The Importance of Authenticity in Influencer Marketing

In the endless quest for brands to create engaging content with influencers, authenticity continues its reign as the “it” factor behind a successful campaign. For about 5 years, authenticity has become the most arbitrary yet lucrative word among marketers, brands, and even influencers. Every now and then, we come across that article with ‘Authenticity’ as the big catch in the title (see top). Articles such as “Tips to Make Your Influencer Marketing Authentic,” “Keeping It Authentic with your Next Campaign,” or “How Authenticity will Drive the Highest ROI” often appear as the top headline of a credible source.

Doesn’t it seem paradoxical to combine authenticity with marketing? I remember during my studies in Communications, authenticity often came up as one of the key themes in various classes. From quoting Stuart Hall’s classic theory to scrutinizing the history of Detroit with a Chrysler’s car ad, authenticity is definitely a lucrative noun.

In an Influencer Marketing survey that asked 170 marketers from CPGs, food-and-beverage companies to retailers, 87% of respondents said that “influencer marketing’s top benefits entail creating authentic content about their brand.” I dare to say: this is the sole reason that Influencer Marketing works.

What is Authenticity in Influencer Marketing?

First of all, as a brand you can’t overtly claim that you are authentic. Rather, your authenticity shows through the creative expression between your brand objectives, influencer vision, and audience connection. When considering influencers to partner with, brands need to assure that the influencer’s overall personal brand aligns with the brand’s core values.

Sounds cliché? Sure, but digital influencers have proven that they have become more powerful, as consumers find them more credible than traditional celebrities. Remember all these #fail campaigns?

You can continue to stumble upon social media marketing campaign hiccups and outright violations, as the practice of influencer marketing and social channels such as Instagram continue to grow.

The most infamous one is probably when Kourtney Kardashian’s ex husband, Scott Disick, was busted simply copying and pasting the brand’s exact marketing instructions on his caption. For this reason, brands such as Lululemon, Becca, and Samsung, are increasingly moving towards partnering with smaller influencers (called micro-influencers) who already genuinely share mutual interests with them, rather than partnering up with big name celebrities.

The biggest mistake that brands make when executing a campaign is assuming that the brand knows best. Instead of scripting what influencers should say and give 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. Influencers know how to create content that best resonates with their audience in order to maintain a high engagement and continue to grow their following. It’s in an influencer’s best interest to create the best content possible — a concept which brands can greatly benefit from. Influencers often consider their social feed as a form of artistic expression, so creative freedom goes a long way. Likewise, when you team up with an influencer, that trust rubs off on your product and your brand’s value.

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 as well. 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. The byproduct of authenticity is, therefore, trust and loyalty.

Why Should Authenticity Matter?

You want to make your story stick. If you perceive influencer marketing as another means to merely sell your product, then you are doing it wrong. You know that one friend that is incredible at telling stories and everybody is immediately enticed and curious to find out more? Through influencer marketing, your aim is to be that trustworthy storyteller.

As Jon Wexler, VP, Global Entertainment and Influencer Marketing, Adidas affirms, “If a brand is telling you how cool they are, they’re not that cool. If your peers are, it sticks.”

Adidas knows which friend to pick to distribute that message to the squad.

When your main goal is to reach your business objectives, rather than to truly resonate with your potential consumers to gain their trust, they will not be fooled. 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. And when his/her audience sees this relationship, they know that you are not simply paying the influencer simply for the sake of promoting your product, but you work together to create a meaningful connection that brings together the brand as well as the community you both care about.

Believe it or not, influencers rate authenticity as the #1 priority in determining whether they would work with a brand. While monetary compensation is the second most popular reason — although only polled to 11.2% — 48.1% stated that the primary factor that would prevent them from partnering with a brand is because the brand does not align with the influencer personally.

As such, you should aim to utilize an influencer’s voice to establish a connection between their audience and your brand. This is best achieved by telling your brand’s story through influencers, rather than merely trying to sell/promote your product, which often comes across as inauthentic.

How Do I Keep It Authentic?

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when executing influencer marketing campaigns:

  1. Choose the right influencers for your campaign

Never choose influencers solely based on their number of followers. In fact, many campaigns have achieved great success through the work of micro-influencers. If the main purpose of your campaign is to generate engagement with your brand among influencers’ audiences, you should opt to work with micro-influencers since their engagement rates are often much higher than those of big-name celebrities. When choosing the right influencer, what’s needed is a genuine approach that showcases the added value to both parties — to the brand and to the influencer. Not sure how to choose the best influencers for your campaign? MuseFind’s campaign managers are here to help you create an optimal strategy to maximize the potential of a successful campaign.

2. Put your feet in your customer’s shoes

Create a powerful story behind your product, emphasize the core value through it, and convey how it resonates with your audience. Despite the fact that the content is sponsored, your audience does not need nor want to be sold yet another product. Content that appears to be there solely for the purpose of selling a product is less likely to promote engagement with an influencer’s audience, since it come across as inauthentic. Instead, resonating with audiences from an emotional standpoint will compel them to learn more about your brand.

3. Leverage your creativity

Take advantage of the more organic storytelling method which has gotten everybody jumping on the bandwagon, i.e. Instagram LIVE, Snapchat, and other creative ways to incorporate your brand into Instagram stories. For instance, unboxing a package live is a fun way to promote your product. When engaging through these channels, stories are meant to be candid and less staged, thereby elevating the organic quality.

Now that you’ve got the fundamental principles of Influencer Marketing, read Charlie’s post on how you can spearhead your game this year. But remember, influencer marketing is not magic. Even Gary Vaynerchuk agrees that the most important thing we often lose sight of these days is patience. Influencer marketing will not result in sales overnight. But when you see brands that are successful with harnessing this new marketing strategy, you’ll notice they have a powerful story to tell. And we believe it.