In an effort to reach consumers via social channels, in recent years a growing number of brands large and small have embraced influencer marketing.

But as evidenced by Essena O'Neill, a popular 18-year-old influencer from Australia, influencer marketing has a dark side.

That dark side was on display for all to see recently when Scott Disick, a television personality best known for his relationship with reality TV star and socialite Kourtney Kardashian, was caught posting an ostensibly paid promotion for Bootea protein shakes.

As the screenshot above demonstrates, Disick's Bootea Instagram post was about as far from authentic as is possible and not surprisingly, Disick was subsequently teased and lambasted for his embarrassing faux pas.

Brands should take note and heed the following advice to ensure their influencer marketing campaigns don't become a joke.

1. Align your brand with the right influencers

With 16.4m Instagram followers, Scott Disick's ability to reach a large number of people is hard to dispute.

But why would Bootea, a health and wellness brand, align itself with a celebrity who is known for his hard-partying ways and who has made headlines for his struggles with drug and alcohol abuse?

While Disick shouldn't be shamed for those struggles, it's hard not to think that Bootea would have been better off aligning itself with influencers whose lifestyles are more consistent with its values.

Long-term, that is a much safer bet.

2. Think bigger than paid posts

For obvious reasons, paid posts are not going away.

But any good influencer campaign should be more thoughtful and comprehensive than paid posts that are the social web equivalent of product placement.

The reason for this is that paid posts alone are probably not going to move the needle, especially if those paid posts are not compelling and not clearly aligned with the influencer's persona. 

3. Trust your influencers

If a brand can't trust an influencer to write his or her own 140-character tweet or caption for an Instgram post, the influencer relationship needs to be reassessed.

Influencer content, even when paid for, should at least appear to be somewhat authentic.

Here, an influencer was directed to publish a post referencing a morning protein shake in the afternoon. #fail

4. Co-create, and demand more

Naturally, brands are going to want to have some say in what influencers post.

But a brand shouldn't have to direct an influencer to write something as simple as "Keeping up with the summer workout routine..."

Instead, they should co-create content with their influencers to ensure that they stay on message without compromising the influencer's authenticity and creativity.

And they should demand the latter to ensure that they don't get lazy, uninspired content like the above, which is another paid post Disick published for Bootea several weeks ago.

Note the similarity to the botched paid post, and the fact that neither post even suggests that Disick is actually using the product. There isn't a glass in sight in either photo.

5. Don't ignore the rules

Although Disick fixed his Instagram faux pas and included the hashtag #ad to identify his post as a paid advertisement, brands looking to ensure their influencer marketing campaigns don't fail should remember not to ignore the guidances provided by the Federal Trade Commission vis-à-vis advertising disclosures.

While the FTC obviously can't take action against every violator, the agency recently settled with Lord & Taylor after alleging that the retailer, among other things, paid Instagram fashion influencers to post pictures of themselves wearing a dress it sold.

Patricio Robles

Published 9 June, 2016 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2641 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (3)


Sophie Bell, Assistant Brand Manager at Brown-Forman

Interesting read. What are your thoughts on the value of this average piece of influencer marketing that still generated 101K likes and however many comments? Would better content have resulted in more engagement?

about 2 years ago


Gilles Brunner, Supervisor Digital Lab at Philip Morris International Management SAEnterprise

Hey guys, would you happen to have more data on trust level of influencers ? And do you believe the trust is directly realted to the followership size in most case ?

about 2 years ago


paul johnson, co-founder at Lumanu

Patricio, love this article. Do feel there is a ton of value in authentic influencer marketing, but clearly some methods are feeling like pure PPC. I guess it's only when these obviously purely transactional campaigns fall flat that brands will rethink their approach (sadly)

almost 2 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.