How Brands Can Find Authentic Success with Influencers in a Time of Consumer Distrust

Scroll through your Instagram feed and you will be sure to chance upon not one, not two, but several influencers’ posts. Without a doubt, influencer marketing has reinvented the wheel, and it is booming. The fast-growing industry is arguably one of the biggest and most effective ways for brands to reach audiences on social media.

Influencer marketing has proven to be a successful tool, with brands receiving a high return on investment (ROI). Influencer marketing on Instagram generates – on average – a revenue of US$6.85 per dollar spent on marketing while delivering a 37 percent higher customer retention rate.

Influencers can have a real impact on audience perception, and can potentially make a positive impact on sales by building loyalty. However, while influencer marketing is quickly becoming a popular method of customer acquisition, it has been put under the microscope of late, sparking criticism over the lack of trust and authenticity within the industry.

 
 

This brings us to the question – are consumers losing trust in influencers?

Fake Fans: A Key Challenge With Influencer Marketing

Today, a high number of followers is not necessarily a good sign. In fact, as much as 40 percent of influencers are involved in buying fake fans. Widespread and difficult to identify, at first sight, fake influencers deceive brands and cost them millions of dollars in wasteful investments.

Consumers are now a lot more savvy, and are able to recognize that influencer recommendations are most likely sponsored.

 
 

Brands, therefore, need to practice due diligence in ensuring that the influencers they choose to work with are trustworthy and credible. A good starting point is to check if the influencer has fake followers. With an array of social media marketing tools available, brands are able to get an instant overview of the influencer’s key performance metrics and spot signs of fraud. For example, marketers can view the influencer’s follower growth over time and immediately see if there are any suspicious spikes or dips in the number of total followers.

Do not let smaller numbers fool you. When it comes to audiences, the adage “it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that counts” holds true. Brands are realizing that the key to a successful collaboration is ensuring that the influencer’s audience match their target audience. For this reason, brands are increasingly engaging micro influencers instead, who are active within a specific niche and have the distinct ability to cast an impact on their followers who they tend to have a tight-knit relationship with.

Our research shows that on Instagram, influencers with less than 10,000 fans posted advertisements significantly more than macro influencers (>100,000 fans) and celebrities (>1,000,000 fans), indicating that more brands are choosing to engage this group of influencers.

Micro influencers also tend to have higher engagement and conversion rates as compared to other types of influencers, despite having a smaller following. In fact, macro influencers receive 6.7x more engagement than macro influencers.

Putting A Stop To Inauthenticity

Consumers have an insatiable appetite for more transparent and genuine content, but there is still a gap in the industry. Authentic content should be priority number one, as consumers do not like seeing posts that scream advertising.

Brands and influencers oftentimes resort to messaging that comes across as forced or overly sales-driven. However, it is important for influencers to create content that best resonates with their audience in order to maintain a high engagement.

Widespread and difficult to identify, at first sight, fake influencers deceive brands and cost them millions of dollars in wasteful investments.

The onus is also on both brands and influencers to ensure that influencers fully disclose to their followers that they are being compensated to promote the brand, instead of posting about it as if it were a personal recommendation.

Nonetheless, consumers are now a lot more savvy, and are able to recognize that influencer recommendations are most likely sponsored. Hashtags like #ad make that clear, as posts marked as advertisements tend to garner less interactions.

To mitigate this issue, social media platforms have started introducing platform-based innovations that make influencer marketing more transparent to the consumer. For instance, Instagram introduced its ‘paid partnerships’ tag to eliminate some of the risks associated with creating sponsored posts, and other platforms are sure to follow suit.

In influencer marketing, authenticity is not just limited to content, but also includes the creative expression between the brand’s objectives, influencer’s vision, and audience connection. This is why partnering with the right influencer is key. When considering influencers to partner with, brands need to ensure that the influencer’s overall personal brand aligns with the brand’s core values.

Paving The Way For The Future of Influencer Marketing

There is no denying that influencers will continue to play an important role for brands, but it will become more imperative to be deliberate in the way brands engage.

The right influencer will have the ability to create authentic content and engage a highly relevant audience. What it boils down to is trust, transparency and being genuine. Get it right, and influencer marketing can truly deliver real engagement.

Photo by Tommy Huang via Pexels

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