It seems like everywhere marketers turn these days, you hear about the importance of authenticity when it comes to reaching your customers. Especially with younger consumers, it’s almost as if they can sense when your brand switches from “Helpful” mode to “Now, buy our stuff” mode. With social media, content, and virtually all forms of marketing, “Be real” is a piece of advice that’s perhaps never been both more salient and more treacherous a tightrope to walk.
That’s especially true with influencer marketing which, at its worst, can be nakedly inauthentic – a popular social media poster endorsing a product that clearly doesn’t fit their style, and doing so in a way that repels the audience from the brand rather than drawing them in. And we see reflections of some of this when we talk to consumers. In a recent survey Emplifi conducted, Influencer/Celebrity endorsements ranked lowest among all forms of advertising when it came to authenticity, with 50% in the U.S. and 44% in the UK describing it as authentic.
For some brands, this could convince you not to try influencer marketing at all. But we see it differently. These sorts of numbers are more a reflection of poor execution than some inherent flaw. What they truly represent is a market inefficiency. That is to say, it’s a massive opportunity presented to you that your competition probably isn’t tapping into influencer marketing trends well. That means, if you can, you can stand out. Influencer marketing is a $21 billion industry that isn’t going anywhere.
Here’s how you can get your share of that by keeping it authentic.
What’s a micro-influencer? Strict definitions vary, but suffice it to say they have fewer than 100,000 followers – and maybe far fewer. But that following is often loyal, passionate, and engaged. Maybe they’ve found a fairly small niche that doesn’t have a high ceiling in terms of audience size. Maybe they’re somewhat new to the social media game. Or perhaps they’re just regular people who haven’t made a huge effort to build up a following.
The point is that they don’t carry the same amount of baggage that a bigger name might, when everybody knows they’d never talk positively about a brand without money changing hands. Micro-influencers are more like their followers, and that’s going to give their word more weight on the “authenticity” scale. They look, talk, and carry themselves in a way that speaks to them being “real.”
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with major names who are influencers. Big-budget campaigns and flashy product launches call for the right partner to get in front of their often massive audiences. There’s a time and a place for that. But when authenticity is a priority, micro-influencers can be a great option for your influencer marketing strategy.
Ensure influencers stay true to their style
One of the biggest giveaways that an influencer is doing an advertisement rather than being straight with their audience is that the post doesn’t look like anything else they’ve posted. The aesthetic is all off, with someone’s brand colors polluting the normal palette, influencing their clothes and surroundings. And that takes the viewer out of the moment.
Whenever you work with an influencer, it’s essential to have the posts “Fit the feed.” That’s a big part of why 58% of influencers say they actively work with the brand to design a content strategy. Give the influencer the creative freedom to set the shot or video up how they think will work best for their audience. After all, they attracted this audience and you want access to it for a reason. Let them be the experts. That’s what you’re partnering with them for. And the authenticity gains will pay for themselves.
Don’t hand them a script
Along the same lines – and this may be even harder for the marketing team to let go of the reins on – you also can’t afford to exert control over everything they’re saying. Pointing them in the direction of certain topics is fine. Giving them a phrase or two to fit in might work if it’s not too “square peg in round hole.” But what you absolutely can’t do is write them a script and tell them to read it.
Not only are people notoriously bad at reading a script, but there’s no way for your brand to write a script that will sound like the influencer’s natural words when they come out of their mouth. They have a way of speaking, a cadence and rhythm, that’s unique to them, and it’s part of what the audience is used to. A script will break that up, and will quickly give away what’s going on, breaking the fourth wall in a sense. And that’s where all authenticity goes out the window.
Work with influencers who truly like your products
There’s nothing more authentic than someone gushing about your products on social media with no expectation of even hearing from your brand, much less being compensated. So the influencer who’s already posted positively about what you do can make for a powerful partner to work with going forward. In our 2022 Influencer Marketing Trend Report, influencers cited “personal interest in the brand” as their No. 1 consideration when choosing brands to work with.
If you have an influencer marketing platform to help you identify great candidates, you can then start listening to them and watching for opportunities when they might mention your brand, especially if your brand is large enough for them to likely cross your path. Or listening could lead you to a micro-influencer, or even identifying User-Generated Content you could use to give your promotions that much more of an authentic edge.
Avoid influencers who have signed several recent deals
If authenticity is important to your brand, steering clear of influencers who hop around from brand to brand is probably a good idea. Not only are they not likely to be able to spend the time and give the attention you need to ensure they’re going to be a trusted partner, but their feed can quickly take on the look of someone who’s trying to cash in on their audience rather than continuing to earn that audience.
When it comes to influencer marketing partnerships, you’d often much prefer a relationship with someone who can devote the time and work they need to authentically represent your brand than to get in front of a larger audience if that means trading away what attracts people to try your products.
Staying true and authentic with influencer marketing isn’t simple. Without a purposeful, well-executed plan with authenticity as its North Star, there’s a good chance your brand will fall short of that goal. But the fact that it’s not simple is a big part of what makes it worthwhile for the brands willing to take that extra step and create influencer content and partnerships that will attract exactly the kind of attention – and revenue – your team is looking for. And the right influencer marketing platform can be a big part of helping you do that.