The opportunities and dangers of working with anonymous influencers.

A look at the prominence of anonymous influencers in the blockchain and crypto space, how to best incorporate them into your ICO marketing strategy and the administrative complications that you will face.

The rise of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing has been steadily on the rise for a number of years. With the dawn of social media stars (who found fame on platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Instagram), brands spotted an opportunity to target the elusive millennial and post-millennial generations.

Influencer marketing has been adopted by a wide range of industries. However, as a result of only gaining mass market traction in 2017, the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector has only recently came into contact with this marketing practice. And the adoption has been accelerated by the sheer number of startups that have launched in the last year, exploring all avenues at their disposal to set themselves apart in a busy playing field.

The upswing in desire to use influencers to market, promote and publicise in undeniable. And I have also seen some interesting scenarios emerge as influencer marketing increases in popularity. One, of particular note is the anonymous influencer.

Anonymous influencers in blockchain and crypto

In the spirit of the cypherpunk movement that spawned the current cryptocurrency scene, many individuals have chosen to remain anonymous. And this includes those who have built up large footprints on social media and content platforms. They operate under a pseudonym and it’s challenging (if not impossible), to find out who the person behind the account is. The widespread nature of this phenomenon is certainly unique to the crypto scene when compared to other industries where influencers trade off their real life personas.

These influencers operate on various social platforms such as Telegram and Reddit, but there is notably a significant number on Twitter. They hide behind a variety of pseudonyms, often based on crypto inspired versions of famous people, fictional characters and made up personas. They have risen to fame, or in some cases infamy, for a number of reasons; perhaps they provide expert trade analysis, or they share their learnings from a wealth of experience and insight, or they provide humorous commentary on crypto and blockchain news. And there are those that are experts in the meme and intentional “shit posting” game, much to the entertainment of their followers. But one common theme is that they are regularly posting content, talking amongst themselves, engaging with their followers, and they have very significant social reach.


Anonymous influencers and your ICO strategy

The advantages of influencer marketing

When developing your ICO marketing strategy, you may well have considered building relationships with influencers. When implemented correctly, influencers can bring a whole level of endorsement and advocacy that is just not possible through traditional PR and marketing. Influencers have the power to quickly spread messaging through their authentic voice, help you build your social channels and can act as positive indicator for investors and ICO pools when deciding if there is sufficient hype for your project.

Whilst there is no doubt that best-practices have emerged when working with influencers (transparency and disclosure, social media amplification, delivery of messaging, maintaining authenticity, integration with other marketing and comms functions, etc), when it comes to selecting and working with anonymousinfluencers, there are certainly some additional considerations.

How to best incorporate anonymous influencers into your ICO strategy

The inherent problem with anonymous influencers is that you never know who you are dealing with. So for certain activity, an anonymous influencer just isn’t suitable. Whilst the anonymous influencer might have an unprecedented level of expertise in a given field, if they’re not willing to divulge their identity, using them for advisory or ambassadorial roles looks disingenuous. An ICO can risk losing credibility by aligning with unknown individuals whose background and career cannot be corroborated.

Whilst an argument can be made for working with anonymous influencers in situations such as the execution of a lighthearted stunt, in most circumstances, any serious corporate marketing and comms activity should be ruled out when it comes to anonymous influencer engagement.

Anonymous influencers are best used for standalone promotional and awareness drivers, where they are used to distribute pre-planned messaging and content. This way you can tap into the significant social footprint of the influencers, but they are not carrying any advocacy for your ICO.

An example of this would be to use influencers to drive traffic from their social media platform to a landing page owned by you that carries your ICO information, a download link for your whitepaper, or a competition where users can carry out promotional activity in return for a chance to win prizes such as tokens, merchandise or products.

At the end of the day, as long as you exercise due diligence with who you work with and operate within the frameworks of your organisation you should, in the most part, be fine. And don’t be afraid to walk away if things are getting out of hand, retaining your organisation’s core values (and operating within the law!) must always come before a risk of burning bridges with an anonymous influencer.

There are a number of anonymous influencers out there who are professional, honest and deliver the goods. The trick is to identify them and build relationships.


Administrative complications that you will face

Disclosure:

In an industry where accusations of shilling and non-disclosure is rife, it’s imperative that any influencer you work with discloses when they are working for you in return for payment. In other industries, the FCC (US) and ASA (UK) have been hot on issuing warnings to influencers who have not been transparent when they’ve been paid to promote a brand. Operating within the finance sector, especially when it comes to investing, trading and ICOs, etc, there are further guidelines issued by the SEC (US), the FCA (UK) and other territory’s financial regulatory bodies.

Whilst an anonymous influencer can operate with reduced fear of prosecution by such bodies, as a brand looking to work with them, you must retain full responsibility for your influencer campaign at every step, ensuring full disclosure at every output and touchpoint. When briefing influencers for your campaign insist on full disclosure and don’t be afraid to get content pulled if it goes against guidelines.

Contracts:

Without knowing who the individual or legal entity you’re working with is, creating a contract to lay down the terms of engagement becomes all but impossible. Perhaps with the increasing sophistication of smart contracts, at some point down the line there will be a way to ensure an agreed exchange of services for payment is carried out, but currently a more human approach is needed. Scope of work, campaign timings and key messages can be agreed upfront and then need to be carried out on good faith. They key here is to only work with influencers who you have built up a strong relationship with, or those you have seen to undertake promotional work before (that you believe to be carried out in a professional manner). The crypto scene is quite close knit, so recommendations are also a good way to source trusted influencers.

Invoicing:

As with contracts, the lack of a named individual or legal entity means that the invoicing process becomes a little trickier. And as you might anticipate, payments are almost always requested in cryptocurrency as opposed to fiat. This is understandable given that this process can help protect the individual’s identity. But from an accountancy point of view, this does create challenges on how the payment is classified. Always check your country of operation’s tax and finance laws to ensure you’re operating in the appropriate way.

Additionally, some anonymous influencers like to be paid up front. This can cause for quite a uncomfortable period whilst you wait for an anonymous individual to deliver their agreed output. So be aware that you might find yourself in this situation.


In conclusion

There is no doubt that working with influencers can bring great value to your marketing campaign, and given the huge numbers of followers that some of the anonymous influencers have, they are undoubtedly a big draw for marketers. However it is important to consider the above factors so you know what you’re getting into.

As the sector matures, perhaps we’ll see a move away from working with anonymous influencers, either driven by regulatory pressure or a refinement of best practice. There is no doubt that working with influencer who have a public persona removes a lot of headaches, and sometimes it’s best just to take the safer route. But for now, at Block Influence, as long as we can operate to a gold standard of accountability, transparency and best practice, we will continue to identify, track and work with all manner of influencers as long as they are right for our clients.

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