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Paul Zimmerman
pzimmerman@mrllp.com
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Social Media Influencers Who Pay . . . No Way

If your company promotes itself through social media with the help of influencers, then it is a participant in the influencer economy. But because influencers come with a price, you must consider if they are worth the money — and just how influential they truly are.

Companies spend mightily to attach themselves to online tastemakers and social media stars (those with impressive numbers of followers). These individuals — from actors and athletes to mom bloggers and teenage Instagram and Snapchat giants — leverage their booming popularity and social media presence in exchange for lucrative deals with brands. Need proof? An influencer with a million followers can earn upwards of $20,000 for a single promotional tweet.

But if you lift the veil on the explosion of influencers in the marketplace, something unseemly (and potentially damaging to your business) is revealed. There is a growing demand for purchasing fake followers and engagement across social media platforms. Long story short: With the click of a mouse and a rather minimal budget, anyone can buy online popularity in the form of thousands upon thousands of followers, likes, and views. And with that (presumed) popularity comes attention from brands hoping to drive awareness and even sales by aligning themselves with influencers who have significant followings.

These followings, however, may be largely comprised of fake bot accounts. Indeed, estimates suggest that up to 15 percent of Twitter’s total users are bots, and as many as 60 million bot accounts populate Facebook. Yet bots do not spend money, nor are they the consumers that brands seek to target, which again begs the question – are your influencers actually influential?

To answer this, juvenile product manufacturers must do their share of due diligence and take additional measures to protect their influencer investments. Amongst other things, companies should scrutinize an influencer’s individual followers; determine if those followers are engaged or are otherwise interacting; review follower comments, looking for authenticity versus spam (or even gibberish); analyze the influencer’s growth patterns (sudden leaps in followers are always suspect); ascertain if a buyer service is amongst the influencer’s followers; and consider using a tool to identify fakes. At the same time, contracts with influencers (Influencer Agreements) should be revised to include representations stating that influencers have not paid for followers.

That the world of influencer marketing may not always be on the up and up is not to suggest that juvenile products manufacturers should not embrace the influencer economy. The potential power of a trendsetter’s popularity and reach cannot be overstated, but you should proceed with caution.

This blog post is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.