"Unilever, Diageo, Samsung and eBay deserve a big thumbs up for publicly committing to help combat fraud in the digital ecosystem, create better experiences for consumers and improve brands’ ability to measure impact," says Hellocomputer Cape Town’s head of social, Kerry Gibbs.

"We applaud their decision not to work with influencers who buy followers and to embrace partners who increase transparency and help eradicate bad practices."

Unilever's chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, had made the announcement at the Cannes Lions Festival; Diageo, Samsung and eBay had responded during a panel session a day later.

Weed says, "At Unilever, we believe influencers are an important way to reach consumers and grow our brands. Their power comes from a deep, authentic and direct connection with people, but certain practices like buying followers can easily undermine these relationships." 

Godert van Dedem, vice-president and chief marketing officer of eBay EMEA, says, "What I want to do is give our sellers a voice, rather than influencers who have a following and are willing to write a post. It should be from people who are authentic and genuine. I am going to try and shift our influencer spend to that class of influencers, they are specific to eBay and authentic and their stories will be helpful to buyers."

Marc Mathieu, chief marketing officer of Samsung Electronics America, says the focus is to use Samsung's products for creation – the story it wants to tell focuses on creators, not influencers while Diageo's approach to influencer marketing focuses on the selective use of big-name influencers, such as David Beckham and Sean Combs (P Diddy).

Syl Saller, chief marketing officer at Diageo, adds, "Working with people who are truly into drinks and bartending and using them in a truly naturally symbiotic relationship."

According to Gibbs, Hellocomputer has always checked the authenticity of the influencers it has used for brands in South Africa.  "For us, it’s not only critical to utilise influencers who have gained authentic reach, but who also have a truly engaged fan base. That also means no bots in the fanbase," says Gibbs.

"This happens to be the same thinking as that mooted by social strategist and author of Influencer Marketing, a Journey, Edward Kitchingman. He and his team conducted considerable research to into understanding attitudes towards influencers, recognising that the proliferation of platforms has eroded the traditional advertising paradigm to the point that clarity and simplicity have been replaced by confusion and complexity," Gibbs adds. 

"One of the most frightening findings was that showing that influence as a currency has helped build ‘The Follower Factory’ with some 48 million of Twitter’s reported active users – nearly 15% – being automated accounts designed to simulate real people. Facebook disclosed to investors that it had at least twice as many fake users as it previously estimated – that’s some 60 million accounts, and Instagram reported (in 2015) to have up 24 million bot accounts," Gibbs says.

Kitchingman suggests the following changes to the rules for influencer marketing:
  • Look at the community instead of the size of the community
  • Look at long-term association instead of short-term saturation 
  • Celebrate the creative role an influencer can play instead of using their profile
For more information, visit www.hellocomputer.co.za. You can also follow Hellocomputer on Twitter or Facebook.