5 Actionable Ways To Incorporate Authenticity In Your Influencer Partnerships

May 17, 2024
11 min
Rochi Zalani
Content Writer, Modash
Anna-Maria Klappenbach
Community & Brand Marketing Lead, Aumio
Nycole Hampton
Senior Director of Marketing, GoodRx
Georgina Whalen
Influencer Marketing Manager, ex-One Medical
... and
more expert contributors

“Have authenticity in your influencer collaborations!” is a cliche advice in the influencer marketing world. It’s so common that it’s become ignorable — your eyes just glaze over the word in the newsfeed.

Despite so much noise, there’s very rarely any actionable advice on how to implement authenticity in your influencer partnerships.

Here, I'll aim to go beyond the vague advice and provide practical tips on making all types of influencer collaborations more authentic.

What does authenticity mean in influencer marketing?

Authenticity is simply when your influencer partnership comes across as organic & a natural fit — as opposed to transactional and salesy.

If a brand collab comes across as an ad done just for marketing purposes, it becomes inauthentic. The audience should feel that the creator genuinely uses and loves the product they’re promoting.

Ensuring authentic relationships is partly on you:

  • allowing them to share the cons of your product along with the pros
  • choosing the right creator who aligns with your brand values
  • offering some degree of creative freedom

The other side of the scale is on the creator:

  • being honest with their recommendations
  • disclosing sponsored content transparently

How to implement authenticity in your influencer marketing campaigns

1: Find an authentic angle for your influencer content

Linking the creator’s personal story to your product is the best way to make your influencer collaborations more authentic.  Georgina Whalen, former Influencer Marketing Manager at OneMedical, agrees:

Georgina Whalen
Influencer Marketing Manager, Ex-OneMedical
Creators can provide a fresh perspective that allows consumers to see the brand through a new lens, providing a great opportunity to connect with new audiences who share the creator's pain points or interests. Making the content more relevant and engaging.

Take travel creator Aakansha Monga who often discusses her preference for traveling and shares tips on the same (non-sponsored content).

So, when she partnered with Air India Express to highlight their new feature of “Xpress Lite fares” (the company charges lower prices to customers who only travel with carry-on bags), the partnership felt uniquely authentic because it aligned with the creator’s values and preferences.

It helped that the influencer had already talked about her choice to travel light, shared advice with her followers on the subject, and mentioned the advantages in her Stories.

Here are two ways you can use to find creative angles for your influencer partners:

a) While vetting an influencer, review their past content and see what aligns with your brand.

  • What do they talk about often?
  • What advice, preferences, values, do they share in their posts & stories?
  • What do they struggle with or dislike?

Get your research hat on and jot down some core points for each creator partner that aligns with your brand’s features or values.

b) Get on a call to know the creator properly and find authentic ideas together. Emails and async communication methods are efficient, yes, but they aren’t the best channels if you truly want to get to know an influencer.

Getting on a call is time-consuming and unscalable, but it can help you brainstorm authentic angles to find a personal and relatable story embedding your product.

2: Select influencers who already love your brand

The most authentic influencers are customers who already love your product. Look within your existing ecosystem (your customers, people who follow you on social media, etc.) and check whether they have enough followers in your target demographic to become influencer partners.

For example, creator Mama Lisa’s partnership with Aumio feels authentic because:

  • She mentions how falling asleep was always hard for her son (the problem pre-existed before she started using the product by a sponsor)
  • She’s been using the Aumio app for a whole year (the long duration helps increase credibility — she would likely be using the product even before she started partnering with Aumio)
  • She mentions other benefits she witnessed — like having more time for herself in the evenings (a problem many mothers, aka the target audience of Aumio, can relate to)

Many influencers also keep an eye on products in their niche and try them out to share the best ones with their audience. If someone already knows about your brand, products, and uses them, the partnership is likely to come across as much more authentic than a brand new collab where an influencer hadn’t even heard about you.

Anna-Maria Klappenbach, Community & Brand Marketing Lead at Aumio, agreed that creators who were Aumio users already almost always create authentic content that meets the team’s expectations. She highlights the other benefits of partnering with such creators, too:

Anna-Maria Klappenbach
Community & Brand Marketing Lead, Aumio
It's often easier to negotiate great deals with these creators. They're also more likely to go 'above and beyond' - more content, extra mentions, quick replies etc.

She compared these creators with those (very few) who ask for Aumio app access two days before content approvals:

Anna-Maria Klappenbach
Community & Brand Marketing Lead, Aumio
We've also seen that at least half of creators who ask for access two days before the content approval are less likely to perform. Their content is often very similar (most just speak into the camera) more likely to come across staged. The content doesn't perform well 85% of the time.

The question now is: how can you find influencers who already follow your brand? One option is to use software. Modash has a “find your fans” feature that helps you identify creators who are following your brand. All you have to do is:

  • Go to Modash's Discovery tool
  • Click "Discover your fans" and enter your account username
  • Click "Show profiles"

If you want to search within your customer base instead, you can upload a list of your buyers’ email addresses and find your influential fans.

(You can try Modash for free, no credit card needed!)

3: Vet for authenticity at the start of new influencer relationships

Turning your customers into influencers is an excellent option, but in reality, most brands won't find enough influencers to scale with only existing customers & fans.

So if you're recruiting new people, you need to find a way to check for authenticity during the process.

There are two ways you could do this:

a) Start with sending products: If this is viable, it allows you to check whether an influencer is excited about the product. Ship the product(s), and schedule a discussion after they've had a chance to try it.

Piper Phillips, Former Director of Marketing at Tru, always used this approach in her influencer outreach:

Piper Phillips
Former Director of Marketing, Tru
My first step in outreach is always offering a free product. To even consider a paid collab, we need the creator to actually enjoy our product. My go-to line is: ‘If you're interested, I would love to personally send you some Tru! (No strings attached of course)'.

(You can do this as a standalone technique, or as part of a product seeding campaign.)

b) Get on a call with the influencer: talking to a creator 1:1 provides clarity and depth to your influencer relationships that async communication just can’t. You can filter whether or not an influencer genuinely likes your product, if they’re excited to collab with you vs. whether they’re treating the partnership as a transactional affair.

Nycole Hampton, Senior Director of Marketing at GoodRx, is an advocate of getting on a call with influencers:

Nycole Hampton
Senior Director of Marketing, GoodRx
On a call, you can really get to know how someone feels about a brand. If they aren't interested in discussing and showing some type of excitement, chances are it's transactional and about a check.

Even if your product is too expensive or impractical to send for free, you can still always get on a call.

4: Build more long-term partnerships

"Build long-term partnerships" is another one of those pieces of advice which is commonplace in influencer marketing.

And while it isn't always right for every brand, it sure does add authenticity.

  • Once you know each other well, you can safely offer a ton of creative freedom, which helps them retain their true voice and personality
  • Long-term collabs show that the partnership wasn’t just a one-off transactional thing that the creator did for the paycheck
  • Creators can show more ways they use your product in their daily lives — creating more reliability and organic content
  • People start associating your brand and the influencer if they promote it multiple times — making your product sticky and trustworthy

A great example is food creator Justine Doiron’s collaborations with Viskikraft. In each partnership, she shares a unique drink using Viskikraf’s products and an engaging story in the voiceover.

Each post is fresh, and Justine builds a lot of brand recall value by repeatedly partnering with them and recommending their products.

💡 If you want to learn more about how to ace your long-term creator collabs, read this guide to see how the pros do it.

5: Become your influencer’s favorite partner

Authentic collaborations are built as much off the camera as in the spotlight. When an influencer genuinely likes you, trusts you to pay them on time, and has fun working with you, the partnership automatically becomes more authentic. Enthusiasm (or lack thereof) jumps off the screen.

Emily Claire Hughes, copywriter & influencer marketing consultant at Emily Claire & Co. said it best:

Emily Claire Hughes
Copywriter & Influencer Marketing Consultant, Emily Claire & Co.
If you are human, kind, nice to work with, people will go out of their way to make you happy and accommodate you.

And yet, many brands overlook the impact of influencer relationships in having more authentic IGC. Nurturing creator bonds is about the little things:

  • Find ways to make their job easier
  • Support their goals and help wherever you can
  • Express gratitude when they deliver great work
  • Meet in-person and/or get on calls when you can
  • Build a rapport outside of your working relationship

And remember the first point about digging deep into an influencer’s story to find authentic angles? That’s also a chance to nurture creator relationships. Georgina Whalen explains how:

Georgina Whalen
Influencer Marketing Manager, Ex-OneMedical
Taking the time to ensure creator partner content is tailored to their voice, life, and community goes beyond the marketing benefits. It demonstrates your investment in their success and respect for their craft. A lot of influencer marketing partnerships can feel almost transactional and it’s important that we seek ways to humanize the experience as frequently as possible.

💡 Looking for more actionable advice? Here are ten no-fluff tactics to solidify your influencer relationships.

Authenticity isn’t a one-off task

The most crucial thing about authentic influencer relationships is you have to maintain them. It isn’t a one-and-done deal where you do one natural-fit partnership and dust off your hands from the task forever.

With every new partnership, you have to do the legwork of ensuring the collabs are authentic. And with every existing partnership, you have to continue to nurture creator relationships so the collabs remain authentic.

Keep up with more actionable, no-fluff, and expert-backed influencer marketing advice by subscribing to our newsletter, Return on Influence.

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Contributors to this article

Anna-Maria Klappenbach
Community & Brand Marketing Lead, Aumio
Currently at Aumio, Anna is an expert in all things brand & influencer marketing. She has experience running performance-driven influencer collabs in markets like DACH, UK, US & more.
Nycole Hampton
Senior Director of Marketing, GoodRx
Nycole is a seasoned marketer with nearly 20 years of experience, largely focused on social media, creator and content marketing. She has built and led social media, influencer and content marketing teams and practices within global agencies and in-house.
Georgina Whalen
Influencer Marketing Manager, ex-One Medical
Georgina has 15+ years experience in influencer marketing, previously leading influencer strategy at One Medical. She's also a guest lecturer at NYU, and advises on influencer strategy via her consultancy, The Influence Atelier.
Ryan Prior
Head of Marketing, Modash
Ryan is in charge of making sure all the content on this blog is great. If anything sucks, blame him.

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