Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, terms like ‘influencer’, ‘brand ambassador’ and ‘blogger’ should not be unfamiliar to you. You may be like me, and be an active, conscientious follower of people whose job it is to post content across a range of social media platforms, promoting and reviewing products, services and places (and even go so far as to pass heed of these recommendations – half my wardrobe and nearly everything in my make up bag has been purchased after spending a little too much time on Instagram). Or you may be like many other people whose only knowledge of the world of digital influencers stems from reading about the controversies they get caught up in in more traditional media.
At first it may seem baffling that a person can make a decent living from posting on social media, but it is far from a complicated or new concept. Brands become familiar with influencers and bloggers (make of those terms what you will) whose following may overlap with their target market. They approach said influencers and ask them to share images, videos and blog posts featuring whatever it is they sell in exchange for a fee. No different to any brand who makes a deal with a television network to air a 30-second commercial during the ad breaks of shows and movies, or with a magazine to include a double-page spread featuring their product or service – give or take a couple of million euro. It’s advertising, plain and simple, and complaining about the nature and substance of the people who profit from it will leave you in the dark ages where you belong (joke).
As an active consumer of digital and influencer marketing and as someone who works in recruitment, I can’t help but think that there must be some congruencies between the process involved in establishing a relationship between a brand and a blogger and the process of finding a candidate for your client. Many bloggers, especially those whose number of followers reaches the tens of thousands, are part of agencies that facilitate the relationship between the brand and the individual on their books, usually taking a percentage of the fee. Andrea Rochel Model Agency, Gleam Futures and Red Hare Digital are only a handful of agencies in the UK and Ireland that have a vast book of creators who are matched with their clients in some form or another.
How do these agencies know which influencers are best for which brand? Bloggers whose content focuses mostly on beauty, fashion and lifestyle are ten a penny but it would be risky to say the least to allow any and all beauty bloggers to feature a brand’s products without screening the individual’s ‘social media history’ prior to establishing a deal. A brand selling vegan, cruelty-free make up products would find itself in hot water if it was seen to be paying a social media influencer who wore real fur and regularly visited steak restaurants to feature them on their Instagram. A UK travel vlogger was heavily criticised in 2016 for taking and documenting an all-expenses paid trip to North Korea, highlighting all the positives of tourism in the troubled state – with no mention of the barbaric human rights violations that the Human Rights Watch maintain are “without parallel in the contemporary world”.
I don’t think any recruiter is at risk of placing a candidate who will face backlash for advertising products that don’t mirror their clients’ ethos or values, or a candidate who will promote North Korea as a top holiday destination on their employer’s dime. However, the principle remains the same – the candidates we put forward to our clients in consideration for a role are representative of us and the agencies we work for. It is part of our job to ensure that from day one they are the right fit professionally, culturally and personally for the client. The way our candidates behave at interview, at offer stage and in the early months of their employment reflects on us and how we handled the recruitment process, further emphasising the importance of in depth screening and in-person meetings. As the uncharted waters of the world of influencer and digital marketing continue to grow, the talent management agencies that facilitate the relationships between blogger and brand would do well to do their research when considering who posts what and where. Just like recruiters always do well to read between the lines of CVs, ask the important questions and find the best fit.