By Kayla P. Bruce
Among other things, the pandemic has caused a positive change in the way people influence others. As a result, influencer marketing has shifted from being about plugging products to being able to share advice and opinions. It’s now about establishing a community that can educate and stimulate thinking.
The rise of authenticity has raised the bar for influencer marketing. It’s now about ensuring that campaigns are successful and deliver meaningful results.
How should brands and influencer marketers embrace the age of authenticity to ensure their campaigns deliver meaningful results and business impact?
What is authenticity?
The concept of authenticity is complex and often stated but not supported in social media marketing. Authenticity can be defined as someone who genuinely believes in a product or practices what they preach.
Influencers who were once praised for sharing their perfect Instagram-worthy lives are now being met with severe backlash for being tone deaf to reality.
Audiences are over curated feeds and filtered pictures. They crave honesty, genuineness, and empathy. They want the brands we support to share real stories and advocate for something more meaningful than a super special sale (although we do appreciate those, too.). The 16-year-old TikTok superstar, Charlie D’Amelio, started creating dance videos on the platform for her friends, and now she has collaborated with household named brands like Dunkin Donuts, Hollister, and Morphe Cosmetics. She has amassed almost 150 million followers on the platform and grown her brand across other social media platforms.
The D’Amelio brand was built in Charlie’s childhood home for fun and now extends to her parents and her sister, who have all recently signed a contract with Hulu for a documentary series sharing their lives. People became fans of the D’Amelios because of their authenticity. A family of four from Connecticut found fame through TikTok.
How can authenticity build an average brand into something with a global reach?
Reimagining your brand
Influencers, celebrities, and athletes are connecting with us more deeply than before through social media platforms like Instagram and, more notably, TikTok. TikTok has enjoyed phenomenal growth amid the pandemic. The app added 12 million U.S. users in March 2020 and a total of 52.2 million users globally, making it the most downloaded non-gaming app on the Apple app store in 2020 (Su et al., 2020).
TikTok offers a playful and realistic view into the lives of our favorite people. These influencers appear on our for-you pages with no makeup or professional lighting in sweatpants with takeout containers on their coffee tables. TikTok is a platform where users will find authentic self-presentation under the guise of comedic videos. Furthermore, TikTok users applaud self-deprecating revelations (Su et al., 2020). A notable example is LeBron James pointing out his awkwardness in choreographed TikTok dances. When reposting this TikTok video on his Twitter account, he used the caption: “TikTok/Kids + me = me looking like a fool!”. James’ self-deprecating humor, coupled with the funny dance video, closes the distance between fans and the athlete and adds a level of authenticity to the athlete’s brand (Su et al., 2020).
For James’ followers this showed a more personal and easy-going side to an athlete who is recognized as the greatest basketball player of all time. Users indicated that this down-to-earth content made them feel like LeBron James was highly relatable to their own experience and lives (Su et al., 2020). Influencers are giving their audiences a sneak peek into the unedited version of their lives. They aren’t afraid of authenticity or being average and it’s maximizing their social reach.
Making the shift from corporate to personal isn’t tricky. It’s the easiest thing you can do, and brands that are perceived to be trustworthy and authentic have significantly stronger brand loyalty among audiences than those who are perceived as stuffy and stuck in the past.
Brands shouldn’t be afraid to make the shift from corporate to personal. TikTok influencers are unlike any influencer we’ve ever seen because they’re just like us, literally. Many of our favorite TikTok personalities became famous because of their exceptional storytelling…and dance moves. They take their ordinary, relatable experiences and put a witty, weird, hilarious spin on them. Their videos aren’t overly produced with an extensive production budget. Instead, they’re raw, unedited, intimate conversations among friends.
Why is this important?
The shared experience of being bored at home or lonely on a Friday night is alleviated with a 30-second video. Seeing famous people who are also stuck at home with nothing to do is as relatable as it gets. Because of this, we form an unintentional connection with TikTok influencers. Social media has always been about projecting the life you want to live. But what happens when that life isn’t remotely relatable or attainable by your audience? The imaging we see in social media needs to seem within reach, or audiences will get bored and move on.
We trust them because we believe them. Authenticity is the key to reaching a deeper level of loyalty.
Brands must take the time to understand their audiences and their feelings. Most of us are framing the world differently after the pandemic. Brands can reestablish trust by creating relatable and authentic content. Sponsored posts and analytics often take the personality out of social media. Brands should take a step away from the algorithms and provide their audiences with more meaningful, relevant, and authentic content.
After all, that’s what social media is for.
Su, Y., Baker, B. J., Doyle, J. P., & Yan, M. (2020). Fan engagement in 15 seconds: Athletes’ relationship marketing during a pandemic via TikTok. International Journal of Sport Communication, 13(3), 436–446. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsc.2020-0238