Marketing budgets over the coming years.

We could really feel the increase in interest in Influencer Marketing at R-Squared Digital; last month we successfully completed 9x the amount of campaigns we had in September of last year.

ROI calculations remain a challenge to the Influencer Marketing industry; there is no single, overarching formula currently present in the industry and this leaves plenty room for innovation and interpretation. By comparing campaign engagement rates at an individual post, influencer, and campaign level, to a specific influencer engagement benchmark, a far sounder ROI can be calculated.

The Bad

As demonstrated above, influencer marketing is extremely powerful. However, it must be approached very differently to the approach of conventional marketing in order to guarantee high engagement and authenticity, while still protecting the brand equity. This approach requires a very specific skillset and expertise in building a dedicated Influencer Marketing strategy, planning the campaign, and executing it.

As mentioned throughout the previous articles, authenticity is extremely important in Influencer Marketing, for the sake of both the brand and the influencer. On the brand side, it’s important to keep the message authentic and genuine to ensure that it doesn’t look like an advert. On the influencer’s side, it’s important to tell a story in their own style ensuring that they build their own brand and image. By combining both sides of the spectrum, the brand will be able to reinforce its message rather than alienating its audience.

Scott Disick, the reality TV star and ex-husband of Kourtney Kardashian, provided us with a perfect example of what not to do when it comes to authentic storytelling. A health and lifestyle company (Bootea) paid Disick to promote their new protein shake to his 20-odd million followers. Nothing wrong here, but what happened next was a complete catastrophe.

Disick posted a photo of himself with the product he was being paid to promote, but the caption is where it all went wrong. Instead of telling a story in his own authentic style, he simply copy-pasted the caption provided to him by Bootea, including the instructions the brand had given to him regarding the post.

Click HERE to view the full article on the Content Marketing Institute's website.
Scott Disick for Bootea


Once again, looking at both sides of the spectrum mentioned above. On the one hand, the brand did not allow Disick any freedom to produce the content within his own style, this would mean the content would end up looking very inauthentic even if he had just posted the caption. On the other hand, Disick did not put any effort into creating authentic content that would match his style, once again making the content look very unoriginal.

As mentioned in previous articles, influencers have an audience who follow them because they like their style and their recommendations. If influencers start to copy paste messages from the brand, it’s no longer their own personal style, but rather a corporate message that looks like an advert.

When Influencer Marketing starts to look like an advert, rather than an authentic story, it loses its power.

The Ugly

In previous articles, we looked at the importance of respecting all mandatory regulations in various industries and verticals. Without proper contracting covering all these bases, violation of various regulations is a very real possibility, and may have serious repercussions for both the influencer and the brand. On the one hand, the brand may suffer a significant financial and/or reputational beating from violating regulations. On the other hand, the influencer will suffer a massive blow to their reputation and credibility.

Kim Kardashian found this out the hard way when promoting products in the health industry. Duchesnay (a pharmaceutical company) paid Kim to promote their new morning sickness tablets, Diclegis, during her pregnancy. Kim happily obliged but made a few fatal mistakes in her execution of the content.

Click HERE to view the full article on Forbes' website.

Kim Kardashian for Diclegis


Kim violated not one, but two Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations with this one piece of content. First, by paying Kim, this post ‘unknowingly’ created an illegal advertisement for a prescription drug – a huge problem in the eyes of the FDA. Secondly, it failed to mention any risks or side effects of the drug – another huge problem for the FDA.

The FDA instructed Kim to remove any and all posts pertaining to the drug and also instructed the pharmaceutical company to “immediately cease misbranding Diclegis and/or cease introducing the misbranded drug into interstate commerce”. The pharmaceutical company were lucky to escape large fines from the FDA.

These above examples are only two cases of when influencers’ actions may backfire on the brand. It’s critical to create engagement and conversations, but let’s not forget that influencers are not marketing professionals and may not anticipate the impact or the reactions that can be triggered by a post. Even worse, some content may be interpreted as inappropriate, sexist or racist even if this was unintended, which could heavily backfire on the brand.

It's clear to see that there are plenty positives when it comes to Influencer Marketing, but to achieve these positives, brands need to consider all avenues of a campaign, both internally and externally, from beginning to end, to ensure the campaign produces the ROI the brand is looking for. Brands should partner with Influencer Marketing experts to achieve these ROI’s and more importantly; to avoid embarrassing situations like the ones above.

If you’re dying to know more now and you’d like expert assistance with creating and managing your influencer marketing campaigns, you can contact us on partners@r2digital.co.za

Josh da Costa

Josh da Costa

Josh Da Costa has a BCom specialising in Economics from the University of Cape Town, and will be studying a postgraduate LLB from 2019 onward.

He has aspirations of specialising in intellectual property law and that's why content creation and influencer marketing is of interest to him.

He is currently working as a communications intern at R-Squared Digital. He has a passion for traveling and fashion, among other things, and is an avid football fan. Call him at (021) 276 0265 or send him an email.

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