Author: Scott Guthrie | #008 | 02 June 2021

Welcome to the Fourth Floor newsletter, your weekly feed of the biggest news, developments, insights, and analysis from the ever-evolving world of influencer marketing.

Curated by influencer marketing industry expert, consultant, and commentator Scott Guthrie, consider this your regular window on what’s currently happening, why, and what it means for your future marketing plans. Each newsletter also rounds off with an exclusive editorial column from Scott, so scroll down and enjoy all the weekly commentary you need.

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Influencers targeted to promote anti Pfizer vaccine content

Health and science YouTubers have come forward to say they were approached as part of a disinformation effort to reduce public confidence in Covid-19 vaccines.

According to a New York Times article, the influencers were pitched via Fazze - a website purporting to be an influencer marketing platform. The collab brief stated that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is deadly and that regulators and the mainstream media are covering that up. Influencers were offered up to €2,000 to post the misinformation in a campaign apparently spearheaded in Russia. We’ll return to this story in this week’s column.

Indian regulators issue influencer guidelines

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media. The guidelines require influencers to label the promotional content they post. The new rules kick in on commercial messages or advertisements published on or after June 14, 2021.

YouTuber balloon-acy dog stunt

32-year-old YouTuber, Gaurav Sharma, has been arrested after posting a video to his 4.15m YouTube subscribers. The video shows Sharma, aka Guaravzone, tying helium balloons to his pet Pomeranian pooch and allowing the dog to float skyward in New Delhi, India. Sharma quickly removed the video after a backlash and replaced it with an apology. “Those who're getting influenced by such things, please don't get influenced," the influencer asked of his viewers.

The anxiety of influencers

The Anxiety of Influencers’ has done the rounds this last week. The gazillion-word Harper’s Magazine article by Barrett Swanson is part of the title’s ‘Letter from Los Angeles’ series. Writing in Vox, Rebecca Jennings calls Swanson’s piece “easily the best and most depressing piece of journalism about famous TikTokers I’ve ever read.” You must make up your own mind. For me the article suffers in places from both verbosity and bombast. I did, however, enjoy the allusion of influencers as emperor Nero fiddling whilst Rome burnt.

Instagram reveals Creator Week line up

In last week’s newsletter, we heard how Instagram was running its first ever Creator Week. We now know the line up. The aim of the event is to entice aspiring and emerging influencers to stay on Instagram and Facebook by teaching them the skills required to build their careers on the platforms.

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YouTubers sell options via Royalty Exchange

Royalty Exchange, a marketplace where music artists can offer shares of future royalties in exchange for immediate funding from investors, has opened its business to YouTube creators. YouTuber CJ So Cool is the first influencer to make an offering on the platform.

Aussies win news scrap with big tech

Australia’s competition regulator has won its three-year battle to make Facebook and Google pay for news. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has negotiated for the duo-poly to sign deals with Aussie publishers that could be worth about A$200m a year.

Instagram rolls out Drops, a new ecommerce tool

Instagram has launched a new ecommerce tool called Drops. The app’s Shop section features a new Drops tab that opens a catalogue of viral products. The tab will enable consumers to browse and shop soon-to-release and just-released products that will be available in limited quantities or for a limited time.

Listeners of the Influencer Marketing Lab podcast will have heard me talk with Facebook’s head of branded content, Becky Owen, and with Gymshark’s Calum Watson, about the allure of Instagram drops within scarcity marketing.

Fanhouse raises $1.3m

Fanhouse, the subscription-based social platform, has raised $1.3m. Formed in Q4 2020, Fanhouse likens itself to a finsta account that fans can subscribe to, accessing exclusive content via tipping, and even requesting custom content for a fee. The platform also offers various forums where fans can interact with one another. No adult content, nudity, or pornagraphy is allowed. Fanhouse keeps a 10% cut of all transactions. OnlyFans takes a 20% cut, whilst many subscription-based platforms take a 50%+ portion of subscription revenue.

How 1.8m YouTube subscribers will earn you just $8k pcm

Tiffany Ma has 1.8 million subscribers on YouTube. Several of her videos have over a million views. One has 7.6m views currently. Her channel earned around $8,000 a month from Google-placed ads in 2021 through the YouTube Partner Program. However Ma earns double this amount from brand sponsorship deals.

How platforms are wooing creators

To keep creators engaged and active, tech platforms have dedicated funds to pay users who produce the most engaging content. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok have all released new features, funds and subscription or tipping tools so that creators can earn money from fans. Snapchat says it has spent $130 million since November financing contributors on its short-form video sharing feature, Spotlight.

Link-in-bio platform, Beacons, raises $6m

Led by Andreessen Horowitz, and also comprising Li Jin’s Atelier Ventures, The Chainsmokers’ Mantis Fund, Night Ventures, Brazilian esports organization LOUD, and Crush Music, $6m has been raised for the ‘link-in-bio’ offering. Beacons' tool allows creators to build and customise a dedicated mobile landing page to include in profiles across social platforms, including TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter.

Its simple user interface and automated, personalised page setup offer both customisable theme generation and integration with existing content, so creators and brands can quickly and easily direct followers to a single URL across multiple social platforms.

Influencer Marketing | Social Platforms | Fourth Floor | Quick Links | Column

How ‘old-school’ physical media can give your digital content a brand new boost

The most simple and immediate benefit of integrating physical media into your digital content marketing plans is that it drives ‘free’ coverage, explains David Houghton, digital content manager at Fourth Floor. Houghton also inspires readers to turn dry but necessary info-dumps into storytelling adventures

Influencer Marketing | Social Platforms | Fourth Floor | Quick Links | Column

-> US ecommerce channel advertising jumped 49.8% in 2020.

-> Starling Bank calls out financial stock image misogyny.

-> TikTok shopping increases 553% during pandemic.

-> 79% of consumers now more influenced to shop on social platforms than they were a year ago.

-> How influencers can identify Instagram brand collab scams.

Influencer Marketing | Social Platforms | Fourth Floor | Quick Links | Column

Anti Pfizer Vaccine fake reviews

In an earlier column for this newsletter I touched on the incorrect, but often repeated, conflation of popularity and influence. The attempted disinformation effort to discredit the Pfizer vaccine via authoritative influencers reminds us of another tenet of influencer marketing. The term ‘influencer’ should not be used interchangeably with the term ‘brand advocate’.

Influence is neutral. Influencers are change agents who may hurt just as much as they may help a communicator’s cause. Advocates, on the other hand, are supporters, people - often customers - who talk favourably about a brand or product. These advocates may or may not hold power to influence.

Brand owners seek out those online who hold both influence and advocacy for their brand. They should also identify those who hold influence but who share a negative sentiment. The firm should look to improve that sentiment to either a neutral position or a positive one.

The Pfizer vaccine misinformation episode also reminds us that there are bad actors at play at the fringes of our industry. Sadly this is not new. In 2018, Manuel Gutierrez, AKA Manny MUA, allegedly posted paid-for negative reviews. The YouTuber was reportedly paid $70,000 by Lilly Lashes founder Lilly Ghalichi to post a negative review of rival company Lashify’s products, something that Ghalichi has vehemently denied.

Not only is the publication of false reviews unethical, it also breaks regulators’ rules. Both the Federal Trade Commission in the US and the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK prohibit the publication of false advertising.

The New York Times story references two health and science influencers who went to the effort to research the validity of the PR agency and influencer marketing platform who approached them to create negative content around Pfizer. How many other influencers would be so diligent?

One way to shortcut the digital due diligence for both influencers and for brands would be the widespread adoption of professional associations. If both sides of the influencer ecosystem adhered to codes of conduct, it would help everyone involved weed out the good actors from the bad ones.

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