Sponsored content is the cornerstone of influencer marketing. Although influencers and content creators have several methods they can use to turn their expertise into income, by far the most widely accepted and often most profitable method are brand partnerships.
But not all sponsored content is created equal. In this article, we explore why authenticity is so crucial in partnered content and what influencers can do to stay authentic when posting.
Why is Authenticity Important?
There are many benefits for brands that work with influencers, like the extended reach they offer to their often large audience. However, benefits like these can also be achieved using other methods of marketing such as social media and search engine adverts.
Arguably the biggest differentiator of working with influencers is the level of trust they have built with their audience over time. Through the correct use of influencer marketing, brands can tap into this trust and gain powerful recommendations for their products and services.
Yet when influencers lack authenticity, this can be negative for the audience, brand and influencer themselves. This is because:
The audience feels they are a product, being used to make money by the influencer, leading them to trust them less
The influencer lacks the trust of their audience, making it harder to grow their audience and harder to attract quality brands to work with them
Brands see a smaller ROI from the money they allocate to influencer collaborations
It is clear that without authenticity, influencers lack the major benefit of trust from their audience, making them little more than expensive advertising platforms.
How to Stay Authentic
Being authentic isn’t difficult, after all by definition it is doing what comes naturally to us. However, it can be worthwhile following a few tips to ensure that your authenticity stays on track and is being plainly communicated and recognised by your audience and potential brands.
The first and most important step in achieving authenticity when posting sponsored content is transparency. Although it may seem counterintuitive to mark content as sponsored when trying to maintain a sense of authenticity, ultimately consumers are savvy to brand collaborations and failure to notify them can appear to be an attempt to mislead them.
In the UK, a certain level of transparency is required by regulatory bodies, which often offers clear guidance on how to mark your content as sponsored. However, being proactive in highlighting that a piece of content is sponsored shows your audience that you respect them, helping you further develop trust.
Explain Your Thinking
When you are clear and transparent with your audience about when you are publishing sponsored content, it offers you a unique opportunity to further develop authenticity though explaining exactly why you chose to work with that brand.
Consumers will often assume that a brand collaboration is purely for the money, which can, in turn, lead them to feel like their attention is being sold to the highest bidder. Explaining why you chose the brand you are working with will show them that this is not true.
Your reasons may include:
Why you think the brand would be of interest to your audience
Why you personally love the brand or product
How the brand aligns with your goals and values
Communicate Your Values (and Align Them With Brands)
Many consumers are always looking for brands and influencers who align with their own values and share their points of view. As the world becomes more socially aware, this trend is likely to continue and increase.
Communicating your values will allow you to grow your audience with those who already share your position on many matters, making it easier to develop high levels of trust. In turn, when partnering with brands you must ensure that their values also align with yours. Doing this will ensure that sponsored content looks natural on your feed and also increase the chances of that content being well received by your audience.
Consider Content Compatability
If your values align with the brands you chose to work with, the likelihood is that the content you create together will be a natural fit for your feeds. However, it is also important to consider other aspects outside of values when it comes to content fit.
For example, you should take time to assess the look and branding of any product you recommend to ensure that it fits naturally with the aesthetics of your own content. Failure to do this can make the content look inauthentic.
Sponsored posts are great for influencers. The money brands pay facilitates influencers to focus on creating more and better content, allowing them to serve their audience better.
However, when an influencer spends too much of their time on creating sponsored content their feed can become saturated and will often lead to their audience feeling alienated and unvalued.
Being selective about the brands you partner with will help you avoid this dilemma.
Although there is no real magic formula of branded to non-branded posts, it is important to ensure that you spend the majority of your time serving your audience outside of paid posts, allocating a regular, but minor part of your effort to sponsorship.
One added benefit of being selective is that it also makes you more valuable to brands, often helping you to secure larger payments for individual collaborations.
Staying Authentic: Summary
It is evident that maintaining authenticity in your sponsored content is an important part of the longevity of being a profitable influencer. Those who fail to maintain good practices may see some short term success but are unlikely to maintain good relationships with their audience and brands in the long term.