Episode 75: Serious Social – Trends to watch – the rise of the De-Influencer

Episode 75: Serious Social – Trends to watch – the rise of the De-Influencer

The game is changing with the rise of de-influencer 😮But how will this impact the way brands work with influencers? In this episode, Katy Howell and Belle Lawrence are joined by writer/performer duo Yellow Square (Bec & Sam) to discuss all your burning questions.

👉Get an insider’s perspective on whether the de-influencing trend will topple the influencer marketing industry

👉Discover how brands can best work with content creators

👉Learn what to do when brand guidelines start to restrict creativity


– Hello and welcome. We’re back again for a Serious Social. It’a been a while. Delighted to have you here. This is a real Q&A style Serious Social today because we are going to be talking about de-influencing and how brands can deal with it. De-influencing is a really interesting trend that just feels like it came from nowhere around February, and is now, on TikTok alone, is at 455 million hashtags. I mean, it’s like, “Whoa.” It’s really taken off. And for many, the de-influencing trend is just a natural extension of what’s going on with influencers, which is giving the good and the bad. The review, for want of a better word. And for others, it’s a much greater kind of movement that sits behind sustainability, overconsumption and all these things. But you don’t want to hear from me. We want to talk about this, and we want to talk about how brands can deal with it. And to that end, I’ve got us some fabulous guests. I’ve got Bec Horsley and Sam Bartrop, both from Yellow Square, are influencers who are really well known for their comedy sketches on TikTok. And you’ve won loads of awards. You’ve won.

– We’ve tried.

– You have. I was looking at your website, and thinking, “Oh, my gosh.” You’ve won the Euro Comedy Awards, the Laughter Labs, the BCG Pro Talent Awards. It’s just like, “Wow.” So thank you very much for joining us. We’re also joined by our expert, Belle Lawrence, who knows pretty much everything about influencers, and how brands can manage influencers. So the idea of today is that we can get into some of the meat around how brands can deal with de-influencing, how they should deal with it, but also, let’s widen this out because it’s great to have this from the horse’s mouth, to have Sam and Bec with us because it gives us an opportunity to really talk about that relationship, because this is one of the biggest markets out there, which is brands working with influencers, and we want to make the most of this. So how can we do this better? So, Bec and Sam, tell us more about you and what your opinion of de-influencing is.

– All right. Yes. So, yeah, we are from Yellow Square. We’re best known for our comedy sketches on TikTok, where we’ve got an audience of around, I think it’s 275,000 at the moment, going up every day. And, yeah. So we have an audience based mainly in the UK.

– Yep. So it’s mainly UK. We’ve got a 60/40 female/male split, 18 to 35. We also got a 20% little slice in the US.

– And, yeah. We basically make comedy sketches for brands. That’s our job, so. We love working with brands that we care about and that we think offer a really good product or service, basically.

– Yeah, definitely. We’ve also got background in screenwriting at live comedy and improv. So a bit of everything.

– Bringing a bit of knowledge to things, hopefully. But, yeah. De-influencing. Well, I think it’s a good thing in the sense that it challenges consumption. I think that we all buy too much stuff anyway, and we could all do with just being a bit more mindful about our choices. So I think, in that sense, it’s a positive thing. I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s something that we would do. We prefer to uplift and support brands that we care about rather than trash brands that we don’t care about. We’d rather just not work with them.

– Yeah, definitely. I think it could be seen as scary, but I don’t think it is. I think it’s more about accountability from brands and, yeah. Holding them accountable for their eco practises and being friendly to work with and helpful and that.

– Belle, tell us a little bit about your background and de-influencing.

– Yeah. So I look after the team at IF, and we work with a whole range of clients, and often want to work with influencers and content creators who add something to the brand’s marketing effectively. And sometimes that’s about creating great content that’s going to engage people, and sometimes it’s about getting extra reach, and sometimes it’s about a bit of both. So it totally depends on what the objective of the campaign is. But with the advent of de-influencing, I think it’s quite interesting because it seems to be a little bit of a change in the creators and influencers themselves. So what Sam was saying there just about accountability, that maybe there’s also this piece that influencers want to be seen as more trustworthy and more down to earth, like they’re not just selling any old thing. In the same way is there’s a bit of an advantage sometimes to creators and influencers sharing kind of behind the scenes or something that’s more about their life with their audience because people want to know a bit more about them. This breaks down the wall of that, what might be seen as fake product reviews sometimes. So it’s a bit of a shift in what creators are doing too.

– Excellent. Well, listen, if you’re watching live, do ask questions. One question I have is is de-influencing really… Does it spell the end to influencer marketing in an industry that’s worth, apparently, $16.4 billion last year? What do you guys think, Bec, Sam?

– Yeah, well, we certainly hope not because it’s our livelihood.

– Yeah,

– But, yeah. No. I think it just, as you say, it just calls for more on authenticity from both brands and influencers. And for us, it’s just about really making sure that we do our research and only working with brands that we care about and that we’d want to promote to our audience, basically.

– Definitely. I think it’s potentially a shift towards more long-term relationships rather than casting the net really wide and having loads of content creators who don’t really know much about the brand and they are just trying to get a paycheck. So, you know, better relationships with content creators. But if a campaign works well, then why not work with them again? Something’s worked.

– There’s been a little accusation though, that de-influencing is a bit of a fad and something that’s another way to sell more products. There are a few influences that are jumping on that bandwagon. I guess the big question is, are you seeing that trust in influence is declining on the consumer end or has it not changed at all?

– Is that for us?

– Yes.

– Oh, sorry.

– Yeah. We’d probably say that trust is probably getting better, especially trust between content creators and their audience because, yeah, they are looking to their creators to know what to buy and what’s eco-friendly and sustainable. Yeah, I’d say probably more trust in the industry.

– I agree. I think it’s increasing. It’s not between the brands and the consumers. We, as consumers, are seeing the benefits of a more relatable use of a product. So whether it’s tips and tricks or hacks or whatever, the brands wouldn’t normally have previously shared that kind of stuff before. It’s all very glossy, presenting our USPs of the product, whereas this breaks down the wall so, actually, people get to know the brand a bit better, maybe the product a bit better and feel more comfortable with it. So I think you’re right, Sam, it’s increasing trust.

– Yeah. I deliberately asked a few provocative questions up front just to warm us up.

– Yeah, no.

– For many brands working with influencers, sorry, I did warn everybody, my dogs are going… And off they go. For many brands working with influencers, it seems that, and you’ve mentioned it, authenticity, which is also, as I’ve pointed out earlier this week, or last week, I hate the word authenticity. So what does it mean and what is that important factor? How can authenticity be achieved between a brand and an influencer?

– I think it’s just about brands making sure that they do their research on who they want to work with and finding people who really represent the brand and they really believe in the brand’s goals and everything like that. It’s just choosing a bit more carefully, potentially, who you’re working with and investing in, potentially, a smaller pool of creators who you can really trust, and you can just build that trust and work together more regularly, and as Sam said, those long-term partnerships, which can be so mutually beneficial to both brands and creator as well.

– Definitely. I think authenticity, for us, is just being consistent. We’ve worked a number of years to find our voice, to find our niche and see what works for us. I think it’s very clear when a creator loses their authenticity when they’re creating an ad because it doesn’t fit the rest of their content. These brands are going to these creators because of their content and how it performs. We know our craft. It needs to integrate perfectly with the creator and the brand, otherwise it’s very jarring, and people will very quickly just skip past.

– Yeah. From a brand perspective, again, I suspect this is where my dislike for the word authenticity is, is run is actually from a brand perspective. Where do you see it fitting and how is it better explained to brands?

– Yeah. I mean, it’s kind of overused as a word, but, at the same time, it is the right word and it is a valid word, but we have to figure out, as brands, what that means to the brand. How can we be authentic? Does it mean breaking down the walls? Does it mean seeing behind the scenes or does it just mean being more honest about some of the flaws or some of the things that we’re trying to fix as a brand? It can completely depend on what’s going on with the brand at the time, but I think most brands are on the path now to really recognising that what consumers want is not to be patronised, not to be sort of spoken down to, like, “We’re telling you this thing and you just have to believe us because we’re a big brand.”, but just to be kind of… And to be understood for their challenges and the solutions that they need the brand or the product to fix for them or help them fix. So they want to be heard and they want to be understood and then they, yeah… “Don’t patronise us.” basically is what consumers are saying. That’s where you get that authenticity, and sort of, you know, crack down on the no BS.

– We’ve had a few comments. Hi, Anthony, who’s from Manchester. Nice to meet you. Darren has got a question for us. Darren Jones has a question for us. Hopefully going to get it up on screen. “Is the de-influencing trend more common on some platforms than others?”

– I think we’ve seen it a lot more on TikTok, have we?

– Yeah.

– Yeah. I think, obviously, because TikTok is a bit more raw. You do get honest opinions on there and less polished, so…

– And I think also, potentially, it could be a bit of a reaction to the rise of TikTok Shop coming in, and just bombarding us on TikTok with, “Here, buy this, buy this, buy this, buy this.” And I do think, yeah. So people are reacting to that.

– Yeah.

– Yeah.

– with de-influencing.

– Definitely. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– There’s definitely a difference in how people present themselves on Instagram versus how they present themselves on TikTok and the sort of realities. And it’s just much more grainy, I guess, and down to earth on TikTok, so it’s probably where we’re seeing more of it.

– So we have another one from Amber, who’s one of our team. “Are users buying into subscriptions in general even more now than ever due to being de-influenced to gain access to trusted customer deals and content?” I guess the kind of basis of that is is there a reason why people are buying into the whole de-influence, they’re enjoying the de-influencer trend?

– Or is it also, you know, thinking about getting the no ads sort of subscribing to a platform or something, where you can opt out of the ads and that kind of rubbish? It could be. It could be a trend that’s all part of the de-influencing or, rather, the other way round.

– John Grey has said “Authenticity is trust”, which I love, but we have a lovely question here from Karl. “What do you think is the biggest strength of influencer advertising over traditional channels?”

– Do you want me to take that?

– Yeah, you can.

– I don’t think it is a case of over. I think everything needs to be in the mix, and working with influencers and content creators, you know, it is a bit different. We are talking about doing things differently for a brand and perhaps not making it quite so polished. So the strength is in breaking down that wall and trying to get something that’s a bit less overproduced that could be more relatable. What do you guys think?

– Yeah. Yeah. And I also think that using influencers, obviously you’re getting into their audience, so if you work with influencers who have an audience space, you know, that matches yours, then that’s incredible. And you’re using that relationship that the influencer has with their followers. And there’s so much trust there. So I do think that it’s still completely… Yeah, it’s just only going to get better and better really. And that trust builds.

– Yeah. Absolutely.

– Oh, that’s me. Sorry, throwing off. I’ve just lost all my comments and disappeared. Sorry, technology just went a bit flaky on me there, which is why I disappeared and came back.

– Just popped out.

– That’s all right.

– I have no idea what anybody else has said to me. As soon as-

– That’s all right. We’re up to date actually, so we can-

– Yeah.

– You might be. So I’ll get onto my next question because I think we’re getting into the meat of this, which is it’s actually not about de-influencing, it’s actually about how brands work with influencers, and last year, WARC, which is W-A-R-C, unveiled a really stark disconnect between how brands and influencers perceive a mutually beneficial partnership. And I love that word, mutually beneficial partnership. We’re not buying your time, it’s about that growth and partnership. So how do you, Sam, Bec, like to manage expectations and relationships with brands?

– Yeah. So I think that one of the main things is making sure that at the beginning, everybody’s intentions are clear so that the brand makes it very clear what they want from this collaboration, and just to just be really straightforward with their deliverables. What do they want? Where are they going to use this video, for example? If they’re asking for a video, where are they going to use it? Where’s it going to go?

– Consistency with that as well. We’ve definitely had some campaigns where deliverables will put forward, and then you get to the contract and then it’s slightly different.

– They snuck a few more in there.

– And then that’s the trust thing that is maybe questioned.

– Yeah. You want to be just open, honest, just communicative. Be really clear in the brief as well, if you are providing a brief, and making sure that you’re… If there are things that you want to include in the video, like USPs or whatever, you definitely want to include them or you definitely want to include a certain shot of the product, make that clear early on just to make life easier for the content creators a little bit down the line rather than go back and doing re-shoots or something like that. So, yeah. We like to just make sure that we’re being very open with everything. We like to make sure everyone’s really happy in the negotiation stage.

– Transparency.

– Just be transparent about our fees, and for them to be transparent about their budget. It’s just a very… And we want everybody to be happy, and we want everybody to feel like they’ve got a good deal…

– Definitely.

– So that we can have a really strong working relationship. And signing off the script, signing off the draught video, offering to do re-shoots if they’re not happy. That’s absolutely fine.

– Yeah. Be clear with it.

– Rarely happens.

– Yeah. And also, I’d say “trust us”.

– Yeah.

– This is our channel. We know what works. We’ll make something that works. We’ve had a few campaigns where it’s been, hit this, this, this, this, and then you lose that authenticity because then it’s very clear that you’re just reading from a script, or…

– Yeah, exactly.

– I think it’s spot on. I love that. Amber has written, “I love that Bec mentioned a clear brief.”, and I would argue that is the best starting point, and that isn’t being overly prescriptive either. I think we talked last time, which is not to be, not to tell you everything you need to do and how many times you need to mention the brand and all that stuff, rather allow you to be treated as a collaborative partnership. Do you have any examples of where you’ve had super relationships with a brand?

– Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. I think one of our strongest is… We have ongoing relationships with Squeaky Bean and Plant Based News as well. Plant Based News, we deliver UGC content every month, pretty much, for their channel. But Squeaky Bean, that’s a plant-based food brand. And, basically, we started working with them in 2021 because we did this Squeaky House, which was the world’s first vegan content house. But they gave us a lot of creative control, didn’t they?

– Oh, yeah. Absolutely. That was an example of… They set their boundaries. They said what they wanted from us, but then we went above and beyond.

– Because we wanted to.

– Yeah. Because they gave us so much freedom. They chose us specifically for what we do, so we wanted to make… We created loads of content that, I think, the guidelines were one a week, and we ended up doing a video every day.

– Yeah.

– Yeah. We were in this content creation house for about three weeks. And also, what a huge risk for a brand to do.

– Yeah. It was a big move.

– It was huge. And that’s just really exciting. And people feed into that.

– They just created a really friendly collaborative environment. We were collaborating with other creators. We were given all the tools that we needed to thrive, and they just said, “Fly, my pretty.” And we flew.

– Yeah, absolutely. We met everyone, top to bottom.

– Oh, yes.

– We knew them as a brand. We knew the founders and the marketing people. We knew who they were. They weren’t just a faceless organisation. That was quite important as well. You know who you’re talking to when you DM them and stuff.

– Yeah. And also, since then, we’ve worked with them a whole bunch of times, and they always come to us first for content. Again, they don’t spread their net really wide. They come back to the core creators. And they even send us their products and things. Even if they don’t want a video from us, they’ll just send us their products in the post just to try. And they don’t expect anything from that, but we will often post about it, put it on our stories or whatever because we believe in the brand. We love the brand and we love them.

– Yeah. Definitely.

– Love you, Squeaky Bean.

– Definitely.

– I love that. It’s the belief in the brand, it’s the collaboration and the closeness of the relationship that you have, that bonds. But, Belle, you worked on some of the Squeaky Bean stuff. Certainly the house with one of our other brands, didn’t you?

– Yeah, yeah. We got involved with Mission Wraps at the same time. We were on and off working with one of the other creators, Oli “El Burrito Monster”, who worked in the house with Bec and Sam. So we were working with him on and off the summer previous to that. And we actually then started creating a couple of recipes with Squeaky Bean as ingredients and then built that relationship from there really, and ended up with it all come together. All the wraps went into the house, and the content was just, like Bec and Sam said, it was like above and beyond. We weren’t expecting quite as much to come out of it as did. And it was just very valuable. I think what made the difference between what we’d seen before maybe from other brands is that, as you say, you guys say, that you met them from top to bottom, and you understood what their values were, what they were trying to achieve and what they really believed in. And you could really tell that they’d picked and chosen content creators who totally believed in that as well and wanted to bring that to the fore. So it wasn’t just, “Here’s a recipe because I’m a chef or a cook.”, it was, “We believe in this product, and everyone should be thinking about it and trying it because.” And you could so see all of that coming through in the post and the content.

– Definitely. Yeah. I’d also add as well, they weren’t just food… Beause, obviously, they’re a food brand, they weren’t just like food creators.

– So they were really open-minded actually, which is one of our tips for brands. Just because you’re a beauty product doesn’t mean you just have to work with beauty creators, for example.

– Yeah. You could work with comedy creators because we can make a sketch about anything.

– The house, it had a couple food creators and then it had like a prankster, it had us doing comedy and then a vegan blogger as well.

– Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– So it was a real, it was a real mix of skills and stuff. Oh, and then a lifestyle blogger as well, yeah.

– Yeah, totally. Because then you’re getting all the audiences.

– Exactly. It’s the best way to build on not just saying people who are following a food brand because they’re a foodie, but going into all the different reasons why someone might choose that brand. Partly, maybe it’s because they’re entertaining and funny or maybe it’s because they have a specific value around plant-based food or environment for example. But, yeah. It helps a brand get into all those different audiences by widening the net.

– Definitely.

– We have a great question here from Stephen, my favourite journalist. I’m hoping this will pop up. Oh, there we are. Hi, Stephen. “Are brands more nervous now they realise there could be repercussions of being called out?” Is their behaviour towards influencers improving?

– Yeah. I would-

– I’d hope so.

– I think it… I would hope that it’s just causing brands to just be a little bit more mindful, yeah, about what they’re offering and, potentially, look again if they’re charging a really high price point or something, and it’s a bit unfair, then thinking about that or-

– Sustainability.

– sustainability.

– Yeah. Like we mentioned as well, accountability. You should be held accountable for what your practise is.

– Yeah. I definitely think that, as an influencer, content creator, we would be mindful about the brands that we worked with. Do you know what I mean? Because we would be nervous to work with a brand which wasn’t… Do you know what I mean? Wasn’t really-

– Yeah, totally.

– much good in the world or whatever.

– Absolutely. And I guess it, yeah… We are held accountable as content creators as well to work with the right brand. So it is…

– So for example, if we did… Our brand is quite, yeah, vegan-friendly and everything like that, so if we were to work with a hamburger brand, that would just call into question our authenticity

– Yeah, exactly.

– and we’d probably get some flack from our plant-based followers. So, yeah. It’s just something to be mindful about.

– I think brands are probably a bit more nervous actually. And I think that’s because they have to work harder. They are going to be held accountable, and they have to be able to back up what they say. And whether that is a claim about what a product can do or whether it’s their ethics and what they stand for, they have to be able to back it up internally. We’ve seen too much greenwashing and overdoing it when it comes to talking about diversity when they not really representing themselves very well, and there’s just even more, as the years go on, there are no places to hide, particularly with influencers and content creators who should be able to choose what they’re saying if they choose to call you out. Yeah, you should be nervous.

– Totally. Be scared.

– Before we go on to the next set of questions, I just have to put this one up.

– Aww.

– Aww.

– Aww. Thank you. Thank you, Seriousface.

– I don’t know who Seriousface is, but that is so sweet.

– That’s so nice.

– They’re our new best friends, Seriousface. Creating very good audio sketches, at the moment, that are going out fortnightly.

– Fabulous. So let me just check and see if there are any other core questions. One second, sorry. No, I think there’s, I think we’ve done most of those. Let me go back to this because we’ve talked a lot about relationships and it being a two-way street, but one of the things you mentioned, which has come up in the topics, both at… Chant, our art director has said, “Yes, a good brief.” So, Belle, what makes a good brief, from a agency perspective, and then, Sam, Becs, would love to know what you think makes a good brief because it’s the nitty gritty of this, isn’t it?

– Yeah, yeah. It’s both being detailed and also not over prescriptive, which is a bit of a challenge, but, yeah. The people who can write a great brief are really highly valued, I think. I mentioned values earlier, you need to start there, with what a brand really values, what they value from their creators, and then understanding, doing your research about the creators you want to work with. Bec mentioned it earlier, understand their creative style, understand the way that they operate and what their values are first. Have a chat to them maybe. I mean, it seems shocking. Don’t just email and say, “Here’s a brief.” Maybe have a chat. It seems really simple. And then start putting together some clearly defined, what we want to do, here are our goals, here’s the kind of audience that we would like to reach, here’s the tone of voice that we tend to go with, here’s the visual identity we tend to use. And I’m saying this in a specific way because you can say, “Here’s our visual identity.”, but sometimes it could be too prescriptive or it might be something that the content creators feel like, “Oh, we’d never used that thing in here. We’d never use that word.” And that could create a clash immediately. So it should all be open for discussion really. And then I think setting the boundaries is really important, letting them know how far they can go, how far can they push it. Can they be bold? Can they be provocative? Can they be funny about it? Where are the guidelines of that? Where can they have fun with it? And then what are the things that we must have or the things that we definitely don’t want? And if there are brands who haven’t really ever got into the nitty gritty of that, it’s definitely worth it because, actually, it informs most of the content that you create, not just when you work with influencers and content creators. So what you want to do is iron out as many niggles as possible so that you have a way to bulletproof your ideas and both sides are really confident in what they’re going to go and create. And then talk all the time. It’s got to be that collaborative process. So you’re not really just writing a brief, it’s not saying here are the guidelines to write a great brief, it is briefing. The whole process is a briefing process that should be back and forth and collaborative.

– Mm.

– Yeah.

– Totally agree. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

– Totally agree.

– I think responsiveness is important as well.

– I think some of the best briefs that we’ve received as well have been personalised actually. So they would even have screenshots of our work, and something a bit similar to this, but not quite like this. We’ve had-

– Yeah, totally.

– specific ones we with our names in them, which made us feel very special. But it just shows that the brand’s done their research, and they actually want to work with you rather than just emailing a bunch of creators, and hoping that somebody bites.

– Definitely.

– It’s just lovely to get that.

– Not just based on your numbers as well. They’re not just seeing you as your follower count. And also, like you said, deep diving. And, Belle, what you said as well, knowing the content creator. If there’s a format that they use regularly, chuck your ad into that. We’ve had that before. We do videos where it’s caught watching “Friends”, ironically. And we’ve had brands that want to use that format and change it slightly, which is great because it works because TikTok is format-based, it’s repeated things.

– And I think, as you say, just getting the key information but be concise with it, but make sure that you’re just… If there’s anything that you definitely feel like you want in there, get it in there.

– Yeah. At the beginning.

– But also be flexible. And just trust the creator. Let the creator interpret the brief and come to you with a suggestion. If they’ve got an idea, just listen to them. Because they know what works on their channel. As long as it’s encompassing those brand values and your main points or whatever you want to get across, then you could do with… Yeah. It would be good to just listen a little bit to the creator as well. Just collaborate.

– I also like what Belle said about jumping on a call. That’s great. We’ve had that a couple times, and it’s great because you really get a vibe of what they want and they get a vibe of you and stuff like that. So it’s a good way to communicate a brief as well.

– Yeah.

– It sounds so basic, doesn’t it? Because it’s relationships. We’re, basically, not a media buy. We’re not buying media. And I think that’s where… John Grey has just come up with a great question, which I think… Beause we’ve switched between the wording, which is, “Do you view yourselves as content creators or influencer? What do you think is the difference?”

– That’s a very good question, John.

– Yeah, very good question. I think we would call ourselves content creators. Obviously we do comedy, and we’re actually comedians outside of TikTok as well. And we’re screenwriters. We are actually writer performers slash content creators. But I think the difference is is that we want our videos to be funny first, entertaining first and then an ad later if it’s an ad. Do you know what I mean? Our mission is to entertain and just make people laugh. And it just happens to be an ad. I think, obviously, technically, I suppose we are influencers. We use our page to…

– Influence.

– to influence, but we try and influence for the good. And I suppose with influencer there’s just a little bit of a stereotypical, a stigma even around the word, isn’t there?, of that stereotypical influencer. Obviously they’re doing their thing. That’s not really our style, but that just to camera like, “Here’s a pen. It’s really good. Buy it now.”

– And that’s the trust thing. I feel like if you’re seeing these stereotypical, “Here’s a pen.”, then you’re not going to trust that as much, whereas if you see it within that person’s style, then you are going to trust it. But, yeah. That’s a really good point. We do try and push towards content creators because that’s what we do.

– It’s interesting to see the interconnection there when Katy mentioned about media buying, and we’re talking about content creation because for a lot of agencies and brands, they’re more used to working with, maybe, creators who are more in the production side of things, and they’re thinking about them from, there’s a director or a producer or a writer who’s written this ad, who’s creating this thing, and they put influencers and social media content creators in the same box, and try and work with them in the same way. And then sometimes there’s this who’s-in-control element, and that’s where brands can fall down because they’ll try and control it too much, like they would for a TV ad, and it’s totally not the same. But, I guess, that transition from the old way of doing celebrity endorsements, TV ads and stuff that still happens now has moved into social and that it’s not only celebrities, it’s just normal people creating great content because they’re entertaining and talented. It’s totally different from saying here’s Mr. Celebrity. Please sell this product in our TV ads.

– Absolutely. Yeah. Because in that sense, they’re more of actors, and they’re being given a script, whereas we are creating the script.

– And we have definitely had campaigns which are like that. They almost provide a script, and you’re like, “Well, no. That’s not going to work on our page.” So, again, just having that communication and stuff.

– Definitely.

– I think it’s a really, it’s a really interesting point because 20 years ago, when we launched Immediate Future, there was no Facebook, there was just about Twitter, which is mostly about free text messaging back in the day when they charged for texting, and we worked for Sony Europe, who ran a series of TV commercials. This is how basic it was. And we used to do a thing called Blogger Relations because there was no influencers back then, but they, effectively, were exactly the same. But because it was so new and because bloggers wrote long-form content, the bloggers we involved were involved in the whole process. So the most famous ad is the TV promotion for Bravia TVs, where there’s a whole series of little rubber balls thrown down streets in San Francisco with some great music to it is having the bloggers present, doing, almost, the behind the scenes to this. And as that took off, the bloggers became commoditised and, therefore, the influencers became that either celebrity bucket or commodities bucket. And now we’ve shifted back to this creator talent pool as opposed to you’re just going to put this thing out and say something nice about it. I think it’s brilliant. It’s so much better. Stephen’s come back with another question, which we have to ask because I think it’s just super. “How do you keep aware, as creators, and push back against brands you feel might be trying to greenwash to some extent?” I mean, I think this is a really… How do you stick to your own ethics?

– Yeah. So it’s just, basically, we don’t take every brand deal that comes in. We just do our research on the brands that want to work with us, and we make a decision based on that, really. If it aligns with our personal ethics and things like that, then we’ll have a chat, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We’ll just move it to one side.

– Yeah. We are selective of who we work with, and also brands are selective with who they work with as well. So you don’t really, we don’t really come across that, any brands that are trying to push something that we wouldn’t want to say because we wouldn’t get to that stage. I guess it’s just being selective at the beginning with the brand because, yeah. And us researching the brand as well.

– It’s you knowing your own values as well, isn’t it? I mean, I know you’re a business. You’re a business like they’re a business, but, ultimately, you have your own value set that you want to stick to.

– Definitely. Yeah. Sorry.

– No, I was going to say it’s just another question. The questions are rolling in now. “Do you think de-influencing could put smaller brands off investing in influencers in case they don’t like their products or services potentially damaging the small brand rep?” I don’t know. I feel like we’ve almost covered this because that would not be the case if you had a relationship.

– Yeah. Definitely.

– Yeah, agree.

– I do feel like, as well, smaller brands, if they’re new as well, they will tend towards being more eco-friendly anyway. It’s probably the older brands that don’t have the right practises. So if you’re coming from a small place, then you’re probably going to do it properly at this point.

– It’s probably tempting as a smaller new brand to say, “I know what we’ll do, we’ll get a bunch of cheap influencers to talk about the product.” But if you’re going about things the right way, I would say mostly just going out and grabbing some influencers and content creators is probably a mistake. And you should probably do some focus groups and checking in with your audience and talking to the people who’ve actually starting to buy the product first so that you’ve got enough of a backup, and you’ve actually tested it with some people before you get others to start, hopefully, endorsing it.

– Mm. So, from your perspective, what would be, Sam and Bec and Belle, what would be your perspective on the three things that brands should have in mind when they approach a content creator? What would be the most important things that they should think about?

– I’d say the first thing, to start at the very beginning, is to have, as I mentioned before, just have that personal approach. So we’ve had emails from brands before which have been CC everyone, all the content creators under the sun. And then you’re in this thread with a whole bunch of other content creators, and it’s just like, “Oh, dear. Someone made a mistake.”

– That was pretty dramatic actually because the influencers started emailing back, saying like, “You’ve just given away my information.”, and I think some people were coming in with fees, and it, yeah.

– Yeah.

– So it’s just a bit, yeah. So basically just do your research and choose your creators wisely based on your own brand values and everything, and then just make the email a reach out email, or the first content, just make it personal. Yeah.

– Yeah, definitely.

– So maybe say something you like about their content. Why do you want to work with this particular influencer?

– Yeah. And make the brief bespoke. It’s probably a bit of extra work, but make it specific to that creator.

– Was that number one?

– Oh, sorry.

– Number two. Creative control. Just trust the influencer as well, and just they can just… Obviously just work together and come to a happy medium.

– Yeah, definitely.

– And what else would you say?

– I’d say pay fairly, I think.

– Well, yes. Yeah. Oh, no. I was going to say another one. But that’s a good, that is a really good point.

– Oh, we have to have four then. Sorry.

– We are going to have to have four. Beause you have a lot of brands, and I do understand that, obviously, small businesses don’t have much of a budget, but, obviously, it’s a balance between this being some people’s livelihoods as well, making content for people. So when you are offered a brand deal, and it’s just a gifted opportunity, it’s a very… We don’t have the time to take on, necessarily, that kind of opportunity, as much as we might want to, just because we’ve got to pay rent. Yeah. It’s time as well.

– Time is money.

– Yeah, exactly.

– Exactly. We could spend that time with a paid opportunity. So it’s tricky.

– It is tricky.

– And I just did want to say about long-term relationships because that is something that I really think both brand and influencer can benefit from, just working together more often with, potentially, a smaller pool of creators that you just really trust.

– Before I go to Belle, I would also add something John has brought up, John Grey has brought up in the comments, which is pay quickly. One of the things that I think is pretty poor practise from brands or other agencies is them delaying payment because, in a way, you’re like any freelancer consultant. You don’t have a bank of reserves, cash sitting there. Payroll is whatever gets invoiced and sent back. And if it takes them 90 days to send it back, that could be the difference between paying the rent and not paying the rent.

– Exactly.

– Because I have a very strong view about how we pay people who are smaller businesses, so.

– Yeah.

– Definitely.

– Also, it makes it just a bit icky. If you’re having to chase up payments, it’s extra admin for us, and it just makes it a little bit icky.

– Yeah. Absolutely. We’re quite lucky because we’ve signed with an agency, Stride Social, and they do that for us.

– Yeah. So manage our brand relationships. So that’s nice.

– Yeah. So we can focus on the creation part of it, but, yeah.

– Just quickly, I’ll just say we had this experience with an escape room company recently, and they ticked every single box. They’d done their research, it was a very personal approach, they’d come to us with a whole list of ideas for content and stuff, but then it turned out, at the end of this two-hour Zoom chat, where we’re all really excited about working together, they had no budget. So it was just like, “Okay.”

– Yeah. It was a real, it was a real shame. I don’t quite know what they thought we were going to get out of it. Maybe a free escape room, but, yeah.

– Exposure.

– Yeah.

– Sorry. I just had to say.

– Exposure. Yeah. I think that was it. But, yeah.

– Well, if it’s any consolation, as an agency, we occasionally get asked to do stuff for free as well.

– So it’s not just us then?

– No, it’s not.

– People do try.

– There’s always somebody willing to chance their arm, isn’t it? Belle, what are your, what are your tips, your three tips for brands?

– Well, yeah, a lot of it’s, a lot of it’s probably been covered, but for brands, I think it has to be not about buying, it’s not about a commodity that we’re buying, it’s a collaboration. That’s probably point one. And brands need to be prepared to compromise. They need to be open-minded and not just control freaks about it because it just won’t work. If you have that in the business, if you have that in the leadership, if there’s somebody who’s going to be a blocker because they’re controlling, or trying to control too much about the brand perception or whatever it is, it won’t work, so fix that first. And then try and stay both positive and audience first. So, yes, we’re talking about the brand values and what they want to get out of it, and we’re talking about the content creators and what they want to make sure that they’re doing for their style, but we can’t forget the audience at the end. It has to be what they need to see from a brand or what they want to see from a content creator and what they’ll enjoy. So we’ve got to put audience mindset back into it as well.

– And at the top of the live, you guys talked a little bit about what you do, but I love your point about being content creators. So what do you see, as a business, that you offer brands? What is it that, what is your package so to speak?

– Yeah. Well, we offer just the full service, really, from ideation to the produced video and posting at the end. As we said, we’re actually comedians as well and we’re script writers. So we actually bring a lot of knowledge to this, and we can promote and sell products and services in a really funny, authentic way, which just fits into TikTok as a comedy sketch. It doesn’t even seem like an ad.

– Yeah, absolutely.

– Which is just something a bit different that a lot of brands that we work with haven’t even thought about. They’re like, “Oh, could we promote this with a comedy sketch?”

– Yeah, Bulldog…

– Yes you can.

– Yeah. Touchfood, PlayDrone, EE.

– Yeah. And something shareable as well. Just creating content that’s just shareable and enjoyable first, and then, yeah, as I said, an ad later.

– Definitely. I think also, we’ve got real deep knowledge of TikTok and how to navigate TikTok. We’ve been down in the trenches for three, four years now, every day. And, yeah. It does change quite a lot. Algorithms change. I think we’re also offering the insight into that. But also, on a practical basis, we also offer UGC as well.

– And also, we’re here for ideas bouncing around. We do that with a few companies. And if they just want the scripts, they just want the scripts. We can help in any way.

– Exactly.

– I love it. And it just, it is so creative, and it is looking at that different angle. It’s giving a voice to brands. So we’re almost there, at the end. We’re running out of time. But I want to wrap up with asking you, all of you, what you think might change, if anything, nothing might change, between brands and content creators now that de-influencing is here to stay?

– I just think that, potentially, brands would be investing more in, as I said, a smaller number of influencers, and I think that influencers, speaking from that perspective, we just might be a bit more choosy about who we’re working with, and just, yeah. So, essentially, brands, just pull your socks up a little bit in terms of making sure that you’re offering a good product and you’re mindful about your impact, your environmental impact, things like that.

– Definitely. Yeah. Like we said, again, accountability. Before you make any moves, it needs to be the right move.

– Belle, have you got anything to add?

– Yeah. I think I agree. This is the de-influencing thing, and, generally, the evolution and, I guess, maturing of the influencer industry is, hopefully, going to make brands a little bit more careful in how they do things and what they do. And it’s also helping content creators to be a bit more choosy, as Bec said, and a bit more, a bit more careful about what they’re willing to promote so it’s not just blind validation, and then brands don’t get caught out, and, ultimately, we get back to that word of authenticity because then if the brands are more careful, the creators are more careful, the audience get a better experience.

– Love it.

– Yeah.

– Love it. And this LinkedIn user’s just said what I was just about to say, which is, “it’s quality over quantity for sure.” And I tend to agree. What we’re hearing, what I’m hearing throughout this is deeper relationships, more collaboration, fewer relationships, but longer relationships that actually have meaning and matter to both the brand and the creator. So thank you so much, Sam, Bec, Belle.

– Thank you so much for having us.

– Thank you. Thank you for having us.

– It’s been fantastic. We will have another Serious Social Live. We don’t have a date on that yet, but we will be coming back on a regular basis to annoy you on a Thursday or Friday morning. Thank you very much for everybody who asked questions. That’s fabulous. We’ve got so many comments. It’s brilliant. And again, thank you all.