Why do consumers trust influencer recommendations? According to these marketing execs, authenticity is key

May 12, 2023, 4:38 PM UTC

Fancy being an influencer? According to market researcher Morning Consult, over half of Americans aged 13 to 38 do. The booming career choice is unsurprising, considering that a content creator can earn $1,000 easily for a single post. 

But to make it big in the saturated influencer market, hopefuls have to be authentic, which is a difficult attribute to maintain when your income depends upon creating content for paying brands.

“If you’re a creator, it’s good to have many different revenue streams, so you’re not solely reliant on working with brands,” says Mae Karwowski, founder and CEO of influencer marketing agency Obviously. “Then you have that flexibility and independence to only work with brands that you really like, and that’s really important.”

Karwowski founded Obviously in 2014 and says the creator economy has skyrocketed over the last 10 years, with the number of people who consider themselves “influencers” swelling from a few hundred thousand to over 50 million. 

That 50 million number appears to come from an Influencer Marketing Hub report published in February 2023. Other estimates are much more conservative. Either way, the explosion of influencers and the emergence of niche “microinfluencers,” with fewer albeit loyal followers, has created an opportunity for brands to be more targeted in their marketing campaigns.

“A big thing that we do is actually try to work at scale as well,” Karwowski says. “So instead of a brand working with, say, three creators, we work with 50 or 100 creators with smaller audiences, but who actually truly love the brand, love the product, and are excited to work with the company.”

Matching brands with creators who genuinely enjoy the company’s products is a key strategy for brands to ensure their content marketing strategy comes off as authentic—an attribute respondents to Morning Consult’s survey ranked as the most important factor when choosing to follow an influencer.

Yet creators don’t need to worry that being selective with their branding partners will lead to lost revenue. Mostafa ElBermawy, founder and CEO of marketing agency NoGood, says that platforms like YouTube and TikTok are shifting their revenue streams from direct ad sales to taking cuts from influencer deals by operating as an agency pairing creators and brands together. Look at the TikTok Creator Marketplace to see how that’s shaping up.

“It’s just where the market is going,” ElBermawy says. “We need less ads and more authentic, raw content.”

But authenticity means sometimes sharing criticism, too, which brands typically have less of a stomach for, even though both ElBermawy and Karwowski say reviews that share criticisms or constructive feedback tend to perform better than reviews that are purely positive. Although marketing agencies will vet influencers to make sure they’re not going to give entirely negative reviews, either.

“Hopefully they don’t say, ‘This product is shit, I would recommend not using it,’” ElBermawy says, but if “brands build relationships with creators slowly, thinking long-term and establishing trust along the way,” that’s the key to unlocking a partnership that drives growth for both sides.

Eamon Barrett



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