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Influencer marketing is everywhere. If you have been following influencer marketing since its inception about 15 years ago (yes, before Instagram even existed), which started with paid blog posts and sponsored tweets, one word has been at the center of the industry: authenticity.
The success of an influencer marketing campaign rises and falls on the authenticity of the creative, their relationship with the sponsored brand and the message being delivered. The problem facing influencer marketing today is that influencers are largely not seen as genuine or authentic at all. A recent international study shows that only 4% of people believe what influencers say is true, and the rate of successful “influencing” has dropped too. In fact, the influencer market has become so saturated and criticized for essentially hawking products to make a quick buck, that a new term has recently been coined — genuinfluencers.
“Genuinfluencers,” a term created by combining the words “genuine” and “influencers,” is meant to distinguish the generic (and presumably not trustworthy) “influencer” from those that are seriously genuine and authentic. According to one source, the term describes “social media stars who use their platforms beyond product placement.” Whatever name it is given — influencer marketing or now genuinfluencer marketing — at the end of the day is all a form of marketing, the end goal of which is always to sell some product or service to consumers.
The problem is that the entire process is driven by commerce and, therefore, will never truly feel “authentic.” So long as the process begins and ends with the desire to sell something, influencers will continue to struggle with building trust with their audience.
If you really want to create authentic content, follow these steps.
1. Take money out of the equation.
If your sole purpose for being on social media is to make money, audiences will see right through any message you are delivering. To truly be authentic, you have to first develop your presence on social media without focusing at all on monetization. Also, money is a means to an end — it is not an end itself. Money is a resource, in which the value and benefit are derived from its application.
2. Start with your purpose.
Social media is best viewed as a distribution platform for thoughts, ideas and messaging. It is a means of instantly connecting with other people across the globe through technology that easily fits in the palm of your hand. So, before you go using social media, you must first know why you are using social media — what thoughts, ideas and messages are you trying to convey? The most authentic, unique and valuable thing you can share with your audience is you and your life purpose. Instead of answering the question of why you are on social media, start by answering the question of why you are at all — what is your life purpose?
3. Use your life experience.
There is nothing more authentic than the story of you. Once you understand your life purpose, you will be able to see how it has played out throughout your lifetime and begin establishing creative life “themes” (i.e., reoccurring ideas and subjects). Because you have consistently experienced these themes, you are a natural authority on these subjects with a unique and valuable perspective to offer. Within each theme, you can then establish your “truths” within each topic. These truths will become the foundation for your authentic messaging.
4. Understand your personal modes of expression.
Often overlooked is the distinction between content creation and creative expression. Content creation is the process of creating images and photos for the purpose of posting on social media. Creative expression is how you communicate your original ideas of value, including who you are. If you are an artist, you may express yourself truths through painting, sculpting, making music, writing, dancing, acting, photography, video or some other form of artistic expression. If you are an entrepreneur, your life truths are embodied in the businesses and brands you create. In addition to what you do professionally and artistically, you also express your life truths through how you live your life and your life priorities. Some examples of life priorities and activities include fitness, beauty, fashion, cooking, interior design, organization, essentialism or minimalism, gardening and parenting. All of these are an expression of who you are.
5. Turn your creative expression into content.
Creating content is about capturing moments of creative expression in the form of images and videos. Generally, the form of content you produce will depend on which digital platforms you decide to use. For example, if you are using Instagram, then you will be creating photos and videos and adding some relevant copy or caption. The copy that accompanies your photo or video is where you will typically explain the specific truth. The goal is to create content that captures your creative expression of a particular truth within a particular theme. By starting with your purpose and capturing yourself expressing personal truths, the end result is guaranteed to be authentic.
6. Trust the process.
Your goal in creating content should be to fulfill your life purpose by distributing your truths to the broadest possible audience. That’s what social media is — a distribution platform for your message. If you effectively communicate your message, then those who receive it and need it will listen and follow you. Over time, you will build an audience that is genuinely interested in what you have to say and stand for. This is an audience that will be engaged in the conversation, and this is the audience that will most likely buy whatever it is you ultimately have to sell when it comes to transforming your message and purpose into some commercial form. It’s a funny thing about money: When you take your eye off of it as a goal and instead focus on conveying your true authentic value, you actually end up in a position to make the most money possible. Authenticity is key, but it cannot be manufactured. It must simply be revealed.