Do Influencers and Politics Mix?

Do Influencers and Politics Mix?

It’s fragmenting, ugly, contentious. Kant thought rational, universal morality prevailed among all humans. But politics has hardly ever been rational, right? As a tier one service provider for influencer marketing we’re often asked to lead an influencer campaign for a political candidate or ballot issue. We politely decline. Sure it’s tempting and at first glance, you’d think influencers would be perfect political spokespeople. They’re trusted, especially among younger voters, and can have huge followings. We see celebrities in the news lending their weighty voices to environmental issues and some are not at all shy about endorsing or cursing politicians.

But the meat of the influencer market is not celebrities, it’s professional and semi-professional specialists. And for these folks, there are a number of business reasons why influencers are ill-suited to politics. For service providers like Mattr there are new, valid reasons to avoid politics.

Related: Highly Regulated? Here’s the Non-Shady Way to Make Influencers Work

The influencer’s perspective

What do influencers say, we wondered, when approached for a political sponsorship? We asked them two simple questions:

  1. Have you ever been approached to sponsor a political ad?
  2. If the candidate or policy aligned with your values, would you do it? If not, why not?

Here are two influencers we love whose audience and content focus differ. Would their responses differ, we wondered?

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Katherine has a massive YouTube community and originally centered her work around college life, providing real-life advice for anxious college students. Now that she’s graduated, she’s giving out advice on life after college, relationships and social media.

  1. Have you ever been approached to sponsor a political ad?

“No I have not!”

  1. If the candidate or policy aligned with your values, would you do it? If not, why not?

“I would support an issue that candidate was fighting for (e.g. environmentalism, access to education,etc) and promote them that way, but I don’t think I would directly be paid to support a political candidate.”

Katherine is one of those people you meet who’s bluntly honest but passionate about doing what she thinks is right. So we weren’t surprised by her response!

Subscribe to Katherine’s YouTube Channel

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Jenna is hugely successful and tightly focused on fashion, beauty, and lifestyle content. She has a day job but somehow finds time to work on her influencer business. Her photographs are stunningly beautiful and smartly composed.

  1. Have you ever been approached to sponsor a political ad?
  2. If the candidate or policy aligned with your values, would you do it? If not, why not?

“No and no! It’s too alienating and not relevant to the topics I cover on the blog!”

Jenna left no doubt as to her position! It does reflect on her tight content focus as well as where she is in her influencer career.

So both influencers we quote are a solid “no” to sponsoring a candidate, which means you may as well not even ask them. But what about other types of influencers? Micros? Celebrities? And why won’t service providers take the business?

Technology goes both ways

Tech heavy full service providers like Mattr stay away from politics for a few reasons. The largest chunk of value we add is wedding the brand with the most efficient influencers. This means we look into the influencer’s audience for alignment to a brand’s persona. Of course a percentage of the audience won’t be aligned, and it’s this volcanic minority which surfaces the volatile difference between a consumer brand and politics.

Showing a Sprite-drinking, Trump-supporting Facebook user a sponsored post for 7UP will have little blowback. But if that Facebook user saw a post from their (formerly) trusted Facebook page favoring immigration or universal healthcare? Forget about it. Now importantly, blowback can mean more than just viscera in the comments; calculated targeting of the influencer and their post by bots can overwhelm an influencer’s feed like hot lava. Gobs of algorithmic piling on occurs once the post is repurposed on other platforms like Reddit, which can ruin the campaign as well as the influencer’s career.

On the other side of complexity, there’s a simple reason for avoiding politics: getting paid. Campaign directors have little experience in this business and thus are not interested in forming long term relationships with vendors. Pairing this indifferent and amateur acumen with limited funds and changing priorities means you better get paid upfront.

Conclusion

Although the probability of a widespread bot attack is low, it’s still a hazard and service providers will wisely avoid politics. The “best” influencers, those who garner high engagement rates for their sponsored brands and have a 100% credible following, will refuse the business. You are sure to find influencers who will post for political campaigns, especially issues, but those who agree to post on behalf of a candidate are best avoided for any kind of campaign.