Asking the Right Questions for More Sustainable Influencer Marketing

Apr 22, 2021

As the environmental crisis becomes more critical, it stands to reason that sustainability should be a primary concern for every industry. However, while influencers are partnering with and posting about sustainable brands and products (more on this below), there are very few conversations about the sustainability of the influencer marketing industry at large.

To put this into perspective, consider the evidence illustrating how the influencer marketing industry is falling behind in recognizing sustainability-related efforts today. There are limited opportunities specific to influencer marketing to showcase work that tackles sustainability head-on, with most industry events and awards shows only offering one category option for general “social good” campaigns or sustainability-driven campaigns specific to one vertical. The greater marketing space, however, now boasts several major awards programs and events--including the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and SXSW--offering entire tracks or awards categories dedicated to sustainability. This is something that we invite the leading influencer marketing events and awards entities to emulate.

Additional evidence suggesting that sustainable influencer marketing is not yet a major focal point is the lack of official metrics to measure the sustainability of campaigns. The responsibility to develop metrics, and as a result, accelerate accountability, is up to platforms in the space like CreatorIQ. So, over the coming months, CreatorIQ is going to study how we might help the influencer marketing industry measure sustainability for the sake of accountability, and we’re starting by growing the conversation today.

Good News, Bad News

On the one hand, influencer marketing can help to reduce the environmental impact of marketing practices. Many classic approaches to marketing campaigns rely on content that has not been produced sustainably due to travel requirements and wasted product. By partnering with local influencers - or those who live in the destinations in which a brand wants to film - brands can eliminate travel needs and scale back the amount of product and resources required for a shoot. This means a lower carbon footprint, less waste, and yes, fewer dollars spent per creative asset.

With CreatorIQ’s powerful discovery tool, which includes image search, topic categorizations, and audience affinity features, brands can also identify creators who have sustainability top-of-mind already to help inform and create more sustainably-minded content from the outset. Those creators may even have recommendations for how your team can implement additional sustainability practices when developing content moving forward.

Pro-Tip:​ If you aren't sure exactly how your influencer marketing can become more sustainable, seek out creators who prioritize sustainability to help shape this important pillar of your strategy. These sustainability-minded creators don't need to be a perfect brand fit or post on behalf of your brand, as you may work with them as consultants, helping to shape the way you engage the other creators who are posting on behalf of your brand.

On the other hand, while we have seen a consistent increase in brands partnering with influencers to create content about sustainability-related topics year over year, there is a peak in sustainability content during the month of April and, particularly, on Earth Day.

Tapping CreatorIQ’s advanced data science, we analyzed a sample of more than 500,000 sponsored influencer posts over the past two years. On average, approximately 4.7% of those sponsored posts also contained copy or hashtags related to sustainability. Unsurprisingly (yet perhaps disappointingly), on Earth Day,  there were distinct performative spikes. In fact, on Earth Day in 2020, content containing sustainability keywords made up more than 24% of sponsored posts that day, illustrating that marketers’ collective interest in the topic is in support of a holiday. Conversations about sustainability within influencer marketing need to become more consistent year-round for those posts to turn into actions.

Laying the Foundation for Producing More Sustainable Content

According to a recent trends report developed by CreatorIQ, Gen Zers are going to have the biggest impact on the influencer space in the next five years and beyond, and they’re looking for authenticity and relatability. Additionally, based on a straw poll of influencer marketers, an overwhelming majority report feeling passionate about the environment and would love to create a more sustainable industry. There is an opportunity here to combine the desires for more authentic and sustainable content to better connect with the next generation that will drive the influencer space--all while helping to protect the planet.

With this in mind, there are several questions that we should be asking our marketing colleagues and influencers to drive the conversation and make sustainability a key pillar of content development moving forward:

  • For influencers:
  • Is sustainability important to you when entering into a brand partnership?
  • How do you take sustainability into consideration when creating content?
  • What are some things that you wish more brands considered when it comes to sustainable content?
  • When participating in this campaign, what will you do to ensure your content production process is more sustainable? How will you measure that?
  • For marketers:
  • How can working with influencers make your content more sustainable?
  • How can you hold influencers--and your brand--accountable from the outset, and on an ongoing basis, when building more sustainable content for campaigns?
  • What positive environmental impact can your team achieve by producing content more sustainably?
  • How might you measure improvements in sustainability in marketing? What KPIs might make sense?

This Earth Day, take some time to grow the conversation with your team and make a commitment to continue that conversation. What can you do tomorrow? In six months? Next year? And how do influencers support that strategy? The more we can grow the conversation, the more we can influence the industry’s impact on our planet for the better.

For additional resources, please visit with a focus on the SB Insights section, which contains additional information and frameworks for you and your colleagues.

Keep an eye out for more insights and recommendations from CreatorIQ on this topic.