Last week without much fanfare, Facebook made a pretty big change to how brands work with influencers on its site. Previously, a brand would have to share an influencer’s post before they could boost it. Now, brands can boost any influencer’s post as long as the influencer is authorized to tag the brand in their updates. The influencer tags the brand in their update, then the brand can boost the influencer’s update.
Why is Facebook making this change? The suspicion is that Facebook will begin suppressing influencer posts that are tagged for brands to boost in an effort to get brands to spend more on boosting those posts to achieve the reach they need to hit their campaign marks. Facebook has been doing this for years with brand content, and this would simply be an extension of that strategy. If Facebook does start suppressing brand-related updates from influencers, that could also lead to influencers and brands not disclosing their working relationship in an effort to keep their organic reach. This would be an FTC violation, but with expensive influencers, some brands might risk the fines. Which would further erode consumer trust in such content.
And, of course, any moves Facebook makes in regards to dictating how brands can work with influencers will likely be mirrored on Instagram, since FB now owns IG. So these changes will have a big impact for any brands that leverage paid social in their influencer marketing plans.
What Will Happen Next
For agencies that are committed to influencer marketing, these moves will make their lives a bit easier as influencers can now do some of the back-work for them as agencies no longer have to add influencers and approve them for boosting, which will simplify their workflow. If Facebook does start suppressing the organic reach of influencer posts (in an effort to drive more paid support), then it will likely mean that budgets for paid support will have to increase. It could also mean that Facebook will crack down on influencers using fake followers and bots so advertisers will have a truer sense of the real size of an influencer’s network and reach.
That’s on the agency side. For companies that are working with influencers in-house, especially mid-size and smaller companies, these moves could dictate a re-assessment of its influencer marketing strategy, especially if most of that strategy is currently running through Facebook and Instagram.
From the company side, here’s two changes I would hope to see when it comes to influencer marketing:
1 – Companies need to start treating influencers as business partners. Kerry is spot-on here. Too many companies have the mentality that they want to ‘rent’ an influencer’s audience for the duration of a campaign. By working and even investing in influencers long-term, this allows the influencer to more effectively connect with their audience on the brand’s behalf, and the content they create for the brand will be more credible with the influencer’s audience. Plus, this commitment to working and growing together makes it easier for the influencer to become an actual advocate or fan of the brand, which further helps the authenticity of the influencer’s content that promotes that brand.
2 – Companies need to focus more on working with influencers who are also existing advocates and fans for their brand. Doesn’t it make sense to work with influencers who are already signing your brand’s praises? Of course it does. One of the problems that brands face when sponsoring content from influencers is that it often comes across as an obvious paid endorsement from the influencer. “They are just saying they like that product because the brand is paying them”, is often the knee-jerk response to such content. But your brand’s fans are already promoting your content for free, so why not invest in deepening that relationship? And yes, many brands will read that and say “Well if they are already promoting us for free, why pay them?”. Because these fans of your brand are also directly engaging every day with your customers. Not only are they selling for your brand, they are also collecting incredibly valuable product feedback from other customers. Feedback that can be acted on and incorporated back into the business and marketing processes to further increase sales. Whether I am working with a client on influencer marketing or brand advocacy/ambassador efforts, I always stress to them that it’s not just about the direct sales. Focus also on the indirect activities that the influencers or ambassadors can engage in on the brand’s behalf that will also lead to sales.
If your brand or agency uses Facebook for its current influencer marketing efforts, how will these changes impact you?