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Who Wrote that Social Post?

Seeking recommendations from family, friends and trusted spokespersons has always been an important cornerstone of a marketing strategy that seeks to influence a consumer to make a purchasing decision. Consumers are looking for assurance that a purchase will be a good and rewarding experience and consistently turn to those individual influencers for a “seal of approval.” The consumer appeal of a real-life influencer is that they represent an honest experience about a brand and that an endorsement is based on genuine information rather than a company’s marketing agenda.

Nearly half of consumers report discovering new products through favorite social media personalities every week, and 80 percent admit to making a purchase on the word of an influencer. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the influencer marketing space is expected to grow to $21.1 billion by the end of this year. Marketers understand the significance of the influencer channel to making meaningful connections with a targeted audience and, in many cases, are making concerted efforts to influence the influencers.

Research indicates that 45% of marketers want to control the content and aesthetics of influencer postings in order to maintain control over the messaging of the influencers they support. Some notable brands are establishing “creator labs” and educational programs for messengers that can be interpreted as tampering with the independence of major social media influencers. These efforts can erode consumer confidence in the real motivations of influencers. So how can consumers ensure the legitimacy of an influencer’s intentions?

Marketing campaigns posted on social media channels like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram require advertisers to include “sponsorship tags” that disclose the content as paid advertising. Most social media platforms require influencers to declare whether brand campaigns are sponsored via a “paid partnership,” and Meta declares it will remove any posts that violate its rules on sponsored content. Some influencers will tag posts with “in collaboration with” tags to enhance credibility. While the tagging process can be helpful; the effort may be easily manipulated to obscure the real intention of the campaign.

Audiences familiar with a particular influencer are adept at recognizing the tone and inflections of a performer’s written and oral voice. Careful listening can reveal clues that the message may not be consistent with the speaker’s usual demeanor and personality. If the message sounds forced and appears to be pushing a particular brand’s agenda, chances are that the message is not a completely genuine effort or an influencer’s unbiased opinion.

Consumers are more likely to trust an influencer who only endorses a product they use and like themselves, particularly when the product message fits the public persona of the famous influencer. Forming unnatural partnerships and undisclosed relationships with brands can lead an influencer to be punished with diminished numbers of followers. Relying on an influencer often requires a follower to adhere to the well-known mantra of “buyer beware” and “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.”

Trust is at the core of what makes influencer marketing successful. Influencers command much more trust than faceless brands, so the impact they have on a brand’s acceptance by consumers can be a powerful way to increase brand awareness. Credibility, authenticity, and transparency are major factors determining the continued viability of influencers’ future impact on consumers. Long-term relationships with brands, influencers, and audiences will only be achieved when confidence in these principles among all participants is reached.