The state of influencer marketing: Credibility and the battle for authenticity

For our final week of Influencer Month, Mango Communications’ Head of Digital and Social, Zoe Virtue, wraps up the final thoughts surrounding the state of influencer marketing in New Zealand.

Pictured above: Zoe Virtue 

“Influencers and their place in society have long been ridiculed by consumers and marketing professionals alike. As social media once struggled to gain its place as a valid marketing platform, so too the business of influence is suffering through a credibility crisis here and abroad as more and more brands become willing to explore using social influencers as part of their campaigns.

In New Zealand, there is a small pool of individuals with a 30,000+ following who actively engage with their audience as an influencer. Unsurprisingly, in many cases, these individuals are seen to be endorsing a multitude of brands at once, all with different messages and ethos. As a result, the authenticity of the message is then brought into question and, with that, influencer marketing itself begins to lose its credibility. 

Subsequently, agencies and brands have broadened the pool to combat the issue of credibility by diving into the world of micro-influencers. A world that has grown exponentially in the last five years, micro-influencers are now an army of diverse individuals with niche areas of expertise who are looking to use their platform to share their lives and passions, and sometimes to get famous. 

 Damien Venuto, Online Business Editor at New Zealand Herald, recently joined us for Mango’s third Evolution of Influence breakfast to share his thoughts on the topic. He spoke of the importance of a backstory and of finding the micro-influencers who operate passionately within a niche that harbours loyal followers. The passion for their craft shines through in the quality of their posts as they create content that aligns with their story and their established audience. This level of quality adds value and opportunity for the brand beyond the influencer’s own channels. 

Damien Venuto

While the posts on the influencer’s channel may not reach millions of people, they have a good chance of driving valuable action. It is exactly this engagement that brands are looking for when choosing influencers. 

The issue lies in the fact that these passionate content creators are not at the forefront of public perception. Although they are the players that dominate the market, it is the influencers who post about brands frequently who act as the mascots for this realm of marketing. Please don’t dismiss all influencers because a few get caught in the harsh limelight.

The reality is that influencer marketing is here to stay. Why? Simply, people are desperate for social cues. It is in our nature to seek direction and affirmation for what to do, how we live, and what to buy. 

In a hyper-active digital environment where advertisements are being served up left, right and centre, consumers are leaning towards engaging with social posts that are linked to a person and their story, which can be followed on their own terms.

Although traditional marketing will always have its place, I think it’s time we stop belittling the power of personalised influence. 

Dr Sommer Kapitan, Senior Lecturer at Auckland University of Technology, also spoke at the Evolution of Influence series and shared her wisdom and some research on why influencer marketing works. She applied reason to the madness and took our audience of clients through the ideas that prove her point. 

Dr Kapitan talked about how influencer marketing taps into the idea of normative influence and society’s innate desire to belong. In short, we follow social cues to escape ridicule and feel part of the pack.

Dr Sommer Kapitan

Influencers, especially those who fit in the macro category, can be perceived as pack leaders, tastemakers, and are therefore an easy beacon to follow. Followers often end up feeling as though the person behind the Instagram account is their friend or someone they know personally. Because we are more likely to follow the recommendations of friends, these influencers are powerful.  

As an agency, we endeavour to pair brands with influencers in a way that retains the authenticity of both parties, ongoing. Finding a fit that speaks to the needs of all involved makes for authentic content that audiences will engage with. 

As we go forward and continue to figure out this new and exciting industry, we must protect the content creators who have a story to tell, and an opinion to share. Influencers have a place in our society and it’s our duty as those behind the campaigns to play our part in protecting the authenticity of the industry. In protecting this, we are protecting its credibility, and that’s our social responsibility as those who pull the strings.”

Mango General Manager, Sean Brown (far left) and Mango Head of Digital and Social, Zoe Virtue (2nd from right) with panellists at a recent Evolution of Influence speaker series

This story is part of a content partnership between Mango Communications and StopPress. It’s also part of a StopPress series examining influencer Marketing. To read more on Influencer Marketing, click here.

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Zoe Virtue is Head of DDB Group Social.

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