Influencer marketing: Is it a fit for your private practice?

The social media landscape is constantly evolving, which can make it challenging for marketers to keep up with the flavor of the day. Among various social media trends, the use of influencers has been one that brands and consumers have relied on to various degrees. 

According to a recent Morning Consult report:  

  • “Trust in influencers is growing: The shares of Gen Zers and millennials who said they trust social media influencers grew from 51% in 2019 to 61% in 2023.”
  • “Influencers can be aspirational — to a point: While beautiful or aspirational content is important, it’s more of a priority that influencers be smart, authentic and fun.”
  • “Anybody can be an influencer: The main characteristics that define people as influencers in consumers’ minds are that they post entertaining content or share inspiration.”
  • “There isn’t an influencer for everyone: People are more likely to say they don’t have a favorite influencer than to agree on one, and 51% of the influencers Gen Z listed as their favorite were unique.”

While influencer marketing can be effective in certain contexts, it may or may not be a fit for your private practice, which is something you’ll need to decide. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the factors you may want to consider — including a June update to related regulations from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

What is influencer marketing?

Global consulting firm McKinsey & Co defines influencer marketing as “a collaboration between popular social-media users and brands to promote brands’ products or services.” 

The firm notes that influencer marketing has been in existence to various degrees since the “dawn of social media.” By 2009, it had become so common that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) decided it was time to step in by creating what some refer to as the “Mommy Blogger” law

“Since then, the market has grown astonishingly quickly: since 2019, it has more than doubled on the strength of platforms such as Instagram and YouTube (in Western countries) and Pinduoduo and WeChat (in China),” McKinsey says. “In 2023, the influencer marketing economy was valued at $21.1 billion.”

According to the firm, although every influencer marketing deal is unique, some combination of two compensation models is typically in play: 

  • Brand deal — in which an influencer receives a per-post flat rate to feature a product or service.
  • Affiliate deal — in which the influencer includes a link to a purchase gateway in their post. “Every time a viewer buys the product by clicking through the link or using a promo code, the influencer earns an affiliate commission,” McKinsey says.

McKinsey also notes that influencers are categorized according to the size of their follower counts:

  • Nano influencers: less than 10,000
  • Micro influencers: 10,000 – 50,000
  • Medium influencers: 50,000 – 100,000
  • Macro influencers: over 500,000
  • Mega influencers: over one million

Although influencers with more followers may have greater reach, the firm says those who have fewer followers may be more engaged and could potentially provide better results. 

For more about the challenges and opportunities related to influencer marketing, please see the full McKinsey & Co post, “What is influencer marketing?”

7 influencer marketing pitfalls to avoid

Sprout Social touts the benefits of influencer marketing — as long as marketers are aware of certain mistakes to avoid, including:

  1. Failing to define clear goals and KPIs: “First things first, know why you’re doing this in the first place. Partnering with an influencer is a big deal — you need to be clear about the purpose and goals of your campaign.”
  2. Prioritizing follower count over engagement: “A large following doesn’t always translate to high engagement. …A handful of people who trust the influencer are more valuable to your brand than thousands of indifferent followers unlikely to convert.”
  3. Neglecting to research the influencer: “Choosing the wrong influencers can cost your business valuable time and money. …Research shows 72% of businesses run influencer campaigns in-house as they’re wary of fake influencers and mediocre results.”
  4. Writing poorly constructed briefs: “Crafting well-structured briefs is key to maximizing your influencer marketing campaigns. …”
  5. Restricting the influencer’s creative freedom: “…You don’t need to dictate the influencer’s exact words or actions. Doing so can stifle the influencer’s creative freedom, resulting in content that looks scripted and inauthentic.”
  6. Not setting expectations upfront: “Establishing clear expectations beforehand enables a smooth, productive collaboration. The result? A successful campaign aligned with your goals.”
  7. Focusing on the wrong metrics: “Influencer marketing can offer more benefits to your business than merely boosting sales. Fixating only on conversions and revenue data can mislead brands into thinking their campaigns are not working.”

For more about creating an effective influencer marketing strategy, please see the full Sprout Social post, “What is influencer marketing: How to develop your strategy.”

Influencer marketing in healthcare

When it comes to the healthcare industry, influencer marketing can be a great tool, but there are important regulatory nuances to keep in mind.  

As Corey Martin, Managing Director of Creator Marketing at Lippe Taylor notes in an article for Healthcare Business Today, “…influencers are a viable and necessary strategy today to share key information with audiences and connect with current or potential patients. However, it’s a complicated space for brands and finding success can be challenging as teams navigate unique circumstances due to healthcare rules and regulations.” 

He says success lies in the ability for healthcare providers (HCPs) to partner with “trusted cultural creators and social savvy HCPs to develop engaging and sensitive content and have deep knowledge of the regulatory nature of the sector. By achieving these important goals, healthcare and pharma brands can find their voice in the world of influencer marketing.”

Martin says some of the challenges related to the “complicated world of healthcare regulations” include:

  • “Regulatory limitations in the space”
  • “The Sunshine Act and fair market pricing”
  • “Legal and medical review of content and contracts with customers”
  • “Benefit claims and product regulatory restrictions for content across platforms” 
  • “Misinformation, misuse and trolling, as well as protocol for responding to comments”

“All of this means that brands have some limitations in how they approach campaigns, which makes it harder for content to feel authentic and organic,” Martin writes. “Potential influencer and creator partnerships must understand the guardrails presented in this space – and it’s the job of the marketing team to provide the insight and background details necessary to inform content.”

For more, please see the full post, “How To Navigate Influencer Marketing In The Healthcare Industry.”

The FTC’s updated advertising guides

Speaking of regulations…

On June 29, the FTC announced the publication of revised Endorsement Guides to “strengthen and clarify guidance for advertisers,” as part of addressing “emerging market trends.”

“The Federal Trade Commission today announced it has finalized an updated version of its Endorsement Guides, which provide agency guidance to businesses and others to ensure that advertising using reviews or endorsements is truthful,” the announcement said. “The Endorsement Guides advise businesses on what practices may be unfair or deceptive in violation of the FTC Act, and they were last revised in 2009. In May 2022, the FTC announced it was seeking public comments on proposed updates to the Guides to reflect the ways advertisers now reach consumers to promote products and services, including through social media and reviews.”

The final revised guides make a number of revisions including: 

  • Articulating “a new principle regarding procuring, suppressing, boosting, organizing, publishing, upvoting, downvoting, or editing consumer reviews so as to distort what consumers think of a product”
  • Addressing “incentivized reviews, reviews by employees, and fake negative reviews of a competitor”
  • Adding “a definition of ‘clear and conspicuous’ and saying that a platform’s built-in disclosure tool might not be an adequate disclosure”
  • Changing “the definition of ‘endorsements’ to clarify the extent to which it includes fake reviews, virtual influencers, and tags in social media”
  • Better explaining “the potential liability of advertisers, endorsers, and intermediaries”
  • Highlighting “that child-directed advertising is of special concern”

“The FTC also issued an updated version of a guidance document that answers frequently asked questions about the Endorsement Guides,” the announcement said. “Primarily addressing when and how to disclose material connections, the document is entitled, FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People are Asking.”

“Last revised in 2017, the new version includes 40 additional questions and updates dozens of other answers,” the FTC explained. “It adds specific guidance for influencers on when and how to disclose material connections across different kinds of platforms, and it gives FTC staff’s views about brand monitoring of influencers and platform disclosure tools. The new version also includes more guidance relating to online reviews, addressing issues such as incentives, and treatment of negative feedback.”

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving marketing, please contact us today.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving marketing landscape and ramp up your efforts, please contact us today.

Published On: October 24, 2023

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