Navigating Influencer drama; ensuring value & brand safety

The community of social media creators and ‘influencers’ is experiencing an interesting period of change. It’s a transition which has largely been watered down as a ‘one-off’ controversy, but now, has turned into a fully fledged beast.

That’s right – I’m talking about influencer drama.

Ask any teenager and they’ll be able to tell you all about the scandalous actions, breakups, fall-outs between some of YouTube’s top personalities. As influencers status grows into fully fledged celebrities; drama, scandal and their private lives are now being played out over the internet for all to see. 

Social Media focused tabloid have even spawned into existence. Channels like 'DramaAlert' on YouTube provides and endless commentary on the scandals and 'beef' between creators. However - it's not like we haven't seen the drama coming. The past 18 months has seen its fair share of scandals hitting the mainstream news cycle. YouTube’s brand safety problems, YouTube’s biggest creator PewDiePie being dropped from Disney and even the Kendall Jenner Pepsi protest saga are just a few of the creator scandals that have hit the headlines.

My personal favourite is the current popularity of ‘dis-tracks’, songs and raps produced by creators to attack others on the platform. They’re often explicit, filled with sexual references and trigger a mountain of ‘reaction videos’ and often even more drama. One of these songs made by US-based influencer, Jake Paul, even made it to number #1 in the US iTunes charts.

It all attributes to an environment where investing in influencers is now harder than ever to navigate. Brand safety is now back in the spotlight and the value earned from influencer campaigns is brought into question. It raises into question two things; 1. How can I ensure my brand is safe? 2. How do I ensure I still receive value in this ‘drama’ environment?

Defining what ‘safe’ is for your brand depends on several factors and is unique to each brand. Generally, if you’ve done your homework and are prepared, you’ll encounter little problems along the way.

At WE THE PEOPLE, we encourage all our partners to undergo a process of assessing what values are important to their brand and consider how these values stand with various influencers, in various situations. This is a unique process to each brand and will outline specific red areas to avoid. We then use this as a benchmark when assessing influencers and whitelisting them. This process won't just weed out the influencers which aren't right for your brand, but it'll also provide a consistent method to continually selecting appropriate influencers to work with.

With influencers, value is generally defined by the content that they’re producing – not necessarily the eyeballs they provide. The quality of the content is likely to align with the performance of an influencer campaign; so, you can see the problem that’s generated with ‘drama’ content. Whilst audiences may rush in their hundreds of thousands to check out a juicy piece of drama, this won’t translate into quality content and brand engagement. The solution here isn’t simple, but it’s most likely concerned with finding the right fit. Spending the time to search out, consider and land on an influencer who reflects your brand values and meets your previously established safety criteria. This can be a drawn out and a times tedious process – but the current method of approaching influencers just like paid media, is limiting influencer marketing’s full potential.

By finding the correct influencer who you can a build a relationship with and get them engaged with your brand – will be far more effective than just putting a cheque in the mail. Remember that behind those 1 million followers is a real-life person. And if you can get them excited about creating content for your brand, then their audience will see and respond to that too. Basic human nature suggests that if you care about a relationship, you’re generally likely to try and protect that relationship. For influencers, this means they’ll be more aware of the content they produce as they value the relationship that exists with your brand. Drama and scandal are now less likely to be part of the equation. 

The moral of the story? Love your influencers, treat them right and communicate your concerns to them.


At WE THE PEOPLE, we help brands become great storytellers. And we believe influencers are great storytellers. We help brands develop meaningful and effective relationships with social media influencers – through our INFLUENCE network – a group of high quality and whitelisted accounts.