While the use of influencers is a popular marketing strategy, new research indicates that deploying them for crisis communications can increase distrust in a brand and risk consumer backlash.

Global spending on social media influencers is forecast to reach $15 billion by 2022 as more than two thirds of multinational brands around the world plan to increase expenditure on influencer marketing within the next few years.

Writing for WARC, Benedetta Crisafulli (Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Birkbeck, University of London) and Jaywant Singh (Professor of Marketing, University of Southampton) observe that social media influencers are also increasingly being used in crisis communications.

Crises are moments that typically put a spotlight on a brand failing, that disrupt consumers’ trust and can damage the customer-brand relationship. Brands can address the crisis by using ingratiation – communicating the brand’s past good deeds and bolstering its goodwill – but, say the authors, “ingratiation efforts backfire if supported by an influencer”.

That’s because the influencer’s presence makes the ingratiation response to the crisis appear as manipulative – and psychological research shows consumers actively resist brand communications that appear manipulative.

The use of influencers in crisis comms can appear as an attempt by the brand to persuade consumers into believing that the crisis is less serious than it might appear, they write, with the result that “inferences of the brand’s manipulative intent translate into negative corporate brand perceptions”.

If a brand is intent on using influencers in this context, however, then proactively disclosing the terms behind the brand-influencer partnership is valuable in reducing the adverse effects of influencers’ involvement in crisis management efforts, they advise.

Read more, including four key recommendations, in the full article: The pitfalls of using social media influencers during brand crises.

Sourced from WARC