You tend to hear about social media influencers from a marketing perspective. In an effort to add value and credibility to their outreach, many businesses are striking deals with influencers to promote their products or services in a more organic, natural way.
That tends to work well. Plenty of statistics show that engaging influencers can help to drive businesses forward. At the same time, it also introduces potential problems that we are just beginning to reckon with. One example: archiving posts.
You work with an influencer to promote your business. Suddenly, the posts about your business begin to disappear. What’s happening? And who is in the wrong here?
That’s not a hypothetical example or questions. In fact, this very scenario occurred in Melbourne this month, and made major headlines ever since.
The Case of the Legacy Cafe and Chloe Roberts
It seemed like a simple influencer deal. Last year, the Legacy cafe in Melbourne engaged Instagram influencer Chloe Roberts on a simple deal: a payment of $200 for every post about the cafe.
What seemed like a standard business deal began to fall apart when Roberts increased her fees per update from $200 to $300. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. Roberts began to archive old posts about the cafe, and the owner refused payment because the (implicit and verbal) deal had been breached.
A lengthy court battle later, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ordered Legacy cafe to pay $1,676 in fees to Roberts as reimbursement. Naturally, the business relationship was off. What seems like a relatively minor case in terms of both crime and punishment actually has the potential for major implications on legislation and business-influencer relationships long-term.
Why do Influencers Archive Posts?
First, let’s start with the meat of the issue: the archival process of specific Instagram posts. Roberts archived old posts for a specific reason. She claimed that 90% of the views on an Instagram image occurred within a week of posting and that archiving was a way to prevent too much old content building up on her page, believing it to be better for followers.
Marketing research seems to confirm that fact. Instant features like stories, which disappear automatically after a day is complete, are becoming more popular. And even on regular posts, the Instagram algorithm is designed to surface newer content with plenty of engagement. It’s difficult to even find a post that’s older than a week unless you make a conscious effort.
Of course, there is a second, more implicit reason to archive posts that Roberts doesn’t confirm here. She, as every influencer, has a tangible stake in keeping her reputation clean and authentic. That’s difficult to achieve if her profile is cluttered with promotions of businesses. She didn’t say it, but there is a good chance she archived posts simply to keep her promoted content at a low percentage.
What Stake do Businesses Have?
Similar to the influencer note above, businesses have both an immediate and a more hidden stake in the outcomes of controversies like this one. The immediate concern is rather obvious. As Legacy cafe owner Con Katsiogiannis noted in the case, a deal with influencer should maximise exposure. Deleting or archiving posts can reduce that exposure to a point where it lessens the impact.
That goal, of course, can only be realised if the ability or inability to archive posts is defined within the agreement between influencer and business. That, then, is the more hidden aspect of this type of agreement that deserves further attention. The focus here is not just the immediate stake for the business, but a larger trend that could have a significant impact on long-term influencer marketing strategies.
What Could this Controversy Mean for the Future?
As mentioned at the beginning of this case, relationships between businesses and influencers tend to be relatively informal. They cover the basics (promotions and a specific fee), but don’t go much deeper. However, that leaves open the possibility of legal disagreement as it happened in this case. Should that happen again, the impact could become major and go far beyond the parties involved.
First, agreements between the parties will have to become more specific. A defined outline of the roles and responsibilities of both the influencer and the business could be in the cards, and will make sure that future disagreements don’t derail the entire relationships.
Ultimately, though, the long-term impact could be even more significant. Continuing legal issues might well cause new legislation to pop up either regulating influencer relationships or preventing specific actions like post archiving practices. While that’s still on the far horizon, it’s worth monitoring as it could relate directly to the ways you promote your business.
How to Cover Yourself as You Work With Influencers
All of the above leads to a question that every business working with influencers on promotional activities has to answer: how do you make sure you’re safe, not just in your current and short-term relationships but also in case future legislation comes down the pipeline?
First, communication is key. You have to make sure that from the beginning, clear communication between both parties establishes the exact nature of the relationships, sets boundaries, and ensures that misunderstandings or different expectations don’t derail it over time. That communication can be oral, but will most likely be most important when occurring in written form.
Second, it makes sense to address the issue of post archiving from the start. Ensure that you are on the same page as the influencer you work with in how long content about your business can and should stay up on their page. You might also want to look into your own post archival tool to make sure you cover yourself.
Ultimately, record keeping will be the final frontier to ensure influencer success, both now and in the future. In the best case, it can avoid misunderstandings between all parties. Should the relationship turn sour, you can also use it to prove whether or not you posted something specifically related to the business or influencer. Social media might be instant in many ways, but archiving and record keeping helps you ensure that crucial information stays current and accurate over time.