Influencer marketing authenticity
In recent times, authenticity has become the most arbitrary yet lucrative word among marketers, brands, and even influencers but doesn't it seem almost paradoxical to combine authenticity with marketing? In the conventional sense, maybe. However, when it comes to Influencer Marketing; it's pretty much the sole reason as to why it works. In an influencer marketing survey that asked 170 marketers from CPGs (consumer packaged goods companies), food-and-beverage companies to retailers, 87% of respondents said that "influencer marketing's top benefits entail creating authentic content about their brand." So, why is authenticity so important?
An influencer is a person who has the ability to shift another person’s perception by sharing an opinion. An influencer builds up a following based on people who enjoy their content and resonate with it. In doing so, an influencer develops a signature style that is true to them and only them. Influencers have thus built their following through being themselves and having a brand image that reflects them and interests their followers, and because of this, any deviation from this image is immediately inauthentic to their followers.
In influencer marketing, authenticity is greatly valued as it is the main attribute that sets it apart from other traditional marketing methods. It applies to both brands and influencers. Brands need to ensure influencers align with their brand when choosing which influencers to work with, while influencers need to remain credible when giving their reviews or opinion about a product or service. The byproduct of authenticity is, therefore, trust and loyalty.
From the brand’s perspective, building trust is a time-consuming process, but if done right, it can result in the ultimate achievement: having gained an advocate for your brand. If the brand fits seamlessly into an influencer’s lifestyle, the influencer is more likely to immediately establish an affinity to your brand, leading to an authentic connection. When his/her audience sees this relationship, they know that the brand is not simply paying the influencer simply for the sake of promoting their product, but they work together to create a meaningful connection that brings together the brand as well as the community they both care about. In this case, the influencer is incentivised not for promotion but for their work in creating the content and for media usage, which is the act of creating and sharing their opinion with their captive audience on their own channel.
However, a common mistake that brands make when executing a campaign is assuming that the influencer’s content must perfectly match their ideas. Instead of scripting what influencers should say, how they should say it and giving specific instructions for how the photo(s) should look, brands should trust the influencer by giving them plenty of room for creativity to convey the message. The role of the brand or marketer is to create the perfect framework for the influencer in order to respect a brief, protect the brand equity and achieve campaign objectives, while leaving enough flexibility to create fully engaging and authentic content. Finding the right balance is a complex process and requires a great level of expertise. Influencers know how to create content that best resonates with their audience in order to maintain high engagement and continue to grow their following. By leaving the influencer with sufficient flexibility to express themselves in their own style, the content created will be very authentic, personalised and engaging in nature. It’s in an influencer’s best interest to create the best content possible - a concept that brands can greatly benefit from.
When it comes to disclosing paid partnerships and the effect thereof on credibility and authenticity, it becomes clear that disclosure actually enhances an influencer’s authenticity. Why? Even though an influencer is being paid to promote a product, they should only choose to promote products and services they believe in and ones that align with their own personal brand and image. Naturally, it is far more authentic and transparent to disclose partnerships than it is to hide them. Influencers have proven that they have become more powerful, as consumers find them more credible than traditional celebrities and conventional advertising campaigns.
Nobody likes to be lied to and while many people expect businesses to have a set agenda throughout their marketing, they look up to the prominent figures in their community and generally trust their words. At the end of the day, authenticity is what makes influencers influential to the public. Therefore, authenticity needs to be a top priority for both brands and influencers alike.
About Josh Da Costa
BCom Economics graduate from The University of Cape Town, postgraduate LLB student at Stellenbosch University. Former PR and Communication Intern at R-Squared.
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