Influencer marketing on social media is a powerful, beautiful thing. It’s fun, creative, and arguably more effective than all other marketing tactics. Unfortunately though, a dark side to this type of marketing has emerged in the form of fake followers and dishonest posts.

While the gods of social media are trying their best to create guidelines that limit this darkness, it’s important for individual influencers to have a strong moral compass in order to keep this type of marketing alive and viable.

Influencers have opportunities to sell their soul to the highest bidders at almost every turn. When there are bills to be paid and bellies to be filled, it’s not shocking that some influencers will do whatever it takes to fill their pockets. Unfortunately for them though, influencer marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. So how can you be an influencer without losing your soul? Read on.

  1. Never fake it.

Life sometimes calls for us to fake it (am I right ladies?). But when it comes to social media, you will almost always be found out. While we certainly understand the lure of 1000 followers for $3.99, brand and PR managers are becoming more and more savvy to these shortcuts. Buying likes, followers, and comments is sneaky, fraudulent, and the best way to get blackballed by brands.

Unfortunately for the fakers, it’s easy to see when the numbers have been bought. If you have 100k followers and are only getting 50 likes per photo, it’s clear that something is off. If you’re dedicated enough to buy your likes too, the link clicks or views will be another tip-off. Now, if you have even that covered, there are more and more analytics companies popping up whose sole purpose is to tell how many of your followers are bots. Checkmate. Stop wasting your money and your time and get people to like you the old fashioned way (insert joke here).

  1. Be honest.

The reason people listen to influencers more than they listen to the brand itself is because they’re trustworthy. This means that, above all, influencers need to protect that by being honest.

When influencer marketing on social media really blew up, a lot of content was being posted without divulging that it was actually a paid advertisement. On top of the FTC now requiring influencers and celebrities to explicitly say that the post is #sponsored or an #ad, followers will appreciate the transparency. If they find out after the fact that you were only selling something to them because you were paid to, they’ll question how authentic you are.

A good way to avoid looking like you’re only posting it because you were paid- share content that show you using the service or product in your everyday life. Also, include a blurb about how, though it’s sponsored, you totally dig the brand and what it does for you. This full disclosure will build trust and have them love you even more for it.

Besides being honest about being paid, you need to be honest about the products/services you’re using. If a company sends you something to use and you don’t love it, don’t say you love it. Not everything in this world is mind-blowing. There’s a lot of garbage floating around. If you eat a gross meal or drink a slimming tea that gave you really bad gas, tell them. It makes your good reviews even more believable. When I hear an influencer call every single product they use “amazing” or “life-changing”, I start questioning whether they’ve lived in a dark hole their whole lives. Not everything can be life changing. It’s exhausting.

  1. Respect your brand.

The absolute best way to respect your brand as an influencer is to learn to say no. I know. You have rent to pay and fidget spinners to buy. But selling your soul for a brand that has nothing to do with your brand (or is just plain trash) is a surefire way to be seen as a sell-out. And no one likes or trusts sell-outs.

If you’re a vegan influencer who is suddenly collaborating with a brand that sells leather handbags, your followers will notice. Make sure that all partnerships on your social media are done with brands that align with your core values as an influencer. You may not be rolling in the dough at the beginning, but influencer marketing isn’t about a quick buck- it’s a long game.

Keep your influencer integrity and if it’s not a natural fit, say no.

  1. Respect their brand.

There may not be boardrooms or desks in influencer marketing but it’s still a business. Entering into a partnership with a brand shouldn’t be taken lightly. Whether they’re paying you in cash, product, or experiences, you should show the brand as much respect as you would any other business partner.

First off, be professional. Staying on top of things will help ensure that you’re re-hired by them and other brands. If you’re unorganized or sloppy with your contractual obligations, they probably won’t want to work with you again.

Another thing, never, EVER tag a competing brand or product in your sponsored content for them. I know you want your content to be seen by as many people as possible, but there’s nothing more disrespectful than tagging other brands in a post paid for by someone else. If a company is paying you to post about their brand, keep it about that brand and that brand alone.

 

With influence comes power. People look to you for insight and honesty. Maintain your integrity and hold onto your soul by keeping it as real as possible with yourself and your followers.