Stranger danger

Brands risk their reputations with unknown influencers.

Ask any teenager what they want to be when they grow up and half will probably say an ‘influencer’. If successful in their ambitions, these free-posting youngsters could soon have teams of corporate investigators crawling through their internet history as part of a brand’s risk assessment.

Corporate investigators are branching out from the pursuit of white-collar criminals to trawl through the histories of social media influencers for any red-flags. According to one such firm, “25% of influencers have a risky history, including, racism, jokes about rape, gender stereotyping, misogyny, anti-Semitism, cultural insensitivity, etc.”

But do brands care enough to invest in such a service?

A marketing manager at Pinterest (Former Google PR) wasn’t surprise by the emerging field, “Of course influencers are a risk. I’ve seen it all, especially with YouTubers. Influencers are often young so you think that they couldn’t have done anything, but suddenly there is a sex tape, cases of tax avoidance, racism, you name it!”

“Influencers are often young so you think that they couldn’t have done anything.”  

Marketing manager, Pinterest, London 

An executive at Levi’s in Chile expects their external agencies to do proper background checks, “There are two types of influencers, one long-term the other occasional. Long-term influencers are reviewed by external agencies before they are hired. The agency evaluates behaviours, track record, red flags, etc. In practice reputation risk is assessed by the agency.”

Some firms mitigate the risk by keeping influencers at arms-length, an OPI franchise in Peru tells us, “We do not hire or contract any influencer. We send sample products and let them comment organically, we don’t pay them and we don’t tie ourselves to them.”

Looking back 10 years to when someone was 12 seems a bit exaggerated.” 

Celebrity influencer, Peru 

From the other side of the table, we spoke to a Peruvian celebrity influencer with an impressive client list of global brands, “The big brands and agencies analyse your profile and do some background checks, the small and mid-sized firms are only interested in your reach and brand alignment. Looking back 10 years to when someone was 12 seems a bit exaggerated.”

Corporate reputation is a critical business issue and the influencer marketing landscape is still evolving so brands must tread carefully.

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