August 1, 2018
We are now living in an age where people turn to social media and their “friends” to get information, not just updates. The power of social media extends beyond mindless scrolling and having a secure case of FOMO or catching up on the latest celebrity statuses. It’s where people get style inspiration, ideas for what to make for dinner, and where to travel next. Beyond the surface, people are turning to recommendations from a wide range of influencers for information. Information such as self-care tips, diet information, and how to live a fuller life. No longer does someone grab a well edited and fact-checked encyclopedia for information, or read a published journal for dietary information. They turn to someone like @dietguy72. These influencers are a constant source of information for their followers. With the flood of influential content being put out into the world on a constant basis, there’s one question that is starting to arise: who is fact-checking?
Similar to how Wikipedia was challenged about who is creating the content consumers are referencing and assuming as fact online, watchdogs, brands, and governing agencies have reached a point where they are beginning to question the merit and validity of influencer content when they are providing their recommendations and point of view on a topic, and how to police it. With influencer marketing being one of the most effective ways for brands and companies to harness the power of social media, how can brands leverage the medium while feeling confident about the partners they are bringing on board?
Most recently, this issue was brought to the attention of the public via a news story. Influencer and author, Johanna Holmgren (foxmeetbear.com) has recalled her cookbook, Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen, because health professionals started drawing attention to the potentially dangerous information reflected in her recipes on eating certain raw wild items, specifically mushrooms and elderberries.
What is a brand supposed to do to avoid these potential damaging situations? How can the consumers who rely on this information tell the difference between fact, fiction and misdirection?
Fortunately, there are ways to help ensure the content being generated and shared with millions of followers is either accurate or transparent. Here are a few ways brands who want to partner with influencers can harness the power of their influence while mitigating risk.
And for the followers, there’s going to be plenty of misinformation out there and it’s only getting harder to decipher the difference between fact and fiction. Measures such as verification or transparency in sponsored-content disclosure help. But at the end of the day, like any information you receive, it’s about using your judgment and critical thinking. Don’t consider everything as fact. Before you eat a poison berry, think about what your parents would say. If an influencer jumped off a bridge would you do it?