Dr Arreni Somasegaran debates whether free injectable treatments should be provided to bloggers and influencers for marketing purposes
Have you ever bought a sofa or made a dinner reservation at a London hotspot on the recommendation of someone you follow on social media? If that’s the case then like many, you have been subject to influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing is a type of marketing strategy which involves a brand collaborating with an online influencer to market a product or service. These influencers are considered experts by the public within their niche and have a dedicated following. But is it appropriate for us to be giving away injectable treatments in exchange for coverage?
The rise of influencers
Use of social media has grown exponentially and is a major source for news, information and advertising. On average people spend almost three hours every day on social media1 and with medical aesthetics being a visual business, it’s no surprise platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are seen to provide a massive reach to consumers. Unsurprisingly, clinics and clinicians want to make use of the screen space to target potential customers as demand for medical aesthetics grows.
In general, gifting products or services to bloggers can elicit a great response at very little expense. This type of marketing tool is becoming more popular in the aesthetics field, where collaborating with a micro-influencer (someone who has between 1,000-100,000 followers) could bring more patients and brand awareness. Although it presents great opportunities for us professional and ethical practitioners, it can also be the source of many challenges.
As medical professionals, we should be wary of gifting certain services to influencers. Whilst I am more than happy for a blogger to share their experience, providing them with a complimentary injectable treatment in exchange for a feature doesn’t sit right with me. I think we clinicians should think long and hard before considering adding influencer gifting to our social media strategy.
In the UK, a growing proportion of children join various forms of social media by the age of 12.2 This younger audience are highly impressionable, and I believe it is dangerous to normalise cosmetic procedures such as botulinum toxin and dermal fillers amongst this age group. Although the UK’s advertising regulator – the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – enforces that influencers ensure promoting a brand, product or service is made clear to the audience,3 sometimes things slip through the net. Giving away these treatments to bloggers, especially if they are not disclosed clearly, can make these procedures appear too easily accessible and necessary. This is far from the truth, as we know these procedures are not cheap and not always needed, resulting in younger patients seeking treatments with inexperienced and unprofessional injectors. This is concerning as cosmetic procedures carry risks making complications more likely to arise when patients are in the wrong hands. I feel it is our responsibility to protect all patients, especially those who may not be positioned to make an informed decision.
The relationship between an influencer and their audience is highly trust dependent and being transparent is in everyone’s interest. Followers are clued up nowadays and if they interpret an influencer as being dishonest or misleading about a cosmetic procedure, this can be damaging to your business by way of association. If you choose to gift treatments, I strongly advise you to ensure the influencer is upfront with their followers and abides by the ASA’s influencer guide.3
When approached by an influencer, or if you’re considering working with an influencer, you should be cautious of whether they're controversial or have had any recent controversies, as this can have damaging consequences to your brand and reputation.
Take care with your marketing
Influencer marketing is a powerful tactic in various industries; however, in an unregulated industry such as aesthetics, there is an onus on professionals to use social media as a platform to educate and empower our audience. It is imperative to promote safety in aesthetics and overall encourage body confidence. I believe when giving away cosmetic procedures to influencers you should consider the points made above and ensure it is done conscientiously. Alternatively, giving away less invasive treatments such as facials and peels may be a safer and sensible choice rather than injectables. Overall, there are many positives to working with a blogger or influencer, but the key is to ensure we use influencer marketing responsibly.
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