Leveraging Creators To Create Authentic Consumer Connections – Forbes

Consumers are more aware of advertising than ever before, and they’re demanding experiences that benefit their online journey. Marketers need to be savvy with how they promote their products and brands without coming off as inauthentic.

I sat down with Lindsay Jerutis, Managing Director of ShopStyle Collective to talk about creators and how the influencer marketing industry is primed to help brands develop authentic connections with their audiences.

Gary Drenik: We’re seeing all kinds of consumer brands focusing more and more on growing their influencer marketing investments versus other channels. Why is that?

Lindsay Jerutis: Brands are investing more in influencer marketing because their investments are paying off.

For example, a recent survey from Prosper Insights and Analytics shows that 64% of Females 18 to 34 are influenced by social media or bloggers when making apparel purchase decisions.

MORE FOR YOU

That number jumps to 67% when looking for inspiration on beauty product purchases. This trust in creators and the success of creator marketing in general is driving even more investment than ever––the industry is expected to grow to $22.3 billion by 2024.

Consumers don’t want ad experiences that come off invasive, phony, or salesy. Influencers are the best way to create authentic, engaging content and we’re going to continue to see more brands invest in influencers as a full-funnel marketing strategy as the industry continues to grow.

Drenik: What makes influencer marketing so appealing to marketers and brands these days?

Jerutis: Online shopping is more popular than ever before. In fact, Prosper Insights and Analytics data shows that nearly half of consumers are routinely making online purchases in 2022 – an almost 10 percentage point increase from five years prior.

First, marketers need to overcome the “reach” barrier. As many are well aware, consumers want more control over their data. As a result, marketers are losing access to third-party cookies and other sources of valuable data. With these newly imposed limits on how target audiences can be reached, marketers are relying more and more on creator marketing because creators don’t face the same reach-related barriers. Consumers are more likely to turn on ad blockers for a smoother browsing experience, for example, but less likely to “turn off” a creator they’ve built a connection with over time.

The second reason is that, beyond reach, great creators know their audiences well and can engage them directly and regularly. Creators build feedback loops through regular audience interactions such as live-streams, question posts, polling, and more. Over time, this feedback loop allows the creator to thoughtfully integrate brands into their content without feeling coerced. Potential customers can be targeted without invasive data, something that can’t necessarily be done via other marketing channels.

Drenik: The word “authenticity” can oftentimes feel buzzy. What does “authenticity” mean to ShopStyle Collective?

Jerutis: The word authenticity is in-fact one of the most important aspects of a successful marketing campaign—creator focused or otherwise. To ShopStyle Collective, Authenticity is the ability to connect with consumers through what feels like peer-to-peer recommendations. Authenticity can’t be forced. It often requires letting go of control a bit and allowing creators to communicate with their audiences in their own tone and voice. Authenticity in creator marketing means fitting your brand into an ongoing content strategy that is meant to prioritize the consumer experience, instead of prioritizing the visibility of your product. Brands that do this successfully understand the value that comes with it while others who feel the need to be in the driver seat can often rub consumers the wrong way.

Drenik: What are different strategies brands can leverage to tap into that influencer authenticity and deliver experiences that other marketing channels can’t?

Jerutis: Brands can leverage creator authenticity to meet any and all marketing objectives throughout the funnel. They can turn to affiliate links to drive performance and can have larger brand campaigns with creators for prospecting and awareness, but the key to authenticity is in the ability for a brand to let the creator be the expert. They know their audience better than anyone and providing an experience for the end consumer that is too “on the rails” will not only hinder the effectiveness of your influencer campaign but will also harm your relationships with the creators themselves.

Instead, brands should provide creators with topline messaging – a few must-haves that get the key messages across – and let the creators develop content that they know will resonate with their audiences.

Another important tactic for achieving true authenticity is the importance of finding the right creator partners. Identifying the right partners is crucial to achieving true authenticity because you need to find creators who align with you as a brand and have the right audiences. Working with a partner like ShopStyle Collective makes all of these best practices easier as we help build and manage those relationships between brands and creators from start to finish.

Drenik: What are the most common mistakes you see brands make when working with influencers? And how does ShopStyle Collective help brands get it right?

Jerutis: We’re very lucky to work with a number of savvy marketers who are transparent about their goals and receptive to what we recommend. That said, there is a common misconception that creator campaigns are one-time activations––just another box to check on the marketing strategy list.

While marketers may be tempted to highlight key brand moments, like a new product launch, with a big campaign full of front-loaded investment, this approach can be limiting. Based on what we’ve learned over time, an always-on approach with consistent messaging, coverage, and engagement is much more likely to push a campaign to its fullest potential. For starters, it allows the marketer to refine and evolve programming with real-time data. Longer run times also helps brands build deeper relationships with creators, which gives way to that stronger sense of authenticity. Consumers will perceive a creator campaign as more authentic when the creator is speaking to the brand or product in question on a continuous, ongoing basis. Brands that continuously invest in creator marketing tend to establish stronger, more intimate relationships with creators. The advocacy this builds over time can then be reinforced through paid and organic efforts.

We’re confident that our full-funnel creator marketing strategy drives meaningful ROI, but we also know that marketers are leveraging other channels. That’s why it’s so important to break through silos while budget planning. Successful marketers are always thinking cross-functionally to keep creator marketing a part of brand, performance marketing, events, and sponsorship initiatives. They’re also experimenting. Testing budgets, for example, allows teams to hypothesize, learn, and keep getting better.

Drenik: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat about influencer authenticity and shining a light on some of the best practices for marketers looking to navigate the booming space.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.