Influencer Marketing Faces a Challenge: Inauthenticity
5 Minute Read
Influencer campaigns are increasingly being called out as inauthentic. A big part of this is due to the influx of paid/fake followers, bots, inorganic partnerships between sponsors and influencers, and overly staged campaigns.
Three key indicators that demonstrate an influencer’s authenticity are: audience quality, transparency, and the level of sponsor clutter on their social feed.
Find out what some of the #HumansOfMKTG have to say about authenticity and why it’s one of the most important aspects to look for when pairing a product with an influencer.
Finding an authentic influencer is a challenge for many brands. Not only do sponsors want to work with influencers that have a real and engaged following, they want to have their product naturally align with a lifestyle. This may seem easy to pinpoint at first glance, but with the influx of paid followers, inactive accounts as followers, bots, and inauthentic content creation (take for example the backlash Listerine has faced on their recent influencer campaign), a brand must complete extensive research in order to be strategic in picking which influencers will be the face of their brand. Consumers are smart and will be able to spot a fake. Sponsors take influencer marketing seriously, so much so that this has resulted in brands like L’Oreal that have begun to conduct background checks with their influencers before any contracts are signed.
Let’s see what some of our #HumansOfMKTG have to say:
Kathryn Grabowski: “You have to ask yourself – would this influencer realistically wear this brand or purchase this product? Audiences can see through inauthentic partnerships and will call the brand out. If an influencer truly loves your brand they will get you a ton of added value as the influencer will post beyond the contractual assets because the product integrates seamlessly into their lives.”
Katherine Allen: “I believe authenticity involves being real. Brands should consider choosing an influencer who doesn’t only share highlights, but someone who talks about things the average person can relate to. One of my favourite beauty guru’s is Deepica Mutalya, who talks about how her under-eye circles have made her self-conscious over the years and how being in front of the camera can sometimes exaggerate this insecurity. Also, she is not afraid to review products that do not work for her (something many consumers can relate to). I love this because it shows her genuine opinion and her dedication to her followers that want to hear honest reviews. These “negative” reviews can ultimately prevent an influencer from missing out on a paid partnership, and Deepica prioritizes her authenticity over money.”
There are many ways you can measure and determine the authenticity of an influencer, but here are three key indicators marketers can look for:
1. Audience Quality
Brands want to work with influencers who have real followers which makes follower count not as relevant as engagement rate. High quality audiences are represented by high engagement rates. Engagement rates are represented as a percentage.
See below for an example:
An Instagram post gets 140 likes and 10 comments.
Here is how engagement is calculated: 140 + 10 = 150. You then take this number and divide it by the total following (in this case, let’s say it’s 2000), and multiply it by 100.
150 / 2,000 x 100 = 7.5%
The average Instagram post engagement rate is around 3% (Influencer Marketing Hub) which would make this example above average.
Micro-Influencers (around 10K followers) are proven to have real audiences with higher engagements in comparison to those with a larger following. We see brands working more and more with Micro-Influencers as their followers are more likely to engage with sponsored content.
2. Honesty & Transparency
Consumers can tell when an influencer is not being authentic-especially when they enter a paid partnership and run one-off posts. A popular tactic influencer’s use to enforce transparency with their content is storytelling through captions and multiple photos/posts. Through storytelling, the influencer has the opportunity to go beyond “#ad” and simply thanking the brand for being sent complimentary product. Storytelling allows an influencer to ultimately share what that product means to them on a personal level.
See below for an example from a graphic design tool, Canva:;
3. Sponsor Clutter
Influencers who upload frequent sponsored posts will create clutter on their social feeds. Not only does a brand run the risk of getting lost in the mix, it may be a sign of an inauthentic influencer as they are prioritizing partnerships over producing quality content and showcasing a low level of brand loyalty. Consumers do not want to be bombarded with branded content as they are following the influencer for personal not commercial reasons.
Through MKTG’s background and specialization in sponsorship consulting, we’ve established an expertise in providing strategic, vetted influencer recommendations for our clients. In a previous blog post, MKTG explored the explosive beauty influencer industry where we saw many authentic partnerships. We highlighted a case study from Benefit Cosmetics that exemplified our point of “Honesty & Transparency” as the brand paired influencers with Benefit products they have consistently used in their beauty routines before they were sponsored which allowed consumers to believe the partnership as authentic.
Brands want to build trust with their consumers and leverage influencer marketing to do so. If done incorrectly, brands will be called out for being inauthentic which can result in decreased brand affinity. When executed correctly however, your brand will be able to connect with consumers as the product will work seamlessly into the lives of the appropriate influencers. When looking for the next face of your campaign on social media, MKTG recommends that sponsors look out for audience quality, honesty and the level of sponsorship clutter as some key indicators to spot an authentic influencer.