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Communicate Online | Regional Edition | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Communicate Online | Regional Edition | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Why authenticity is the cornerstone of influencer marketing

Marta Buryan

Opinion

Why authenticity is the cornerstone of influencer marketing

By Marta Buryan, social media analyst, Socialbakers

Hiring a widely-followed social media star to promote a product is a surprisingly authentic business transaction and an advertising form.

Even though influencer marketing has been around for a long time, it is still stirring up a lot of controversy. The reason? Lack of transparency, originality, and credibility – all encapsulated in a recent buzzword “inauthenticity” – that influencers allegedly represent.

This view couldn’t be further from the truth, as being genuine is the cornerstone of influencer marketing. In fact, authenticity is what distinguishes leveraging influencers from other forms of advertising and what makes it so effective.

One might wonder what makes influencer marketing authentic. After all, incentivizing a popular YouTuber or Instagrammer to promote a product seems like a pure business transaction and an advertising form that disregards brands and influencers’ values altogether.

Yet, being able to stay true to who they are is a deal-breaker for many social media influencers when it comes to signing business deals with brands. A survey by an influencer marketing platform TapInfluence revealed that over 40 percent of influencers consider aligning with the brand’s core values an important factor influencing their decision about partnering up with a business.

The importance influencers attach to advertising in a genuine way stems primarily from their concern for reputation. It is not rare for influencers to spend years building an audience that’s interested in their unique content. The risk of losing fans, followers, and subscribers over sales-driven posts that don’t fit into an influencer’s overall narrative is simply too high.

Brands’ image is also at stake when it comes to choosing their representatives, and teaming up with the wrong influencer can come at a high price. In April 2017, Pepsi faced a huge backlash after they featured Kendall Jenner, a reality TV and Internet celebrity, in their video ad.

One of the reasons why the brand received so much criticism was the striking mismatch between the commercial’s main message of spiritual unity and understanding and the rather materialistic values represented by Jenner, which made the collaboration appear far-fetched and superficial.

The long-term consequences of ingenuine advertising can seriously harm influencers and brands. For this reason, both parties’ should prioritize staying loyal to their key principles, which many of them have already successfully embraced.

For example, Charlene Chew, a Singaporean “mom-fluencer” with nearly 17,000 Instagram followers, has mastered the art of non-intrusive, authentic marketing. Chew’s posts advertising different products and services are perfectly aligned with the theme of other content she’s publishing, making her newsfeed resemble a regular family photo album.

Charlene Chew

What’s striking about this particular post is the great use of the description text. Instead of just tagging Changi Recommends, Chew tells a compelling story that is sure to resonate with many of the parents following her profile. As a result, the post reads like a friendly advice from a fellow mother, rather than a sponsored message from a salesperson – the quintessence of authentic influencer marketing.

How can brands replicate Changi Recommends’ success and come across equally natural when leveraging influencers? The answer lies in following few simple steps:

1. Find influencers standing for the same values as your company. Don’t just hire someone because of his or her large audience, but make sure that this person’s image and messaging line up with what your business represents.
2. Look into who’s following the influencer of your choice. Gathering information on the demographics and location of the influencer’s audience will allow you to make sure that you’ll reach the right people and tailor content accordingly.
3. Find out how engaging is the influencer, especially with her sponsored posts. A high number of interactions and comments is a good indicator that the influencer knows exactly how to appeal to her fans and followers, even while advertising.
4. Delve into the influencer’s newsfeed, and verify whether the sponsored content is evenly distributed among her own posts. Ideally, you’d want to work with someone who’s not advertising all the time, as it makes them less credible and puts audiences off.
5. Let the influencer be the creative force behind your ads. Accept the fact that they are an expert in communicating with their audience and will know best how to promote your products or services in the right way.

Good influencer marketing requires effort from both brands and influencers to make it authentic. So next time you chance upon a poor influencer campaign, know that it’s not reflective of the whole advertising method, but only of the laziness or lack of experience of those who brought it to life.

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