Authenticity is perhaps one of the most overused buzzwords in our industry. And unfortunately, with overuse, there often comes a loss of meaning and value. But the reality is that authenticity has never been more significant to today’s relationships – our relationships with one another, with brands and businesses, and with our own communities of influential people in our lives. Particularly over the last year as we’ve all dealt with our personal experiences related to the global pandemic, we now crave what’s “real” more than ever, and we’re also better at and more critical in evaluating what doesn’t feel real or seem to fit within our values.
This “re-awakening” in consumers couldn’t be more relevant to the conversation around influencer marketing, an industry that has seen an undeniable surge over the last 12 months – 68% of marketers plan to use influencer marketing for paid or unpaid campaigns this year, with this number expected to increase in 2022 to 72.5%. As it’s grown, influencer marketing’s ability to create meaningful, authentic relationships between brands, creators and influencers, and consumers has been challenged. From mismatched brand partnerships to the ever-more complex issue of fraud, there are a number of reasons that, along its incredible growth path doubts have also been cast.
In May, my colleague and Chief Technology Officer of Koalifyed, Charles Hu, joined in a conversation with longtime industry veteran and Chief Communications Officer of P&G Beauty, Grooming & Health, Kelly Vanasse, to honestly and openly address both the challenges and opportunities marketers face in influencer marketing today. At the heart of the discussion was how influencers can not only command mass attention, but how they can drive real intention – meaning, a sustained relationship with a brand, brand advocacy, purchase loyalty, or whatever end result the business deems most important.
To drive intention, authenticity must be a focus, and technology can serve a crucial role in helping brands understand and act on the new rules of authenticity that consumers have set out for us.
Winning the Battle Against Bots
To develop authentic relationships, look beyond follower count and understand how an influencer interacts with their audience and where they drive the most value for this group.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped give rise to an unprecedented amount of bot activity on the internet and across social media, creating a problem for marketers and influencers alike. Fraud is an area of vulnerability for even the most diligent influencer – bots attach without influencers knowing – and this creates a certain level of skepticism around influencer marketing.
Bots undermine the principles of influencer marketing and the authentic and trusted relationship that is so vital: marketers want to know who is actually engaging with influencers to ensure they are reaching their target audience. A year ago, there wasn’t technology out there that equipped brands to identify influencers who hit all of the necessary marks.
Now, technology exists to break down influencer audiences and activities into three categories: bots, low engagement, and high engagement followers. Having this understanding of an influencer’s audience can restore trust in influencer marketing and allow partnerships to flourish.
Putting Relationship Building at the Center
Authenticity accounts for 92% of trust in a brand, making it increasingly important for brands to build authentic relationships with influencers and creators – before, during, and even after a campaign. The key to developing trust between an influencer and a brand is to work collaboratively on campaigns, share creative feedback in real-time, and transparently track campaign results.
Too much of marketers’ and creators’ time is still spent on manual intensive work. When you’re going back and forth in spreadsheets, less time is spent developing a meaningful relationship or partnership with the creator. When there is a collaborative partnership between brands and influencers, consumers can see and feel it – because it creates authentic content and stories that consumers want and can buy into.
Ensuring Transparency Goes Both Ways
As brands and marketers, it's our job to forge meaningful relationships with creators and influencers, enabling them to continue to build trust with their followers and, in turn, build trust in brands and products. Trusted partnerships develop when there is transparency in the relationship between a brand and influencer from the start. Bot detection helps here, but it goes deeper than that. Compliance is a necessary component in developing and maintaining trusted partnerships.
There tends to be a negative connotation with compliance: when we hear the word “compliance,” many of us cringe and think it means more steps to deliver something. But ultimately, compliance exists to protect us - brands, creators, and agencies - from potential risks. It’s the controls, checks, and balances to make sure that we’re all aligned on our expectations of the relationship. When work relies heavily on collaboration between people rather than automation or robots, it becomes even more important.
Now that brands and marketers have the necessary data and technology at their fingertips to act on the new rules of authenticity, what they do with that is the question. Utilizing technology to create authentic, lasting relationships between brands and influencers through understanding an influencer’s audience, putting relationship-building at the center, and ensuring transparency in the process creates better brands, better results, and stronger partnerships.