Vetting has always been a crucial part of influencer marketing, and brands are catching on to its importance. Influencer whitelists are becoming increasingly common as advertisers prioritize brand safety in the wake of controversies like PewDiePie’s anti-semitic remarks and the ill-fated Fyre Festival.
Trusting the wrong influencers can put brands at risk if an influencer says or does something controversial. Whitelists mitigate some of that risk by highlighting influencers who don’t post controversial content or have never worked with competing brands, allowing brands to partner with brand-safe creators.
Some whitelists are put together by hand while others are compiled by an algorithm. No matter the method, though, they serve the same purpose: to uncover any aspects of an influencer’s content that might prove risky for brands, such as hate speech, contentious religious or political content, and tone deaf remarks. This offers marketers another level of brand protection.
Whitelists aren’t unique to influencer marketing, though. They’ve existed for a long time within the advertising industry as brands have sought safe spaces for their messaging. One of the most notable examples comes from the world of programmatic ads, where whitelists consist of reputable publishers and sites. As concerns surrounding fake news rise, those whitelists are becoming increasingly important.
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One of the biggest risks that come with working with influencers is trusting them with a brand’s reputation. One of social media’s greatest strengths is that it’s a place for the most authentic and immediate thoughts. That immediacy is a double-edged sword, though, and those who fail to use social media carefully could easily end up on the wrong side of a PR nightmare (or worse).
Brands want to avoid being associated with negative attention, and whitelists put together by analyzing an influencer’s past content and work can help reduce the risk of controversy. Agencies regularly vet influencers for controversial content and engagement, as well as their past work with brands. Quality control and vetting are imperative to the success of influencer marketing campaigns, and whitelists help agencies and brands maintain a stable base of dependable, brand safe influencers.
Deciding what’s controversial isn’t always straightforward, though. YouTube has its own way of determining which channels and influencers are brand safe. Earlier in the year, the platform ran into an ad controversy when advertisers found out that their ads were being played before and alongside videos containing hate speech and offensive comments.
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In response, YouTube revised its ad policies and implemented a filter to weed out videos that were not ad-friendly. As a result, a number of unoffensive channels saw their ad revenues plummeting, presumably because YouTube’s filter picked up on keywords that it assumed were offensive but for which it had no context. Moreover, marketers were faced with decreased advertising options and opportunities on the platform.
Brands and marketers need to decide for themselves what’s offensive and what isn’t. Some brands will be more comfortable with religious content or political activism than others, and it’s up to advertisers to know what their audiences value so that they can whitelist accordingly.
Whitelists aren’t just about controversial content — they can also help brands determine which influencers might be most effective in promoting their message. Influencers rely on authenticity to make meaningful connections with their audiences. While the dollars from sponsored content is important to an influencer’s living and content creation process, influencers who inundate their followers with branded content risk losing their all-important authenticity.
Brands may also prefer to work with influencers who haven’t partnered with their competitors. In crowded industries, partnering with a popular influencer is a great way to stand out with specific, engaged audiences. That effort to stand out is undermined if influencers partner with competing brands.
Influencer marketing whitelists help brands to find the best match candidates for partnership and to avoid controversy at the hands of influencers posting offensive content. Brand reputation and trust are paramount, and whitelists are an important step to safeguarding both when it comes to working with (and trusting) influencers on social media.