The Ethics of Influencer Marketing: Balancing Profit and Authenticity

Picture this. 

Fresh breeze across your face, a cool summer day with birds chirping, strangers smiling and children laughing. You are on a walk past a beautiful park where you see an influencer filming themselves advertising a brand you don’t recognize. You have nowhere to be, so you decide to watch. As your mind contemplates, you’re amazed by this product. It’s really tempting to make a purchase. However, you wait as the influencer finishes filming. Their sudden remark shatters your admiration, expressing disgust over consuming the product in front of the camera.

One of the challenges brands face is finding the balance between authenticity and profit. Influencers struggle in the same way. They too want to be honest, but still generate income in the same breath. 

Now I know what you’re thinking – how exactly can we find that perfect medium for our marketing efforts? 

Well, stick around where you might find out!

In recent years, there has been a massive movement on social media where honesty has become the desired goal for all influencers. Not just because it’s better for their reputation, but because it’s easier for the influencer to just be themselves. The burden of keeping up with the image they have to view can be exhausting, and most people see it as impossible. It’s not like being a celebrity because you were in a movie once. Instead, influencers make their living based on people’s opinions about them. 

Alix Earle is an influencer that prides herself in the honesty side of social media. She is very open about her personal struggles, and her followers appreciate that she is so vulnerable with herself and the world around her. You see, social media is built around customization. The more you post to a specific group of people, the more your following will grow of those people who like your content. If influencers desire to be transparent and honest, chances are their followers do too.

Can you see where I am going?

79% of people trust social media influencers. The main reason for this is because they seem to be trustworthy. Influencers hold a voice for the people they’re talking to and most people see them as a model for what they want to be. This is even more true for influencers who are transparent because they have built more trust with their audience. 

From a brand perspective, having a trustworthy influencer may seem desirable. However, you should remember that to fully embrace growth, you’ll need to allow your influencers to be transparent. You should leave room for them to give an honest review and feedback of your brand. This can help you improve and receive constructive feedback for your products. It can also help you to build an even more loyal customer base. 

What if you lose reputation by allowing your influencers to be honest?

Good question! You see most brands want to have control of the marketing campaigns in order to generate as much profit as possible. But we’re not here to talk about how to make money fast, but about how to do it ethically.  If you’re a new brand who has hired that influencer in the park to try your new drink, wouldn’t you want to know that the drink actually tastes horrible? 

If sales start coming in, chances are they won’t last long. This is because that target audience will most likely feel the same way as the influencer. Your loyalty drops and your reputation is tarnished. 

Here are a few other options to consider: 

  • Find an influencer that holds the same values as your brand. 
  • The influencer needs to be already maintaining an honest reputation with their followers. 
  • Set a meeting to discuss the influencers wants and needs for this brand. Try to include them in the product development process as a tester. 
  • Gather feedback from the influencer on improvements and what they think might make your brand better. 
  • Consider the changes and adjust your product where it is needed. 
  • Then collaborate or hire the influencer to review the brand once it’s ready for the target market. 

This may sound like a lengthy process but it is beneficial to you and to the influencer. You, as the brand, can get to know who’s representing you online and see for yourself where their values lay. The influencer can get to know you as a brand and advocate for you in the best possible way. Your customers’ loyalty will also grow as they will like the taste of the brand they are buying and want more. Get it? Growth = a willingness to change when needed. 

You want numbers? We’ve got them!

90% of those surveyed by ASCI said they had made at least one purchase as a result of an influencer’s recommendation, and 61% said they had bought three or more. This behavior was especially common among customers who were between the ages of 25 and 44.

Consumers avoided influencers when they perceived a lack of transparency (43%), repetitious material (42%), and over-promotion (41%), according to the study.

It was discovered that successful relationships benefited both brands and influencers. According to the study, 64% of customers believed a company’s credibility increased when influencers supported it, while 58% of respondents said that influencers’ credibility increased as a result of their support for the brand.

Wait, there’s more!

More than half of consumers say that social media and word-of-mouth are their go-to methods for learning about new products according to the GRIN report. The report found that no matter how many followers a creator has, approximately 70% of users find it upsetting when the artist is opaque about a sponsored post. They also state that more than 60% of consumers trust an influencer more when they get engagement from that influencer. 

Millennials and Gen Zers are the top consumers who value the opinions of influencers more than the advertisement of the brand itself. The GRIN report also found that men tend to spend more than women if they trust the influencer who recommends products. When an influencer advertises goods they don’t actually care about, it’s the main reason why followers lose trust in them.

The stats are endless! The more brands find influencers who are transparent, the more successful those brands become and the better the profits. 

How to make a profit without being unethical?

We had a look at how to run a successful campaign with an influencer and we saw the stats that favor being honest. But why is this relevant to you as a brand making money? Well, there is no need to sacrifice profits. The statistics show that honesty generates more sales, and more sales generates higher profits. You don’t need to sacrifice your ethics for the sake of making more money. Marketing campaigns that solely focus on selling rather than quality don’t become successful in the long run. They don’t have trust with their consumers, so their consumers don’t convert to becoming an advocate for their brand. 

Your brand’s transparency needs to be reflected by the influencers you choose. These influencers need to remain transparent with their followers about your brand and its products. If your product is amazing, your influencer will advocate for your brand. If your brand sucks, your influencer will tell you, especially if you value honesty above all else. Either way, you’ll grow as a brand and make profit just by being willing to improve on your products offered. So, if there is one thing you get out of this blog is this: 


There isn’t a need to make a sacrifice for a better brand reputation. Your transparency will naturally bring in profits and it will reflect with your marketing efforts. The only disadvantage is that it will take longer than getting rich overnight. 


Your brand as a whole is a reflection of your customers’ needs and wants. You are targeting a specific group of people who want to buy from you. To attract those customers, you need to look for people to advocate for your brand successfully. You’ll find that there are plenty of influencers to choose from who value honesty and keep a positive community active on social media platforms. 

It isn’t a matter of making less money. It is a matter of staying ahead of the competition and achieving your long term goals of maintaining connections with your customers for long periods of time. Remember it is cheaper to keep a customer than to get a new one! 

Let’s look back at the introduction. That influencer marketing the brand didn’t see the brand as a successful one and instead advertised for the sake of making money. Although the world is wide, a stranger managed to see the true colors just by passing by. That stranger was the ideal customer. They took interest in the brand and were willing to try it. Yet, by the time the filming ended and true colors were shown, they were no longer interested.

Mic drop!

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