Authenticity is a prerequisite for marketing campaigns of any sort. No-one sets out to be inauthentic, to produce material that doesn’t chime with a set of brand values or that just doesn’t ‘sit’ properly next to a brand’s other marketing campaigns.
Indeed, there are many theoretically great ideas that get killed at the idea stage because they would create an inauthentic brand experience.
Except, it seems, when it comes to working with celebrity influencers.
The minute a brand can get someone famous to appear next to their product it seems that notions of authenticity are forgotten.
So let’s get back to being authentic for a second and consider how to create more authentic influencer marketing campaigns. Ones that actually fit your brand, drive buying decisions and feature people your audience believe actually used your product or service.
1 - Work with influencers who honestly love your brand and product.
Influencer marketing, on any level, is really an endorsement. A visible person, celebrity or not, is endorsing what you offer as being credible and operating as you describe it. You want and need that endorsement to be authentic, so consider these two routes.
Work with influencers who have never previously heard of your brand or product. This is going to be tricky on some level. Your influencers are going to be learning about what you offer at the very same time as they know they need to be enjoying it, so that they can post positively about it. Even if you offer the best product in the world, you’re going to be doing some convincing of your own as you hope your influencers are convincing their own audience. It’s a lot to ask to make, what is ultimately a manufactured experience, completely authentic.
Work with influencers who already have some level of affinity with your brand or product. If you can find influencers who are already familiar on some level with what you offer, and think they quite like it, then you’re off to a good start (nb searching the entire social web for these pre-existing brand advocates can be very hard and very time consuming, unless you have some really clever tech to help you.…). The influencers already feel positively towards you or a product similar to the one that you offer, they’re just going to learn more about you and take what they learn to their audience. It’s a half-step less than what you were asking the completely uninformed audience to do and that could make all of the difference when it comes to assessing how authentic the end result is.
2 - Influencers are where they are because they are creative. Let them create.
Social media influencers are almost universally creative in some way. Whether it is through excellent editing on YouTube or perfect photography on Instagram. Being an influencer is a creative career. You only have to look at how most influencers have adapted and continued creating (even if they are a travel influencer) during the COVID-19 pandemic, for proof of the creative talent available.
For brands there’s a lot to leverage here, but there’s also a level of brand danger. It’s difficult enough to get your agency or internal marketing department to produce material that’s perfectly on-brand. What’s going to happen when you hand everything over to an Instagram-whizz?
The result can be ultra-safe influencer campaigns that feature only your product front and centre and a smiling super-influencer. Before you know it you’ve produced something that’s on-brand, but inauthentic. When it comes to end results the inauthentic posts are going to end up giving you similar problems to your worries about being off-brand.
The middle-ground is to give your influencer clear brand and posting guidelines that excite their creativity, rather than stifle it. Instead of defining limitations: set your influencers a challenge. Consider Instagram’s still-popular Weekend Hashtag Project. It sets a clear goal and brief within a framework that both guarantees the results will have an element of uniformity whilst being brilliantly unique. That’s what you want from your brief to influencers.
3- Recognise the innate influencer marketing dilemma and help your influencers to solve it.
Sponsored influencer posts will always tread a line with some consumers on some level. Assuming you’ve partnered with an influencer who genuinely believes in your product then you’ve overcome the first hurdle, but don’t assume that your job is done here or that your influencer knows all about the challenges they will face.
Your influencer might genuinely love your product, but that doesn’t mean they’ll manage an authentic post. In fact: they might be trying so hard to avoid being inauthentic that that’s exactly where they end up!
You can help to solve that conundrum. Clear briefs are your first really useful tool. Give your influencers guidance on how and why people like your brand and product. Show them previous influencer posts or promotions that have gone well and represent an authentic experience with you. Lead them into your marketing world, showing them how they can use their creativity to create trust with their audience.
4 - Pre-screen for inauthentic activity and actions.
As part of your brand safety considerations you, your agency or your technology partner should be doing some level of background check on your influencers. Are they who they say they are? Do they have any posting history that may cause concern? Have they ever purchased fake followers?
All of these questions help you to screen for inauthenticity. If you find any red flags in answer to those investigations then you know you have an authenticity risk. If an influencer you could work with has cut corners by photoshopping themselves into a stock photograph then there’s an obvious risk to the authenticity of the material they’ll be producing for you.
A good risk assessment of influencers who seem to fit for your brand is vital for many reasons, including making sure that you end up with completely authentic content.
5 - ‘Imperfect’ content has been on the rise for some time. Consider how appropriate it is for you and your brand.
There has been a definite move in some corners of the influencer marketplace towards content that isn’t quite so shiny and perfect. That is, for lack of a better word, more authentic.
It’s not hard to see why. Few of us wake up in the morning with our makeup perfectly arranged, in a bed with perfectly pressed sheets, surrounded by fresh flowers. That’s just not how life works in our world, and we struggle to believe that it’s how life genuinely works in the world of those we see online either. The result: those ‘perfect’ posts come across as inauthentic and we disregard them.
If you want a prime example of imperfect content then consider the rise of LadBaby, a social media influencer for whom life very rarely appears to be going perfectly right. This is the same ‘imperfect’ influencer who now boasts a Christmas number one single (about sausage rolls) and over 850,000 Instagram followers. LadBaby may be imperfect, but he also seems to offer a high level of authenticity.
The danger here for brands is that you go too far in the other direction. As per some of the previous points, it will be important that your brand guidelines are respected, and that influencer’s bear in mind a need to create content that fits with your marketing. At the same time it’s worth considering that we all have our own imperfections. Maybe your influencer marketing should have them too.
We help brands to create authentic influencer marketing campaigns by working with micro-influencers who genuinely care about the products and services they promote.
Influence Network is an influencer platform which identifies the most aligned micro-influencers from the entire social web, then rapidly deploy and manage campaigns at an unprecedented scale, before reporting on trackable engagement and ROI. We’re the Double-Click of influencer marketing and we’re here to solve your influencer problems. Sound interesting? Get in touch on INFO@INFLUENCE.NETWORK or 0203 918 8582
Written by Harriot Rockey
Co-Founder & COO, Influence Network