Authenticity in a World of Influencers

I've been thinking a lot lately about influence and marketing. We live in a world where we’re constantly being marketed to and it is beginning to be hard to tell what's authentic content and what is sponsored.

So, where do we draw the line? What is real influence when we live in a world of ‘influencers’ and sponsored content? 

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For small content creators like me with KD and many of my social media clients, this can be really frustrating. It almost seems like everything is pay to play and although we hear “content is king” over and over, it’s hard not to feel like it’s cash who’s really king. 

As consumers of all this media and as the audience for these targeted ads, where does that leave us? Do we want regular people paid by brands as ‘influencers’ telling us where to shop, dine, & work out? Are these recommendations somehow better or more authentic than celebrities paid to promote products? Or, do these types of promoted content further distort reality and expectations to the point that the actual experience couldn’t possibly live up? 

Honestly, part of this curiosity is just downright envy. I'm not going to lie, I can’t sit here and tell you that if I got offered a few hundred bucks to post on Instagram about my favorite coffee shop, workout class, or boutique that I’d turn it down. Serious props to the people who have so effectively leveraged their personal brand in such a lucrative way. My question comes in when you’re being paid to promote a brand, product or experience as if it is part of your daily routine and “normal life” when it actually isn't. I feel like those types of promotions contribute to the kinds of social media that many of us love to hate. The kinds of posts that make us feel inadequate because the poster has cultivated an image that makes their life appear perfect and makes the rest of us acutely aware of how we don't quite measure up.

Market research shows that some of the most valuable marketing is word of mouth recommendations. Social media has made it so easy to make these kinds of recommendations, and there is definitely real power behind them. Just ask anyone who has ever tweeted at an airline about a poor experience. That’s why companies are now spending money on social media managers to respond to negative social media about their brand, reward the positive, and engage with people and companies who might promote them. The problem comes in when the positive posts are all sponsored and therefore no longer authentic recommendations. It’s easy to recommend the latest spa service, workout, or 5-a-day detox juice habit when it’s been given to you for free. Does that mean it’s really that good? It’s hard to tell. 

As a business owner who is nearly always thinking about how to promote my products, authenticity to me is key. I know that KD’s clothes aren’t for everyone. Maybe they’re not your style, maybe they’re not the right price, maybe you don’t have any use for the kinds of clothes I make. Who knows?  What I do know is that when someone likes my clothes, I want to know about it. I want them to like them because of the way they’re made, what they’re made of, or how they make them feel when they put them on. I want to know why they like them because I want to tell other people about it in the hopes that they will like them too. And better yet, I want the people who like them to tell other people about them.

So, all that being said, how do you feel about it? What's more important to you as a consumer and casual social media user? Does sponsored 'influencer' content bother you? Do you think it affects your opinion of a company that uses it or influence your buying decisions one way or another? Share in the comments below!