Working Ethically with Influencers

By Dr Jigna Patel / 28 Jun 2022

Dr Jigna Patel provides an overview on how you can partner with influencers effectively and ethically

Working with social media influencers has a number of benefits for aesthetic practitioners. A successful partnership can introduce both sides to new audiences and increase both online engagement and real life enquiries. However, connecting with an influencer needs to be conducted with care, adhering to the Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, which is set by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and enforced by the UK’s advertising and communication regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In this article, I outline how to work ethically with influencers, and the many benefits this has brought my business.

Defining an influencer

What makes a social media user an influencer? According to the ASA, anyone with a captive audience, regardless of the number of followers, is deemed influential. This can be measured by engagement levels. The average engagement rate on Instagram, for example, is 0.98%. Therefore, anyone with a higher engagement rate than this may be deemed an ‘influencer’.1 Those with more than 30,000 followers are considered by the ASA to be a ‘celebrity’.2

Benefits to your business

The benefits of working with influencers are numerous for both of you. Tangibly, I have seen an increase in enquiries for appointments, product sales and an increase in follower numbers for my own social media platforms. I have also received very positive feedback following the Instagram Lives I have conducted with influencers, leading to an increase in engagement (seen via new followers and an increase in likes and comments) for all of my posts, with the end result being an increase in leads. 

Working with influencers also provides practitioners with a powerful platform for empowering and educating new potential patients about safe treatment. I have noticed that followers connect with educational content that influencers share; in a hyper-photographed, digital world, unedited images help followers relate to the content as it is more trustworthy. Parents of young people have contacted me following my work with influencers, reflecting on the importance of sharing reliable, healthy and honest information with young followers, who may predominantly rely on social media avenues for their information.

Choosing an influencer

When looking to work with an influencer, whilst follower size and engagement is important, I suggest there are other criteria that predict success for the partnership. For example, does their ethos reflect yours, and will they share a healthy message with their followers? Are they projecting a responsible image both mentally and physically, for example not sharing any potentially body dysmorphic content or ideology? By this, I mean putting across realistic and accurate messaging. Some people share images using a filter, and then claim the image actually shows the benefits of a skin treatment. Of course, this is against advertising rules, but is often overlooked by some influencers.4

It’s also important to consider whether the influencer will be reliable and enthusiastic enough to work with you – do they have a genuine interest in what you do or the brands you’re using? In addition, you should be researching if the influencer has been involved with any online issues which do not reflect the ethos of you or any brand you work with.

In terms of finding an influencer, I work with brands like AlumierMD, who share their chosen influencers with me, and influencers also approach me directly. You can also research and approach influencers directly or work with a PR who might already have well-established relationships.

The first meeting

After you’ve sourced an influencer you’re interested in working with – or have vetted one you’ve been approached by – the next step is organising the first meeting. At this meeting, you may want to discuss the deliverables of a campaign. I work with mid-tier level influencers (who range from having 10-50K followers), and I don’t pay them for any campaigns. They are usually excited to receive free products and treatments, and my time is gifted also. This is then all put in writing in the form of an influencer agreement.

Whether you meet face-to-face, in the clinic, or virtually depends what you are offering the influencer. If an influencer is having an in-clinic treatment, or has a complex case, seeing your patient face-to-face is important. If the influencer wants a new skincare regime for wrinkles for example, then a virtual consultation might be appropriate as long as you are experienced in identifying skin types and needs via a camera.

I introduce myself to influencers in the same way I would with any patient, offering a tailored, bespoke consultation of an entirely holistic nature. Demonstrating how the consultation journey works is key to ensuring the messaging with their audience is authentic, as I take the time to explain why medical-grade skincare is different, why a consultation is imperative, and how it is going to rejuvenate their skin. They can then relay this to their followers. What’s more, an in-depth appointment when you first meet them provides a sound basis for a long-lasting and enjoyable relationship with the influencer. In taking a genuine interest in them and their aesthetic goals, I have established a healthy relationship with the influencers I work with. This helps the influencer feel comfortable, feel seen and heard, whilst giving me protected time to safely and correctly convey a message regarding following guidance when using skincare.

To make sure that both you and the influencer succeed in your partnership I would recommend discussing what to expect at the beginning of the process to help set expectations. Discussing what to expect at the beginning of the process, mapping out a timeline of reviews and helping to set expectations can all help avoid disengagement. Communicate efficiently and provide safety net advice, for example sharing what is a true adverse effect and how to report this, and what is to be expected when using a

medical-grade product. This can both increase adherence to the skincare routine or treatment aftercare and help build trust with your influencer and patient. For example, medical-grade products are potent, and even influencers who have trialled many beauty products before might be surprised at the impact that it has on their skin.

Collaborative marketing

Once you’ve developed and nurtured a good relationship with the influencer and they’ve seen great results, there may be a number of ways they will look to showcase this. To name a few, this may be social media posts, stories, lives or reels. Each influencer will share this in their own unique style, according to their brand. For Instagram and Facebook, I have found that videos, Stories and IG Lives are particularly effective for showcasing the effects of an influencer’s aesthetic treatment. Viewers enjoy seeing their results in real time, as they can follow the influencer on their journey. I would recommend asking the influencer to share a series of posts, rather than a one as a Story for example, so their followers can see their progress. This ties into authentic messaging, as the influencer can outline that it takes commitment and consistency to get great skincare results.

Responsible messaging

Responsible messaging, in line with the ASA guidelines, is vital when working with influencers.3 There has been a specific guide released that talks about influencer marketing called An Influencer’s Guide To Making Clear That Ads Are Ads, so before you start working with influencers you should become familiar with this.3 For example, the ASA outlines that if you give an influencer a payment, any posts then promoting or endorsing the brand or its products/services become subject to consumer protection law. Payment means any form of monetary payment such as: commission, a free loan of a product/service, a free product/service (whether requested or received out of the blue), or any other incentive.3 In addition, it’s great to be appreciated for your work, but with the impressive results they’ve achieved they may be tempted to promote you as a miracle worker. It’s important that they don’t accidently promote false information; which is why education during your consultation is key and ongoing reviews are vital. This will help the influencer express factual and trustworthy content with their followers. If the influencer is making a claim, you must ensure it is substantiated.4 Again, these key points should all be discussed in the initial consultation to minimise miscommunication and checked at regular intervals along their journey to ensure the information remains consistent and accurate.

The ASA also advises that influencers promoting beauty products should avoid applying filters to photos or videos which are directly relevant to the product being advertised and which are likely to exaggerate the effect the product is capable of achieving.4 Transparency on social media is the most ethical way to achieve this. To be part of a positive change towards ethical advertising I am always upfront about when I have used a ring light, for example, as lighting can change how we look online – I will outline its usage in my caption. As medical professionals, we should encourage influencers to talk about filters that they’ve used, discussing the smoothing and blurring impact even the most subtle filter can have. As the influencer is talking about their skin, and the treatment they are undergoing, the use of candid images are impactful and necessary. As healthcare professionals, it is important to note that promoting prescription only medications such as botulinum toxin is against the law and so shouldn’t be referenced within any influencer content, or in your advertising campaigns in general.5

Cutting ties

If the relationship is not proving to be productive, and the influencer is not engaging, or if they go against ASA guidelines, then you should feel no guilt in cutting ties. I once worked with an influencer who seemed engaged, but once she received her products didn’t contact me again. I would suggest the following: document what went right, and what elements could have been improved upon, so that you can conduct a relationship more fruitfully next time. If you are working with a brand, notify them as soon as possible and be honest and reflect both professionally and constructively on what happened. I wouldn’t meet with an influencer if the relationship isn’t working, as it is important to maintain a professional boundary.

Get searching!

Building a relationship with the right influencers for your business and brand can be beneficial for both of you. When they get great results and share them authentically with your audience, it can help increase your online presence and promote your expertise to others. Influencer content requires particular care, ensuring posts adhere to ASA guidelines, and reflect truthful messaging. These details help ensure content is appropriate and healthy for all.

Upgrade to become a Full Member to read all of this article.