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Communication: should you work with influencers?

Reaching the audience of a content creator. It's an ambition that has been undermined by the failings of some unscrupulous influencers. Does this mean we should give up on influencer marketing?

The start of 2023 has been a stormy one for the influencer world! For several months now, controversy and scandal have been the order of the day, and a number of influencer stars have been exposed for abuses that are damaging the image of an entire industry. At the end of January, the Meta group even announced the closure of the Instagram accounts of Marc and Nadé Blata and Laurent Bilionnaire. This decision followed the complaint for fraud and breach of trust lodged by the Collectif AVI against Marc Blata and his partner Nadé and the Animoon platform.

As far as the authorities are concerned, the phenomenon is deemed sufficiently worrying that Bruno Le Maire's office has launched a public consultation with a view to "regulating all practices relating to the promotion and placement of products by influencers on social networks". The consultation, which ran from 9 to 31 January, identified a number of priority actions. Among the most symbolic, 86% of participants mentioned banning the promotion of certain goods by influencers, particularly financial and health-related products. But while opinion is running riot, the whole "creator economy" is reeling, because the potential of influencer marketing, particularly for brands, is considerable!

According to a study titled "The State of Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2023", influencer marketing is expected to generate nearly $21.1 billion in revenue worldwide this year, compared with $16.4 billion in 2022!

Influence marketing: a complex world

"Influence is too broad a term to describe the reality in the field on its own. We need to distinguish between content creators and TV show influencers, who are unfortunately in the news at the moment", says Carine Fernandez, founder of Point d'Orgue and President of the UMICC. While the former are first and foremost enthusiasts who have earned their legitimacy and credibility through hard work and dedication, the latter have seized the opportunity of increased visibility to develop a new activity. Galo Diallo, founder of the Smile Conseil agency and vice-president of the UMICC, explains: "The first piece of advice I would give to a company wanting to get involved in influencer marketing is to find out about the ecosystem itself. You have to know what you're getting yourself into.

The phenomenon is still new, and the worst is still often found alongside the best". For a company wishing to exploit influencer marketing, the choice of content creator is crucial. The main criterion is not so much the size of the community, but whether it is in line with the company's values, its message or its positioning. "The secret of influence is the authenticity of the approach adopted by both the advertiser and the content creator. This notion of authenticity and sincerity is central, because communities are often very demanding and highly critical at the same time", explains Galo Diallo. This reality is even more tangible when it comes to BtoB influence. "BtoB influence obeys very different codes. Our campaigns target decision-makers. If the content creator makes a mistake, forgets the hashtag #collaboration, or his community is not aligned with what is being said... The consequences can be far more dramatic than in BtoC influence", explains Clifford Mahu, co-founder of the Les Années Folles agency. Whether it's BtoB or BtoC influence, using the intermediation of an agency is often a major advantage.

While it is possible to go it alone by using a platform such as Kolsquare to identify a content creator with whom a company could envisage a partnership, "the agency brings value to both creators and brands by protecting all stakeholders," explains Clifford Mahu. We have built our approach on the principle of supervision. For example, all partnerships are subject to a contract, which still surprises some of the brands we work with.

Creator economy: towards more supervision

"As a user of social networks, I get really annoyed when I see a sponsored post that isn't directly related to the person I am. So I apply a strict rule of conduct and only accept partnerships that are likely to add value for my community", says Florence Bernier, a content creator specialising in employment law. Meaning and honesty, because the golden rule of influence is transparency! Transparency towards advertisers about the nature and size of the community. Transparency towards communities about the sponsored nature of certain statements. Transparency is at the heart of the charter of the UMICC (Union des Métiers de l'Influence et des Créateurs de Contenus), a federation that was launched in mid-January.

Seven BtoC influence agencies with a combined total of over a hundred content creators with between 100,000 and 18 million subscribers on Youtube, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. "The UMICC's aim is to combat this constant conflation of very different worlds. There are a few influencers we talk about all the time, who cast aspersions on the serious, regular work of some 150,000 content creators", says Carine Fernandez, who confesses to one ambition: to show what the creator economy is all about, based on examples that are more representative of the reality of this sector of activity, like a Z event organised by Zerator, which raises 10 million euros for charities. "The UMICC charter is a response to what is going wrong in the industry. It provides a framework to which newcomers to the world of content creation can relate".

A vision shared by Galo Diallo: "The UMICC was born of a conviction that the 7 founding agencies had in common: the time had come to assume our responsibilities. We felt that we needed to do more than just do well, each in our own agency, we needed to move the entire profession forward as a whole.

Between ethics and creativity

The vast majority of content creators are concerned first and foremost with their legitimacy and credibility. "It's very important for me to have control over partnerships. There's a real co-creation process with the partners upstream of the campaigns. The fact that I have a community of values with the companies, and that the products or services can bring added value to my audiences, are decisive factors for me to accept a campaign", explains Amélie Favre-Guittet, who founded Talent Management Group in 2014 with her husband. With a community of over 255,000 members on LinkedIn, her approach is clear: "I think that if these people follow me, it's because they appreciate the way I express myself, and that they share (at least in part!) my opinions. So I'm very careful, for all the campaigns I accept, that it's really me expressing myself, in my own way, if only out of respect for my community". Antoine Keraudy, who specialises in disability issues, agrees: "Influence is something you build up over time. From a personal need, I wanted to help a community. It was a commitment before it became a profession. It took me almost 10 years to develop this capacity for influence".

If you add up his LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter communities, he has almost 60,000 social network followers. "Every partnership involves the image I convey to my communities, and I don't allow myself any room for error or any ethical excesses. Comparing influence to a house of cards, Antoine Keraudy is aware that the edifice is always fragile: "It is precious and you have to take constant care not to break the trust of the members of the community".

Don't be fooled by this grammatically challenged tagline. Behind it is Benjamin Grosjean, a 27-year-old engineer and content creator. The Benjamin Workshop community has almost 300,000 members who follow the crazy projects of its host. A keen mechanic, Benjamin is a representative of the Makers community. "I had two passions, tinkering with things, particularly mechanical things, and making videos. In a way, I've managed to combine the two. His first project was to build a replica of a Ford GT 40.

Four years of work and dozens of videos that not only allow him to share his passions but also to monetise this content to finance his project. Benjamin Grosjean's approach has never been approximate, with quality videos and an assertive editorial tone. "Right from the start, I took great care with my content, because while developing some form of influence was not my priority, I wanted to be credible". Now that he has taken up the challenge of designing a hypercar from scratch, Benjamin Grosjean is officially an ambassador for the Makers competition as part of the Golden Tech, organised alongside the Global Industrie trade show. This B2B and B2C positioning has attracted the interest of a number of high-profile players.

From partnerships with Michelin to Dassault Systèmes, Benjamin Workshop's influence is growing. "You always have to be vigilant and careful not to get carried away". To achieve this, the content creator knows he can count on those around him. "You also have to give a broader meaning to what you do. You have to constantly challenge yourself and tell yourself that influence is a responsibility. If I can help to awaken vocations and arouse curiosity, then I've already won everything."

61% of French people like content creators 43% trust them

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