What We Are Doing To Clean Up Influencer Marketing
Since Collective Bias first connected influencers and brands 9 years ago, the landscape of influencer marketing has shifted dramatically as the explosive growth of user generated content has collided with industry debates about brand safety, ad fraud and privacy.
From the beginning, our influencers adhered to our code of ethics, which we’ve made public for all to view so that conscious clients and influencers can hold us accountable for high standards. In 2015, we were the first provider to deliver verified, server-based traffic data and the ability to integrate any 3rd party traffic verification providers. Since then, brands have used this capability to verify delivery themselves, using their own 3rd party tags on Collective Bias content. But unlike the open web where it is possible to employ 3rd party verification providers like Moat, Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify, there is no MRC-accredited verification of native social posts, be it on Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat.
Today, we are taking the steps necessary to chart a new path for what brands should expect, and how influencers should act. As demand for influencers on platforms like Instagram has skyrocketed, so has the rise of bad actors and inappropriate schemes that often create undue risk for a brand. We recognize that the steps we’ve taken before have not been enough. That is why we’re making changes in these areas:
New safeguards to ensure content is brand-safe
Removing the risk of fake followers
Higher standards for influencers
Brand Safety Guarantee
This summer we will introduce a service that guarantees every piece of content is vetted and certified before an influencer is paid, including:
- 3rd Party Verification: In the event a brand does not have their own 3rd party verification vendor, Collective Bias provides 3rd party verified analytics on all blog content views and ad impressions to ensure a campaign is delivering valid traffic, using our partner Moat.
- Certification: All content is certified that they adhere to the following:
Brand and competitive guidelines set by customer
All content and ads are in brand-safe environments and will not be created by influencers or placed on sites that are deemed unsafe. Excluded categories include hate speech, violence, adult content, and offensive language.
- 12 hour Take-down Guarantee: in the event an influencer violates rules after content is published, or other external events that would require a brand to pause active campaigns, the content will be taken down within 12 hours.
A New Pricing Model for Instagram Influencers
All major forms of media are measured by audience size, whether in terms of circulation (print), Nielsen ratings (TV), or Comscore monthly unique viewers (digital), each with their own profound measurement flaws. It is perfectly reasonable to use follower count to measure influencer audience size, but the problem of fake followers is exacerbated by the flawed pricing model that exists today. By paying a flat fee based on follower count, brands are over-exposed to the inappropriate actions that manipulate follower counts. We believe using followers as a currency needs to end.
The surest way to show that we’re serious about authenticity and brand safety is to put our money where our mouth is. That is why this summer we will be piloting a program whereby clients will only be charged for Instagram posts viewed, based on Instagram-validated delivery data. A stark departure from the industry standard of flat fee follower-based pricing, this new model will make influencers and service providers more accountable for delivering results. We believe this will disrupt any economic incentive to inflate follower counts because influencers will no longer be paid according to the number of followers.
New Standards and Update to our Code of Ethics
We are making the following additions to our Code of Ethics that influencers must adhere to:
Influencers shall not incentivize users to follow their handle or engage on their content, in any way that generates inauthentic activity.
Influencers shall not purchase followers.
Influencers shall not employ tactics or services, such as click farms, that artificially generate traffic.
If any sponsored content violates guidelines, or other external events that would require a brand to pause active campaigns, influencers are required to take down content within 12 hours of being notified by Collective Bias.
Violations will result in suspension from applying to any campaigns for up to 90 days or permanent membership termination.
The full version of our Code of Ethics can be found here.
We consider these important steps, but not the last. Inmar, Collective Bias’ parent company, has built a 40-year reputation as the most trusted intermediary in adjudication, certification, and settlement of high volume, complex promotional transactions on behalf of CPG brands and retailers. We are proud to build on this tradition in influencer media, and we hope we will make progress toward a more transparent medium that deepens authentic, consumer-to-consumer conversation.
You can see our coverage and thoughts on this subject in this article written by Digiday.