The Dark Side of Influencer Marketing

I don’t need to tell you what influencer marketing is. It’s huge. Back in 2014 when I launched Uncle Jack, influencer marketing was pretty revolutionary. Instagram as a platform enabled ‘normal’ people with an interesting story to gain a lot of followers in a short space of time. They were the perfect ambassadors for our brand.

Fast forward to 2017 and brands are flocking to influencer marketing in the masses. The fees that influencers charge are now sky-high. Seriously, really high. I’ve identified influencers, built relationships, exchanged both product and money, been burnt by influencers but ultimately have had enormous success in using influencer marketing. The game has changed now. Influencer marketing is saturated. More and more businesses want to use their followings to promote their brand which in turn increases the price for all brands. Almost every legitimate influencer now has a manager that negotiates with brands on their behalf. I recently had a quote for $27,000 USD for an influencer to post once on their Instagram and we would have no input into the creative or how said photo would turn out. Thanks, but no thanks.

Like many brand managers, I monitor who’s saying what about my brand on the internet and where our products are. One of the websites that I check regularly is eBay. In the early days (2014/15) sometimes I would find an Uncle Jack watch on eBay that looked to be a customer who had worn the watch non-stop and was just looking to sell it on. Fair enough.
However, in recent times I’ve noticed a new phenomenon and that is, influencers receiving products from brands and almost instantly re-selling via eBay & other platforms. I first noticed this trend a few months ago when one of my products was on eBay and I immediately recognised the seller to be one of our influencers. I was shocked. I just didn’t think that this was a common occurence and it seemed a bit ingenuine. I actually messaged said influencer on Instagram just to politely ask her what her motivation was behind selling the product almost immediately after receiving it. Did she not like it? I was genuinely curious.

Her response was remarkably honest. She basically said that she’s ‘got bills to pay’ and by selling the gifts she receives from brands she can make a bit money from it. It’s nothing against my product, she assured me. But it just doesn’t sit right with me.

This week I noticed a couple more products on eBay that I also instantly recognised as two of our recent collaborators. I really shouldn’t take it personally, but there’s something about it that I’m not so sure about. I decided I needed to look into this a little further so I researched some other businesses that I know use influencer marketing on Instagram and lo and behold, there was a bundle of products on eBay with sellers that I immediately recognised as popular influencers.

It seems like it’s a real trend in the world of influencer marketing. As a business owner, product designer & marketer, it’s a real kick in the guts to see the influencers that I’ve built a relationship with put the products that I’ve gifted them on eBay almost immediately. Sure, I can see their motivation in generating a little bit of extra money in selling-on the products that they’re gifted, but it doesn’t seem right to me.

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