This post was written by Mirna Bard, a social media consultant, speaker, author and instructor of social media at the University of California at Irvine.
SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.
Last week’s poll question: How do you feel about brands paying celebrities and others to post on social networks?
- I think it’s ineffective and unethical — 28.41%
- I don’t have an ethical problem with it, but I think it’s ineffective — 26.14%
- I think it brings in business, but it makes me uncomfortable — 25.00%
- I think it is a fine tactic that delivers results — 20.45%
Since the dawn of advertising, we have seen major companies using celebrity faces to make a splash in magazines, newspapers, billboards and television. This practice is now an emerging trend in social media. Some companies are willing to pay celebrities with huge social followings to endorse products or services in sponsored updates on social networks.
While this method has worked in traditional advertising, it is being criticized by many social media users, and last week’s SmartBrief on Social Media poll respondents are no exception. Although we had a mix of results with this poll, almost 80% expressed some form of reservation with the practice, saying it is ineffective, unethical or both.
In all honesty, I don’t think it’s only a question of ethics. But I don’t blame the readers for being uneasy with it, because I also disagree with this method and was appalled by the number of brands who are throwing away big bucks.
Celebrities may make great fire-starters for a word of mouth campaign because of the huge amount of fans they bring with them. However, is this truly a genuine way to create openness and engage an audience? I’m not sure how paying a celebrity $10,000 per tweet or a Facebook update will influence an audience or be part of a scalable social media strategy.
I could be wrong, but I believe consumers today would not be that astounded by a celebrity endorsement. It seems that they are more likely to be influenced by someone they trust in their social circle than by a nonexistent celebrity relationship. Celebrity endorsements have never had influence on me. I would prefer to go on Twitter and get help and opinions from my Twitter followers who have used a certain product or service rather than be taken by an ad with celebrities who may not even use the product they are endorsing.
Companies must understand that they don’t need to rely on celebrities when using social media. Brands just need to know the value they offer, find their true brand evangelists and motivate them through powerful, authentic engagement.
What are your thoughts on celebrity endorsements on social networks? Has a celebrity ever influenced your buying decisions?