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Know Your Voice, Choose Your Battles – Maintaining Brand Authenticity in Social Media and Influencer Marketing

Brands are now integrated into all aspects of society, and consumers expect brands to take a stand on issues. Yet, in a world full of social media fads and bandwagon philanthropy, how can brands maintain authenticity, especially when partnering with influencers?

Align Cause Marketing With Your Brand’s Mission

Nearly two-thirds of consumers buy on belief1, making a tremendous case for brands to tie purpose into their marketing campaigns. However, audiences are savvier and more skeptical than ever, and if consumers perceive a message to be inauthentic, they will challenge it, and potentially even boycott the brand. Choose your battles. You do not need to comment on every issue. To ensure authenticity, brands should select causes that align with their product, mission or foundational story, and each cause should be integrated across multiple touch points.

Speak Their Language

Typically, brands have more than one audience, and to connect with each may require slightly different messaging across different platforms. For example, an educational program may speak to parents by leaning into how the offering delivers specific skills to prepare their children for the next big chapter of their lives. When speaking directly to kids, the brand may highlight how fun the learning will be, and how kids will make friends for life. All of these messages are true and aligned, the brand is just working to highlight the aspect that will resonate more with each audience.

Be Timely… and Potentially Brave

To be relevant and play into the weekly, daily and hourly trends on social media, a brand has to be nimble and willing to take chances. We all remember Oreo’s 2013 Super Bowl blackout tweet “You can still dunk in the dark.” Another example of leaning into tension in a fun and engaging way is Edelman and Samsung’s timely response during the launch of the GS8. Samsung’s marketing campaign asked owners to share the first picture they took with the phone. A troll wrote, “It was a dick pic.” In response, Samsung replied with a single emoji: the microscope. The timely, on par humor won over the troll and the internet, garnering more than 72,000 retweets and positive sentiment (even from the troll). While this level of direct volley will not work for all brands, there are times when having a more candid conversation can be an extremely useful tactic—and perhaps an opportunity to leverage an influencer whose voice is aligned with the brand, but more easily able to speak directly to the audience in their language than the brand.  

Leverage Authentic Influencer Voices

Influencers have a direct-to-audience relationship that can be extremely valuable to brands. However, particularly when tying in purpose marketing, brands need to ensure that the influencers they partner with are also aligned on the same mission, and that the key messages the brand is looking to communicate are already present and resonating in the influencer’s current work. The influencer does not need to have expertise on every subject the brand is focused on, but they do need to have a level of authority on the messaging or integration that they are delivering on behalf of the brand. Ideally the influencer is creatively involved with the brand, and together they work to create content that speaks directly to their target audience, reaching them on the platform of their choice, in a voice that is both relatable and aspirational.

So align your causes to your mission. Know your voice, and that you do not need to speak up on everything. Know your audiences (including where they are and what is important to them), and vet influencers to be sure you partner with the ones who are best suited to take your messages forward. And show your brand’s personality. Take a few timely chances that are bold but still on brand. Because if you’ve done the work to establish your brand’s mission and voice, the chances of failure are fairly… microscopic. 

1Edelman Earned Brand Study