Sports Nutrition Summit 2020

Social media influencing: Finding the right formula

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Justin Howe
Photo: Justin Howe

Related tags online influencer brand identity Social media Sports Nutrition Summit USA Sports nutrition

Jim Stoppani, Shawn Arent and Joshua Schall weigh in on how brands can strike the right balance when using online influencers.

The influencer-marketing industry is projected to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022​. So who qualifies, what are the do’s and don’ts of working with influencers and how should brands maximize the relationship and boost engagement? 

These are just a few of the questions our panel was asked at the Sports Nutrition Summit 2020 in San Diego. 

“When I started on social media, I was the senior science editor at Muscle & Fitness. And I just saw it as an extension as a way to educate people,”​ said Jim Stoppani PhD, who studied exercise physiology and biochemistry and went on to start his own line of supplements.

“At University of Connecticut, when I was getting a PhD. One of the things that Larry Armstrong, who conducted the course said, was that you have a responsibility now. The information you have learned is information no one else knows, and your responsibility is to share that with anyone who will listen. That really hung with me. And it’s really the reason I took to social media.”

But not everyone takes to social media for all the right reasons. 

“It becomes all about the followers and likes,” ​said Shawn Arent, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina and Director of the U of SC Sport Science Lab. “I remember the days when you actually had to accomplish something to be featured, other than just ‘ooh I’m a fitness model because someone I paid took my picture.’” 

Sex sells—but can science? 


However, it’s much more complex than just abs and likes. With posts often lacking education, science and credibility, a genuine concern for how the industry is presented by influencers dominated the stage during the social influencer panel. 

“What I’m worried about is the claims, especially when you have influencers who don't know what they are talking about. So there’s a credibility factor that I think companies have to be really careful with. There’s a big problem when the claims start to outstrip the science. When I see companies spending more on their social media side than they are on the actual science behind the projects, on my end, that’s tough, that’s really hard to see,”​ lamented Arent. 

“There’s definitely a few bad apples but I think overall it’s a very powerful marketing tool,” ​said Joshua Schall of J. Schall consulting. “What ends up happening a lot is because of lack of budget, brands want the influencer to also be the expert. It’s about alignment. You get in trouble when you start mixing it together.”

"Instead of asking if you can put a price tag on influence, ask 'can you put a price tag on credibility?'" ​said Arent. 

Aligning brands with relevant and qualified influencers 

“In a perfect world you would have an influencer also be an expert. Those aren't really out there, or they already own their own brands. So a lot of times you have to utilize a mix of the influencers to drive the demand, and then you should have an expert either from the brand or someone who has a PhD or something that is the conversion driver that ends up closing the deal,​” said Schall. 

“So as a brand, if you make an effort in terms of the market you’re going after, what you want the product to be, first and foremost from ethically dosed, efficacious, all these things. That should drive it, not who you want on the other side of the camera to post an image on Instagram to sell your product,” ​said Arent. “Good evidence will always stand the test of time. If you can’t sell the science, then why are you doing this?”

Sports Nutrition Summit USA 2021

Join us next year to learn about the latest research from leading scientists, market analysts and come face-to-face with market leaders in San Diego. Delegates were able to benefit from various valuable networking opportunities, which allowed them to walk away not only with a whole wealth of knowledge, but armed with new connections to help build their business.

Don’t miss out in 2021. ​Click HERE​ to be the first to hear event updates.

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