5 steps to ensure brand safety in influencer marketing

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By definition, influencer marketing means allowing a creator to speak on behalf of your brand. While this is a top strategy for growing your brand’s reach, it isn’t without risk to brand safety. As brands embark on influencer marketing they need to be sure they’re working with authentic and trustworthy creators who won’t damage the reputation of their brand. In today’s world brand loyalty is low, so for brands to draw in new customers, trust and transparency are key! 

Influencers have significant reach on social media, meaning they have the power to shape how online audiences see your brand. This works to your advantage when influencer marketing goes well, bringing swathes of new customers to your doors. But on the other side of the coin, one slip-up can bring brand safety concerns. 

Although these incidents are rare, every marketer remembers the backlash following Kendall Jenner’s appearance in Pepsi’s ad where she becomes the ‘heroine’ of a Black Lives Matter protest. There’s also the case of Luka Sabbat, an influencer hired for $60,000 to promote Snap’s Spectacle glasses on Instagram during Paris Fashion Week. But after failing to deliver all the content asked for, the campaign ended in a lawsuit. This goes to show that when influencer marketing is unchecked, brands can find themselves with a PR crisis or squandered marketing budgets. 

It’s therefore not so surprising that according to Influencer Marketing Hub, 76% of marketers recognize brand safety as a concern in influencer marketing. Most brands aren’t at risk of celebrity influencer fails, but they should still prioritize brand safety to make sure influencers meet expectations and represent their brand effectively. 

The reality is, risks can be greatly reduced when the right safeguards are in place. Let’s explore the best methods for keeping your brand safe in influencer campaigns. 

Recruit authentic influencers

Marketers need to do their due diligence to prioritize authenticity and avoid hiring fake influencers. During the process of identifying influencer profiles, brands should be looking at their previous campaigns, evaluating their content style, and researching them in the press. You’re looking to see if they’re a good fit for your brand. You want to make sure they are genuinely aligned with the ethos of your brand, i.e if you’re a vegan skincare brand you don’t want to work with influencers who’ve promoted leather handbags in the past! Look at the type of content they post, and the language they use, is it compatible with your brand? By asking these questions during your search, you’ll identify real influencers who are genuine advocates for your brand.  

Don’t work with influencers who have fake followers 

It might seem obvious yet many brands don’t analyze their influencers’ ‘real follower count’ before launching a partnership. Fake followers are a key issue for brand safety as paying for influencers who aren’t reaching real individuals in your target audience is a waste of your marketing dollars. Instagram bots that leave spammy comments on your brand’s posts doesn’t promote genuine engagement or positive brand sentiment. Be sure to protect your brand from the damage caused by fake followers by using a tool such as Upfluence which offers a real follower percentage on every influencer profile. It’s recommended that you work with influencers who have 80% or higher real followers to get the most value from your campaigns. 

upfluence influencer profile

Create an influencer contract 

As the influencer marketing industry matures, influencer contracts are becoming more commonplace. By setting out the working agreement in writing, a contract reduces risks for both parties and lays the foundation for a transparent and successful partnership.  

With clauses for content approval and timelines for delivery, contracts can be a key instrument for brand safety. By including content approval as part of the contract brands can minimize risk by signing off directly on any content that gets published. Upfluence’s workflow tool has been designed with this in mind, making it easy for creators to receive briefs and contracts and upload content for approval within one dashboard. 

Influencer contracts are an important lever to protect both brands and influencers by setting out expectations, compensation, as well as clauses for cancellation, and failure to deliver content. They allow brands to address exclusivity and compliance while ensuring influencers are fairly compensated. It’s also the perfect place to remind creators about the FTC guidelines and prevent ad fraud. In this way, contracts are an important step in the professionalization of influencer marketing, encouraging brands to treat influencers as they would any other freelance service provider. 

It’s also crucial to look out for red flags before signing an influencer contract. Is the influencer responsive? Are they willing to agree to your terms? Are they willing to share performance insights? If they’re proving too demanding or difficult to work with from the beginning it’s probably not worth investing in the partnership.

influencer contract
Vectorjuice via Freepik.com

Set out a clear campaign brief

Brands should create a clear brief for their influencers, offering their expectations, and sharing specific details such as key messages, and dos and don’ts. They can specify keywords to use (and ones to avoid), and give instructions for content production, ensuring both parties are on the same page. It’s a key document to help influencers understand your brand, your products, and what your goals are so be sure to include as much information and context as possible. 

It is up to you to decide how much creative freedom you want to allow in your campaign brief. If your industry is subject to strict advertising regulations such as alcohol or CBD products then in the interest of brand safety you might create a stricter brief. Most brands, however, will benefit from giving some room for creative freedom as influencers are experts in creating authentic content that will engage their audiences. After all, influencers are expert content creators and they know better than anyone what kind of content will get the best response from their followers. Know upfront what is acceptable (or not) for your brand and be open to hearing their expertise and suggestions. 

Look at the data 

From influencer selection to campaign performance tracking, data is key to helping you make the best marketing decisions. Upfluence prioritizes brand safety which is why our tool is designed for data-driven influencer marketing. During influencer selection you can see a realistic insight into an influencer’s performance and audience, helping you to make sure they are helping you reach the right audience. We offer estimated pricing and an A to F rating based on the average data from similar influencer profiles, to help you make a real evaluation of each profile and choose those who will deliver the best results for your brand. 

influencer data

When it comes to outreach, you can also see an influencer’s response rate so you can prioritize reaching out to the most active influencers and avoid wasting precious time. 

During influencer marketing campaigns brands can measure sales, engagements, and ROI in real-time, so you can assess who are your best-performing creators. Having access to reliable data throughout your campaign means you can continue to make smart decisions about how to spend your influencer marketing budget and avoid throwing money down the drain. 

By following these 5 steps when running influencer campaigns, brands can ensure they’re nurturing worthwhile influencer partnerships that minimize risks to brand safety and deliver on their goals. 

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