By Kanisha Parks
When I went natural back in 2009, YouTube was the best place to find out how and what to use to maintain my hair. Product reviews were reliable—I wasn’t worried about whether or not I could trust the person’s opinion because brand compensation wasn’t yet a factor. But now it’s 2017 and every time someone suggests a product, the first thing I want to know is, “Were they paid to say this?”
Companies turn to said personalities for various reasons—they’re more relatable than most celebrities, they’re accessible, they post frequently, and they can more actively communicate with the target audience. But let’s face it: social media is already full of false representation. Couple that with compensation, and you have a recipe for skepticism, distrust, and the loss of credibility.
Now I’m sure that brand ambassadors and social media influencers aim to come across as authentic, and don’t want to be seen as though they’re only in it for the money. More often than not, they will attempt to reassure you in the description box that although the video is sponsored, their review is “100% honest.” But is it really, though? When you’re given a product to try for free, it’s easy to say it’s great and it probably is. But would you go out there and pay $50 for it, like the average consumer has to do?
Some YouTubers say, “If I don’t like a product, I’m not going to make a video about it.”
And I’m like, why not? If and why you didn’t like a product can be just as beneficial to a viewer as why you did like a product. If nothing else, it lets your audience know that you don’t like everything. No lie, I am wary of YouTubers who never dislike anything. It makes me feel as though they will accept any deal as long as the money talks.
Many ambassadors and influencers have felt the backlash and are attempting to combat the escalating distrust that’s being presented in the comment sections of their posts. Jasmine Brown, who has over 1.4 million subscribers on YouTube, offered her perspective in this video called 'The Truth About Sponsored Videos:'
One point she makes is that she does this full-time and getting a big sponsor is great for business. “We have to make money somehow,” she says. "Plus a lot of hard work goes into sponsored videos that you don't see."
Don’t get me wrong. On one hand, I love seeing women building their brands, making money, and moving on up. Especially people I’ve been riding with for a long time, it’s like their success is my success. Despite compensation being a factor, they really put their work in and generate some pretty dope videos and images. They work hard and they deserve to be rewarded for that. But when you’re using a certain skincare brand and the next week, you’re using something completely different it makes me wonder if you really use those products at all.
With all of these questions consuming my thoughts, I figured, who better to ask than Nikki herself? She created CurlyNikki.com back in 2008, so as a seasoned blogger she definitely knows a thing or two about marketing and who to trust. She says,
“Marketing is a business enterprise and people should be able to make money from their business. However, your success has a lot to do with the quality of product you produce, and in this case, it’s information. If you can’t find a business model that will pay you and preserve the integrity of your product, you don’t have a business...or you’ll have a short-lived business.”
Good point. If ambassadors endorse sub par products it’s just a matter of time before people catch on and stop following. She continues,
“I’ve been compensated very well thus far, but I’ve also left a lot of money on the table. In 10 years I’ve never endorsed a hair care brand though I’ve been approached countless times. These are specific and contextual decisions that the business owner has to make for themselves, but in my case, my business model has been consumer focused, and the integrity of the information has always been the priority.”
In the end, I believe that most influencers have the best intentions and should be given the benefit of the doubt. But I also think that since their compensation is directly dependent upon their followers, brand ambassadors and influencers should have enough integrity to wisely select brands they actually use and love. So whether you’re a brand ambassador, influencer, or advocate, just keep it 100 percent genuine. After all, your audience is the reason you have a platform in the first place.
What do you think? Do you trust brand influencers who do sponsored videos?