Influencer marketing is close to a $10 billion dollar industry. The rapid growth of this marketing approach has created new challenges within the influencer space. In some cases, finding authentic influencer-generated content can be challenging.
But with a few pointers, you’ll be able to distinguish between those influencer-brand relationships that will succeed and those that won’t.
The Power of Authentic Influencer-generated Content
Influencers are social media power users that nurture online communities of people who are passionate about a particular lifestyle. These influencers exist in nearly any industry – fitness, DIY, travel, etc. – and promote products and services from their favorite brands.
Long before influencer marketing became the formal marketing channel that it is today, celebrities and world leaders exercised their influence to promote certain ideas and organizations. This is known as the psychology of influence, and it has existed for hundreds of years.
While celebrities today still endorse products in paid ads, a new breed of brand ambassadors are responsible for leveraging their personal brand to call attention to certain products and services. These brand ambassadors are modern-day influencers.
“The average engagement rate with influencers is at 5.7 percent, approximately two times the two to three percent engagement rate for branded content on Instagram, the most popular influencer marketing platform.” – Oberlo, 10 Influencer Marketing Statistics You Need to Know in 2020
Influencers often hold minor celebrity status (or in the case of macro influencers, full celebrity status), but they also operate as trusted consumers. Top-performing influencers only endorse brands with whom they align. Consumers generally trust the purchasing decisions of their favorite influencers.
What Kind of Content Can You Get from Influencers?
Arguably, Instagram and Youtube are the hottest influencer platforms. Instagram showcases endearing and awe-inspiring photos with short captions. For video content, Youtube remains the leading social channel for influencers.
But influencers create more than great photos and videos. Facebook influencers publish a combination of photos, videos, long posts, short posts, and often curate vibrant Facebook Groups. Twitter influencers post short written content with interesting links. TikTok is emerging as a Youtube contender for influencer video content.
Many influencers are bloggers with large readership. These influencers manage their own website and use social platforms to promote their blog.
Regardless of the content that they produce, influencers achieve a following by expressing themselves with authenticity. They resonate with thousands of people that share a common interest. When these influencers post, target audiences pay attention and engage.
What Makes Influencer-generated Content Authentic?
For all the influencer marketing hype, marketers are realizing that some influencers aren’t who they claim to be. These fake influencers partner with agencies that manufacture follower counts, likes, and other shallow engagements.
Additionally, not every influencer-brand partnership works. An influencer might generate high revenues for one brand and almost nothing for another. Influencer-brand relationships can seriously impact the authenticity of influencer content.
But there are four factors that impact your influencer-generated content’s authenticity:
- Engagement metrics
- Genuine brand excitement
- Direct brand-influencer relationships
- Long-term relationships with the right influencers
One of the best ways to separate fake influencers from real influencers is to find that influencer’s engagement rate.
Just because an individual has thousands (or millions) of likes/followers doesn’t guarantee that those followers are engaged. If you divide the number of comments and shares by the number of likes or followers, you can arrive at an engagement rate for that influencer.
Meaningful Engagements / Number of Followers = Engagement Rate
After finding an influencer’s engagement rate, you should examine the content of follower engagements. By paying attention to the conversations that occur between an influencer and their fans, you’ll discover how authentic the connection of the influencer is with your target audience.
“At first, I had the mindset that they have to have 10,000 followers or above. I feel like that was just the norm – we want people with a lot of followers. But what I’ve found is that it was the people that came into the brand and have a lot of passion for it. We switched from going after the amount of followers to their engagement on social media. By switching my mindset – they don’t need to have a lot of followers – I look for their passion for the brand and their engagement.” Victoria Shanley, Director of Operations and Marketing at Frenchie Bulldog
Speaking of “passion,” the best influencers only partner with brands that bring them genuine delight. Many influencer marketers refer to these people as “brand ambassadors,” because those influencers sincerely love the brand’s products/services.
Audiences can spot genuine excitement. That excitement overflows onto the influencer’s online communities who then want to try the products that their favorite influencer uses.
Brands Working Directly with Influencers
Recently, some agencies have offered to connect brands with influencers, and vice versa. These “middleman” agencies appear on the surface to streamline the influencer marketing process. But upon closer examination, the middleman approach dilutes influencer authenticity.
“When brands treat influencer marketing this way—like it’s an ad buy—and use a middleman who prioritizes transactions, influencer marketing fails. The content isn’t trustworthy. At best, this transactional approach ruins the benefits of influencer marketing. At worst, it can lead to disastrous consequences for the brand.” – GRIN, Authentic Influencer Marketing
Experienced marketers understand that in order to achieve the most authentic influencer-generated content, they need to work directly with influencers. That said, managing influencer relationships can be a daunting task without the appropriate influencer automation software.
While there is nothing wrong with strategic “one off” influencer campaigns, long-term relationships with your best influencers further nurtures authenticity. Brand-influencer partnerships that share the same values and have earned trust can achieve enormous returns.
“Brands need to see influencers not as a transaction, but as a real connection.” – GRIN, Authentic Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing managers take time to get to know their influencers. Many marketers pay attention to influencer birthdays, personal milestones, and general well-being. The human touch enhances the power of influencer-generated content.
How to Produce Authentic Influencer-generated Content
After taking the authenticity factors above into account, there are a few things that your marketing team can do to ensure authentic influencer-generated content.
Vet Your Influencers
It can be tempting to fall in love with an influencer because you love a couple of their posts. But before you invest in that influencer, you need to do a little digging.
Not every influencer is equally authentic. And not every authentic influencer is right for your brand. Marketers often refer to the influencer vetting process as “rabbit-holing.” When checking out an influencer, you should examine most of their recent posts.
You are looking for influencers that nurture meaningful engagements with members of their audience within post comments. Also, you should note “share” counts and influencer tags.
Influencer posts that showcase their favorite brands should look genuine, appealing, and natural. You are also examining the types of brands that the influencer partners with.
Every influencer appeals to specific target audiences or niches. By paying close attention to an influencer’s audience, you can understand if you and the influencer enjoy a certain level of audience alignment. The greater the audience alignment, the better the chances that your brand and that influencer will make a great team.
Give Influencers Guidance on Product Use
When product seeding, make sure that your influencer knows how to use the product. Because your influencers will be testing your product in front of their followers, you want to make sure that the influencer understands the product’s intended use.
Product use guidance could be more or less depending upon the complexity of your brand’s product or service. After spending time showing your influencer what to do, be available for them to ask any necessary questions.
Give Influencers Direction on Expectations, Policies, and Tone
If your brand has policies relevant to your influencer’s activity, inform them sooner rather than later. Also, if you have specific expectations with regards to picture style, post tone, number of posts, etc., you should convey those expectations clearly.
Offer Influencers Examples of What You’re Looking For
If you’ve had successful influencer campaigns in the past, it is especially helpful to influencers if you can show them an example of the kind of post/campaign you’re looking for. When showing them examples, give your influencer specific pointers about why a particular post was successful.
Allow Influencers to be Creators
While it is important to give your influencer direction and guidance, the worst thing that you can do is micromanage your influencer. That influencer’s creativity is why you fell in love with them in the first place. Influencers are deeply connected with their audience and understand the kind of authentic content that will excite them.
In most circumstances, how well you vetted your influencers directly impacts your ability to trust your influencers. Choosing influencers that are the right fit for your brand will allow you to feel more hands off as those influencers launch your campaigns.
It’s also perfectly appropriate to include your influencer on brainstorming sessions. Communicate your desired end state and the products you want to market. Your influencer can offer you great ideas and help you plan your campaign more efficiently.
How to Use Authentic Influencer-generated Content in Your Marketing Mix
Authentic influencer-generated content extends beyond a single influencer campaign. Followers will interact with a great post for days and weeks, especially if followers share that post on their social channels.
Additionally, authentic influencer-generated content makes great repurposed content. Brands can take high-performing influencer posts and convert them into PPC ads, case studies, and consumer-focused content.
Repurposed influencer content is both economical and more effective. Particularly when an influencer post includes photos, there is no need to hire graphic designers or ad copyists.
Conclusion: Authenticity Creates Trust and Connection
Brands strive for authenticity because it helps them develop emotional connections with their target audiences. Influencers build their personal brands on authenticity; and as such, they understand authenticity better than most.
The power of your influencer-generated content lies in the relationships that you build with your influencers. You want them to be genuinely excited about your products. Most importantly, you want to connect with influencers with the most engaged audience alignment. For more information on developing authentic influencer content, check out these articles below:
This article originally appeared in the Grin.co blog and has been published here with permission.