Is Influencer Harassment an Issue Across the Industry?
Earlier this year, our influencer marketing team came across several stories of extreme influencer harassment that had us worried about the safety of influencers across the industry. We began asking ourselves if this type of harassment was a widespread issue that people weren't commonly discussing and if any of the influencers we've worked with had experienced or were currently experiencing harassment from followers.
In an effort to further understand the situation at scale, we invited over 1,800 influencers to participate in a survey on harassment. But to our surprise, very few influencers completed the survey.
This led our team to believe that while the trolls may still exist, they're not as big of a deal to a majority of influencers compared to the many other items they're dealing with (like the high volume of sponsorship opportunities, discrepancies in pay, and burnout). That said, while harassment may not be viewed as a major issue in the industry, there are still several key learnings that came out of this initiative brands should be mindful of when it comes to their influencer marketing programs and what they can do to keep influencers safe.
Advice from Influencers; How Brands Should Be Protecting Their Influencers
Whether there's a threat of harassment or not, brands should still be doing their part to protect an influencer they've hired from negative comments associated with their sponsored campaign. Many of the influencer respondents to our survey pointed out these overlooked items that brands can do to keep influencer safe:
- Monitoring Brand-Owned Ads: Just as an influencer is responsible for monitoring their own content, brands also need to be responsible for monitoring the comments on any ads or content that they publish that features the influencer and/or their work. This includes taking the time to block users or delete comments that are negative and violate social media community guidelines. It shouldn't be the influencer's job to monitor these brand-owned assets.
- Review Audience Targeting on Ads: Related to the note above, if you're running an ad that features an influencer, review the audience you're targeting and double-check that this audience won't have an adverse reaction to the influencer being featured. It could be as simple as a discrepancy in age (targeting an older audience but featuring a young influencer) or gender, or it could be a more complex social issue, such as featuring a same-sex couple. That said, if you're going to take a stance on social issues that are more of a hot topic and may cause mixed reactions from audiences, be prepared to continue to hold firm to your stance on the matter and defend and protect the subject at hand and the influencer you're featuring.
- Excluding Sensitive Information from Assignments: There are also a few items that brands should avoid asking influencers to share in their content, things that influencers intentionally avoid publishing to keep themselves and those around them safe. These include the more obvious request of sharing any personal information (address, phone number, etc.), but more interestingly, tagging locations while influencers are still on site. Many influencers will wait to publish content that includes a location tag after they've left the actual location.
Politics and Influencer Marketing Don't Mix
The past few years have been heavily political, both personally and across social media, but if there's one major item that stood out in our survey it was that politics and influencer marketing do not go well together. Roughly 4 in 10 respondents to our survey claimed to have experienced harassment due to political views, and about half of respondents said they avoid politics on social media channels in general to prevent any adverse reactions from audiences. One influencer specifically noted that they believed brands should keep political and social justice issues out of partnership campaigns completely, and another noted that even the smallest indication of a political comment can cause thousands of negative responses from the audience. So in general, we suggest keeping any politically motivated or related content out of your influencer marketing campaigns.
So there you have it. Your brand is likely already working hard to maintain your own brand safety, but those same principles should also apply to the influencers that you partner with to keep them safe prevent audiences from harassing them.
If you need help developing a strategy for an upcoming initiative or finding influencers that align with your brand values, connect with our team today. We've run over 200 influencer marketing programs and would be happy to help. Alternatively, if you just want to keep up with the latest and greatest in the influencer marketing industry, I encourage you to subscribe to our e-newsletter, The Spin, below.
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