It's not just a buzz word.
As more and more people become switched on to influencer marketing, it’s more important than ever that influencers ensure that their campaigns fit in seamlessly with their non-sponsored content. Sponsored posts traditionally receive less engagement, so it’s important to make any paid campaigns seem as natural as possible while still abiding to industry rules and declaring sponsored content.
The Instagram algorithm works by judging the initial reaction to a post before it decides whether or not to share it with a larger audience.
A large factor in this initial reaction is authenticity; if a user thinks that they are being shown an advert, they are less likely to engage and the post won’t receive as much exposure.
Influencers should try to fit their sponsored content in with their usual content, posting similar photos and captions to those that they normally would. Aim to distract your followers from the sponsored content tag with a visually exciting image that is similar to what they would normally expect from you.
This means working with brands that you genuinely love and think that your followers will like too.
If you usually post outfit photos and suddenly share a random photo of a bowl of cereal, your followers will instantly be put off. This isn’t what they were expecting from you and it leaps out as an ad on your feed. Captions are also important; don’t just copy and paste the marketing material sent to you by a brand, put your own spin on it and make it fit in with your usual captions.
Another key factor for influencers to consider when creating authentic content is to tell the truth. If a garment comes up big or small, if the colour of a product is different in real life, or if something doesn’t work the way that you expected it to, give full disclosure. As the general public become more aware of influencer marketing, they are becoming more distrustful of sponsored content. If you are being paid to promote a product, how do your followers know that you are giving an honest review?
Be truthful with your reviews of products, counteracting any negatives with suggestions for how to get around them or embrace them (such as to size up, embrace the oversized look, or try it out in a shop before purchasing).
If your followers feel that they can trust you, they are more likely to engage with your sponsored content.
Equally for brands, it’s important to reach out to the influencers that fit in with your brand aesthetic, perhaps those who are already mentioning you or sharing your products organically. You need to create an authentic relationship that people believe in, not force a connection. Give influencers a flexible brief for a collaboration, allowing them to interpret your product in the way that seems most natural for them. It’s in their best interest to post an excellent photo that does well, to encourage more brands to work with them.
When selecting which influencers to work with, don’t just concentrate on the numbers.
Instead, choose those who fit in with your brand, have a similar audience to your own and who have already produced authentic sponsored content for other brands. Stay clear of anyone who has an Instagram feed littered with obvious advertisements.
Creating sponsored content that feels authentic is the responsibility of both the brand and the influencer, as outlined above. A successful campaign will feature an influencer whose audience is the brand’s target market, sharing content that fits in seamlessly with what they usually share. The content will be appropriately tagged as sponsored, but will encourage high engagement thanks to its authenticity.
Image by @theserenagoh for River Island.
Words by Emma Lavelle.