L’Oreal is investing 90% of its influencer marketing budget on Instagram, but to ensure the brand is in safe hands it's performing “background checks” on the micro-influencers it's working with as part of a new three-step vetting process.
Since Unilever CMO Keith Weed put a spotlight on the problem of fraud in the influencer marketing sector, social media stars have been under greater scrutiny from advertisers.
For L’Oreal’s Active Cosmetics division – which houses skincare brands Vichy, La Roche-Posay and Skinceuticals – it’s not the well-established, blue-tick verified accounts it’s targeting. Instead it almost exclusively works with ‘micro-influencers’, which it defines as people with followings of around 10,000.
They bring “authenticity”, have built a niche following interested in skincare, and so don’t work with the broad range of brands that a more well-established counterpart might. But with the pros of micro-influencers come the cons and L’Oreal is mitigating against any risks with the following process.
Step 1: weed out the fakes
To find lesser known influencers, L’Oreal scans the platform looking for anyone mentioning an Active Cosmetics brand, specifically La Roche Posay or Vichy, as well as any people talking more generally about skin conditions its products help, like acne or eczema for example.
“Then, when we have all those possible ‘influencers’ we do the first wave of checks,” explains Cedric Dordain, chief digital offer at the skincare division. “Using tools that automatically identify suspect influencers are really helpful.”
The signs are fairly obvious – but what it’s looking for here are people whose accounts might have suddenly surges in followers, especially if they have a high count from people in foreign countries - both well-recognised indicators of fraud.
Dordain says that this wave of checks will result in a cull of 80% of the accounts it has identified as people potentially worth working with.
Step 2: follow the guide
For the 20% of accounts remaining, the process becomes more manual. For that, L’Oreal has created a rulebook that sits within each division’s social media department to be used as a guide when selecting influencers.
Among the main things to checks are the other brands the influencer has worked with, the kind of content they’ve posted for that brand, and how that post was styled (a Listerine-style post would be a red-flag).
"We don't want someone that speaks about any brand and any topic,” Dordain adds.
Following these checks, L’Oreal will use the remaining pool of influencers for a sampling campaign, where it effectively gives someone the product for free in the hope they will feature it on their account.
Though there are no contracts, it still wants to apply the same level of rigour to the influencers it wants to be associated with.
Step 3: background checks
For influencers L’Oreal will give ad budget to it goes one step further, asking a third party company to conduct a “background check” before any contracts are signed.
“We want more detail about the background of the influencers. From what they've posted in the past not just on Instagram but on any social platform and any website or blog or forum,” says Dordain.
“We need to spend more time looking into individuals to make sure that we won't have any [brand safety issues], like nude pictures.”
This step is a recent addition to its vetting process; it’s only been doing it for three months “only a few” influencers have been subject to it.
It comes amid a wider crackdown of this sphere of marketing. Policing of paid for influencer content has been under intense scrutiny, with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launching its own review into whether the current guidelines go far enough.
Meanwhile, consumers are becoming increasingly turned off by the sheer volume of branded content on social platforms, with a recent study suggesting almost half of users are 'fatigued' by repetitive influencer posts in Instagram.