Interview Transcript

How do you look at authenticity?

I think that’s a good question. Authenticity can mean a lot of different things with influencers. Authenticity can be the authenticity of the person themselves, as an influencer; are they authentic in what they are promoting? Are they authentic when they tell you they like a product? Is that really something they like or are they just being paid to say that? I think, authenticity, sometimes it can be easy to detect. If you look at this person’s last 10 posts and they’ve said the exact same positive thing about every product they’ve endorsed, so that might not be very authentic. Sometimes it’s more difficult, but it depends on how you vet them.

Authenticity can also mean, how real are their followers or how real is their engagement? That can be a problem with some influencers, who do bad things, like buying followers or using bots or buying video views on YouTube. Generally, those patterns can be easy to detect sometimes. If you see that every post on Instagram has exactly the same number of likes, or if you have a high number of likes, but no comments or no other engagement. Things like that can be tell-tale signs, but it’s not always obvious. I think one of the signs of authenticity there is also engagement. How much does the influencer engage with other people? How involved are they with their audience? You will find a lot of people who are really highly engaged with their audience and there’s usually some authenticity going both ways, on that.

I think it’s a tricky question, but back to the point we discussed about lifestyle/paid ad. It’s a fine line. How far are we going to swing towards either/or?

I think it depends on the influencer. Some influencers do very little sponsored content and so you can probably see from their feed, on Instagram, for example, if only one in 20 posts is sponsored, you can probably where the authenticity is, pretty easily. If you’re working with an influencer where every single post is sponsored, then that might give you an indication of authenticity, as well.

Again, let’s say I’m a brand moving into the channel. Do I need to check the data quality? How do I check for authenticity, apart from those other things you mentioned, such as the likes being the same and engagement?

It depends on the platform. On some platforms, there is software that you can get that will try to tell you if it thinks that the authenticity factor is not there. Not all of those software platforms are endorsed by the social media platforms themselves, but you can get software like that and it can help you determine those things. Also, reputation. Ask around in the industry. You could say, “We’re interested in working with so-and-so; what do you think?” You’d be surprised how many people will tell you, flat out, they bought all their followers or, “We worked with them and got very low engagement and we think they bought all their followers.” The more you start doing this, the more you realize what a small world it is and you will realize that people know people. Even if you have relationships with other influencers you’ve worked with, you can ask them. They may know so-and-so because they are in the same industry.

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