What is influencer whitelisting?

Influencer whitelisting, or content creator whitelisting, may seem like it’s been around for years but it is still a relatively new marketing tool. It started somewhere around 2017 and has become more prevalent since the pandemic. But what, in fact, is it?

Influencer whitelisting

At its core, influencer whitelisting is a process by which creators give a brand or agency permission to use their presence (including their content, their social media handles, and their audiences) as a marketing channel.

Permissions typically go so far as to include granting the brand or agency direct access to the creator’s social account which allows the brand to optimize paid media behind the creator.

To date, influencer whitelisting is mostly done within Facebook’s Business Manager to grant access to Instagram accounts and Facebook pages and the underlying Facebook ad network. After permission has been granted, brands can then put ads directly into the creator’s account and run what are called dark posts (or ads). Other third-party software alternatives, like Lumanu, also exist to enable influencer whitelisting.

What’s a dark post?

A dark post is an ad that doesn’t appear on the creator’s timeline or newsfeed. Dark posts can include the creator’s audience as an ad set but essentially they’re unpublished page posts and show up as sponsored content posts within different ad sets or audiences.

Typically, brands will collect content generated by several influencers and then create multiple slightly different versions of this content to be deployed as dark posts where each version targets a specific audience. This helps with campaign optimization but also gives the appearance that many creators are focusing on specific brands and they still appear like any normal post in a newsfeed. Even though these posts are ads created by the brand, they come across as more authentic because they originate from the creator’s handle instead of the brand’s. 

It’s worth noting, however, that dark post comments cannot be managed via the Facebook Ad Manager. This matters because it means the creator and brand (or agency) will have to determine in their negotiations who will be in charge of managing comments, whether or not the agency or brand will have the authority to respond to comments on behalf of the creator, and what the associated approval rights and process will be. All the specifics of commenting should be nailed down in the influencer whitelisting agreement.

Ok so bringing it back, how does influencer whitelisting work for a business?

Influencer whitelisting is a marketing tactic that enables an advertiser to put their ad spend directly behind a content creator. This can help get brands more connected to consumers by tapping the creator’s brand, image and audience in a way that feels authentic.

Brands are typically very intentional about who they want to push content to. In an effort to reach new customers, brands will have already done market research to help them hone in on the ideal demographic sets for their messaging. They’ll choose creators with compatible audiences and will create lookalike audiences to reach new people with the same demographic characterics. Generating dark posts will then help them test which creators resonate more closely with these audiences.  

How does influencer whitelisting work for influencers or creators, then?

Creators get to piggyback on the brand’s market research and advertising spend, being exposed to new people with similar interests and characteristics as their current audience. By harnessing those previously mentioned lookalike audiences, creators can reach people who aren’t yet familiar with them but who may like their content. Additionally, associating themselves with specific products or brands may help creators gain more followers, especially if the given brand has a solid reputation. 

Whitelisting also takes some of the burden off of creators by giving them another monetization path while allowing them to focus on doing what they do best: creating content. New and different income streams can provide creators with more resources.

Michele Robichaux

Michele is an attorney at Odin Law and Media. Her transactional law experience has led her to specialize in the legal issues that affect creators of all kinds. With an extensive background as a Big Law associate, In-house counsel for US and European social media and entertainment companies, and as legal and business advisor to clients in both the US and Europe, she brings not only skill and know-how but also diverse experience and perspective to her clients. She can be reached at michele at odin law dot com.

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