C. Sean Yuksel, Founding Owner and Creative Director of Dreamspace & GRAFX CO, joins Cheddar to discuss how brands balance ethics and influencer marketing.
1. Advertisers spend a disproportionate amount of their ad spending during the holiday season. What ethical guardrails do brands need to consider before embarking on an online media campaign?
1- Define your corporate values. The principles that guide your company’s operations and culture should also drive the strategy behind your digital marketing efforts. Specifically, this will help you determine your messages, how they are delivered, and to whom they are served.
2- Set a hardline—and stick to it. When does influence cross the line of manipulation? Once you have determined your corporate values, use these to guide marketing practices, and discover your non-negotiables. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
3- Go with your gut. Ultimately, there is no formula or algorithm to determine if something is or is not ethical. It comes down to trusting your gut, asking yourself, “am I okay with this?” or “how would I feel if I was targeted in this way?”
4- Do not put all your eggs in one basket: Integrated marketing campaigns can help you grow your brand’s presence even further. Though it can be tempting to devote all of your energy to a singular effort that has brought your business demonstrated success, investing your time to create an integrated plan will ultimately set the stage for long-term growth.
2. How are brands incorporating social responsibility to provide authentic content and genuine value to followers online?
Brands must stay away from:
• Fake likes
• Content paywalls
• Stock photos
• Overbearing self-promotion
• Stalking customers shopping habits
• Creepy data mining for targeted marketing
Brands must focus on:
• Real genuine stories
• Produce meaningful case-studies from their client’s positive experiences with their products or services
• Which leads into creating organic brand ambassadorship from their own clients
• Transparency on sponsored and targeted advertising following FTC rules and regulations
• Create a sense of control over personal data and global online security standards on your online presence – Be sure to use services and platforms on your website that have security features that protect individual’s payment and personal information like SSL Certificates, DoS, Firewalls, PCI compliances or HTTPS.
3. What are the challenges that brands face when working with influencers and ensuring transparency with their followers?
1. Take responsibility. Creators aren’t the only ones whose reputations are on the line when disclosure isn’t clear; the brand’s reputation is at risk as well. Brands need to be evident during the briefing phase and write contracts that require creators to include #ad in sponsored posts.
2. Partner well. Choosing the right partner is essential. You need to align with a partner that you can trust to instill the same values in their brand and influencer partners, as you do. More so, they also need to have the technological know-how to be able to look deep into the first-party data — followers, engagement stats, etc. — and deliver you a gold-standard campaign you can trust.
3. Invest in co-creation. The time for transactional brand-influencer relationships is over. Brands need to invest in long-lasting relationships with creative influencers. Cultivating relationships helps to establish trust between the brand and creators and reinforces brand disclosure expectations.
4. Seek brand-influencer alignment. Choose influencers who demonstrate similar values to your brand and a passion for what they are doing. These influencers will not risk losing their followers by being inauthentic and promoting something they don’t believe in, nor will they want to jeopardize their relationship with you.
5. Proactively support and promote transparency. Brands should support the educational efforts of regulatory agencies like the FTC and ASA, and actively encourage transparency among their partners. This kind of commitment helps to build trust and confidence in the industry.
While brands can help drive transparency forward, everyone working within the influencer marketing ecosystem needs to take responsibility. Make sure that you are up to date with, understand, and are implementing the latest guidance from regulatory agencies like the FTC and ASA.
4. How are brands using AI to transform influencer marketing?
The use of artificial intelligence in influencer marketing is gaining traction just as it is in many other business sectors. Year after year, the process of working with influencers has gradually become more automated: from influencer search to brand affinity and content analysis, and AI is providing a solution for a wide range of brands’ needs.
Image Recognition with Artificial Neural Networks
Determining Influencer Performance with Natural Language Processing
Predicting Incentives Artificial Neural Networks
Elimination of Fake Engagements and Spam Bots
5. What are the ethical concerns about incorporating AI to improve influencer marketing?
AI can sift through past performance data, assess what types of brand influencers have been associated with previously, and which influencers continuously drive high, qualified engagement around particular products or content. I think the most critical issue here can be the accuracy of this past available data. If the AI research is not entirely based on truth or factual findings. Still, fabricated impressions, images, language, and media engagement, we all can look into questioning the validity of the available conclusions.
6. Transparency is a big theme in AI marketing. How are brands training AI systems to reflect their audience?
AI is not bound by volume or memory capacity and can be taught to learn an almost infinite number of different types of structured and unstructured data sets. Formal data sets can be 1st, 2nd, or 3rd party data in a relational database that is highly organized and searchable. Unstructured data is the boundless data from the open web. When the information is from social platforms and IoT devices, it can uncover deep cultural insights into consumer behavior. Machine learning’s the raw power with the right structured and unstructured data sets allows marketers to segment target audiences in almost unlimited ways to uncover behaviors, perceptions, attitudes, occasions on a micro-level.