From blogs to YouTube to Instagram and Snapchat, today’s marketers must toggle with several digital platforms and channels in order to effectively promote content to the appropriate demographics. Developing marketing strategies for men between the ages of 35-45 going grocery shopping are vastly different than strategies for 18-year-old boys deciding their next sneaker purchase. Navigating these channels can be an alarming overtaking as each comes with its own strengths and, moreover, shortcomings. However, there are valuable insights that brands can take advantage of to ensure their content is impactful in the digital space. Whether it be earned or sponsored content, authenticity is the key to marketing in the age of new media.

Engage with the authentic influencer

There is a fast-growing and increasingly impactful segment of publishers: influencers, who are impacting consumption and behaviour.  It is no secret that these influencers have discovered how to translate their passion and deep expertise into a sustainable business through the content they publish.  Whether it be fashion, cars, electronics, or gaming, a new generation of consumers is reading and trusting influencers to shape their purchasing decisions. The key here for marketers, is finding an influencer that has an authentic relationship with his or her followers.

Due to the nature of the digital ecosystem, influencers have tremendously large followings that rival the likes of Hollywood’s top actors and actresses. This ecosystem enables influencers to build strong relationships with top brands while maintaining the established trust of their followers. Take for example sneaker influencer, NiceKicks. Last year NiceKicks generated $300,000 in sales for top shoe retailer in less than 24 hours with just one tweet.  PurseBlog, the leading independent site for news and reviews on handbags, attracts approximately four million unique visitors a month to their site while top interior design blog, DesignMilk, has over four million followers across all social media platforms.  These influencers are unquestionably brands themselves with incredible scale and reach that continues to grow in influence as new generations of consumers mature and represent a larger percentage of the world’s consumers. Millennials and Gen Z are changing how they consume information about brands and products year over year, and brands must find the right voices that these generations are listening to.

Develop authentic content

In order to collaborate with influencers, the format that drives consumer awareness and engagement must also be considered.  Native advertising has proven to be great asset for marketers to engage potential audiences, although the execution has been under some level of scrutiny.  If you have not yet seen John Oliver’s piece on native advertising, it’s worth the 11 minutes of your time.  His presentation parallels several other discussions taking place on how to best distinguish sponsored content from journalistic content.  It’s no wonder why this conversation is becoming more heated considering what marketers are asking of their native ad providers.  According to a 2015 eMarketer study, marketers want their promotional content to ‘fit’ with editorial content, but do not necessarily hold it to the same standards.

As today’s consumers become more ad-aware, it’s critical to develop content that strikes the appropriate balance between credibility and efficacy. Influencers want content to organically fit with their brand. If you want to market your next state-of-the-art tennis racket with a fashion-forward handbag connoisseur simply because they may position your product as “trendy” and reach over one million Gen Z and millennial consumers, you better think again.  However, there may be a fashionable tennis racket bag that aligns with a planned editorial theme, presenting a possible alternative opportunity for collaboration.

To engage effectively, brands must work with the influencers on their terms. They need to help influencers customise the content to their distinctive style, rather than forcing content upon them. It’s important that brands tailor their marketing campaigns to the influencer’s brand, while understanding what these influencers need in order to create unique content. Whether it’s a product to review, early insights into launches, creative resources, etc., influencers will be open to a discussion if brands are willing to compromise.

A great path ahead

Influencer content will continue to grow in popularity and expand across all digital channels. Authenticity will also continue to play a vital role as we see new channels and players emerge. Brands are now featured in large blogs, YouTube channels, Instagram profiles and Snapchat stories, which shows the huge potential in connecting marketers from all types of brands with independent influencers transparently. All while keeping the consumers’ interest in mind.

Discovering the best influencers for your brand can be a challenge, but platforms now exist to connect the right marketers and influencers together. Bottom line, authentic influencer content is a mutually beneficial way for brands to engage with consumers and drive the acquisition of enthusiastic customers and high quality site traffic.

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