PRWeek’s Robert Smith recently reported on the “authenticity crisis” the industry is experiencing with influencer marketing based on a recent study by UK PR firm Splendid Communications. Some of the key findings in the study include:

  • 43% think influencers are “often inauthentic” and work with brands “they don’t believe in”
  • 52% assume if an influencer promotes a product, they have been paid to do so, regardless of whether they have or not
  • 61% admitted to unfollowing an influencer who worked with “inappropriate” brands or who endorsed too many products.

Still, with all of that said, 3 out of 5 respondents say they would consider an influencer endorsement a compelling call-to-action IF they felt the content was authentic. Therein lies the greatest difference between what the industry has come to know as “influencer marketing” – now a $1 billion industry – and true advocacy.

What started as a very thin, very grey line has quickly grown into a giant sink-hole.

Here, we look at the main differences between “pay-to-play” influencer marketing and true advocacy through the lens of some of the biggest ailments facing our industry:

Incompatibility and Oversaturation

One of the greatest challenges we hear every day is finding the right people with whom to partner. At a time when just about anyone can call themselves a social influencer, it’s critical to do due diligence to seek out partners who are true advocates of your product or service, and whose audiences are in alignment with your own. These are people who can weave your brand into their own and bring it to life in a creative and honest way that resonates.

Ask yourself: are they storytellers and/or subject matter experts who happen to already know and love my brand, or are they simply collecting a paycheck for taking a hashtagged selfie? If the latter, their fans are not likely to be buyin’ whatever it is you’re sellin’ (and, according to the study above, might go so far as to unfollow said “influencer.”)

Engagement Fraud 

Marketers typically choose their partners based on three primary criteria: reach, content and engagement (the order of importance here may vary). On Instagram, in particular, fake engagement and purchased followers from bots are permeating the feed, devaluing two of the three core KPIs in influencer marketing.

Look at the ratio of followers to engagement, the context and quality of the comments themselves, as well as from where the commenters originate and what their own profiles look like. It’s very easy to fake growth and engagement. Luckily, it’s even easier to spot it.


BYGMusic is an advocacy and entertainment sponsorship company serving more than 3,000 artists-on-the-rise. Our artists are creators in the digital age who are underserved. Fans are immediately responsive to a sponsor who is there to empower their favorite artists and bands (we see, on average, 2X the engagement as traditional influencer programs).  This allows artists to bring the sponsor relationship front and center, with the transparency of direct support and the authenticity of brand advocacy.

 Our mission is to strategically pair artists with brands they already use and love, thus generating revenue for the artists through social content, events and brand activations. As a result, the fans get their music. The bands get to keep making the music. And the brands are the reason why.