“Authenticity in influencer marketing” is one of the most cliché phrases used in the space. But what does that actually mean to creators? I asked 15 influencers to share their thoughts about how they would define an authentic brand partnership.

Misty Kingma

“What makes an influencer partnership authentic is compromise. I believe it’s best to let the influencer come up with ideas for the initial concept of the campaign, once the brand communicates what the goal is. ie: The influencer should come up with a video concept that THEY would 100% enjoy making, and the brand can accept and add to it. That way, the influencer is excited and confident in executing the branded content.”

Lauren Taus

“I believe that branded content works best when it’s integrated and feels authentic. When there’s too much of a push, my audience (or any for that matter) is likely to feel turned off. My followers like beautiful content, inspirational content, and real content so I create that for them in a way that resonates with my experience. The long and the short, YES, we are in business, but we win when we’re true to who we are and what we believe in. My sponsored content is best when it’s clothing I wear and feel good wearing, or products that enhance my life and I really use in life.”

Stacia Pierce

“Authenticity is necessary because you’re presenting to your own audience, who know, like and trust you. One of the most import aspect of authentic brand partnership is working with brands that you actually like. I only work with brands that I trust and like their products. If it’s not a good fit, my audience can see right through it.”

Zak Shelhamer

“I think authenticity is the most important aspect to marketing. And when it come to brand integrity for both parties — influencer and collaborating party — the only way to successfully maintain a positive image AND promote a product to an audience is for the consumer to almost unknowingly and naturally fall in love with what the influencer is promoting. In order to get that result it takes a level of trust from everyone involved; the brand to esthetically trust the influencer, and the followers to trust that the influencer is earnestly promoting something they believe in. Only then will we be able to authentically promote any brand.”

Jerome Jarre

“You can’t win social media without being genuine. That’s why so many brands are struggling. They must unlearn everything they know about corporate communication and re-start communicating as humans.”

Chastity Garner Valentine

“Inauthenticity can be seen a mile away whether you are in-person or online. When you aren’t authentic you compromise trust with your readers and a lot of time that will translate into lower engagement. I think establishing partnerships with brands that you already support is an important element that will allow you to easily bring out your authentic self. If you don’t know a brand then do put in due diligence to become familiar with that product and then make a decision of whether or not to work with that company. Never jump into a brand collaboration site unseen.”

Gretchen Anna

“Authenticity is very important to me when it comes to working with brands to stay true to myself and my subscribers. I only take sponsorships from brands I truly like, and an authentic and great brand partnership will integrate seamlessly into existing content.”

Leo Camacho

“Authenticity is what ties you to your community. You become a spokesperson for your passion and ideas and people follow you in order to connect with those ideas is a very real way. You don’t want to break that connection. You don’t want to sell products to your audience, you want to show them new possibilities.”

Gregory Dava

“I’m not sure who originally coined the phrase but — what you say no to defines you more than what you say yes to.

From an influencer perspective — you need to have a very clear understanding of what your own personal brand ethos is. While an outdoor adventure campaign may be lucrative, if you’re a menswear blogger focusing on luxury lifestyle,it doesn’t make sense — and it’s better to pass on the opportunity so you can focus on bigger initiatives.

Simultaneously, on the brand end — you shouldn’t be reaching out to fashion bloggers if you are trying to generate buzz in the adventure/outdoor category online.

In short — it has to make sense from both ends. Don’t loose you’re credibility over a paycheck!”

Alexa Score

“An authentic partnership would be one in which flows with the influencer’s existing content. Does the partnered content seem out of place or does it fit in with what’s already there? It should never feel “ plugged”. Like mentioned above, I feel that my followers have a pretty good grip on my personality, so an authentic partnership would feel natural to them not forced.”

Daina Falk

“When one grows an audience of followers, one must keep in mind that they aren’t looking to be sold to — particularly things that don’t jive with one’s brand or beliefs. Selling out is therefore not an option. Working with brands and products that are in-line with one’s beliefs and brand identity is everything. It augments what one can offer one’s audience.

I only work with brands that fit into the sports fan lifestyle that I curate as the head and face of The Hungry Fan. If I wouldn’t eat it, use it, try it, wear it, then I don’t post about it.”

Nicole Cogan

“Brand endorsements and collaborations should always be kept in-line with the bloggers brand. If you are a food blogger, but you are doing a jewelry campaign, take the picture of your jewelry while sitting at your favorite restaurant! Anything that looks super staged or insincere won’t have great engagement, and it will let the brand and your followers down.”

Aaron Wester

“My readers trust me to partner with brands who not only match my personal style, but who I believe produce quality goods. It’s less about price point and more about telling an authentic story. Readers can tell when you’re pushing a brand you don’t believe in. I also love championing the little guy. There are so many great, small brands out there who create fantastic goods. I like telling their stories.”

Ellen Schmidt

“It’s pretty simple: I work with brands and products that my family actually uses, or that I’ve heard about and am genuinely interested in. If it’s a new product, it has to be something that myself or my family would like to discover along with my readers. I really pride myself on writing authentic posts because the reader can see right through you otherwise. I like when brands are open to collaboration and theme ideas around a partnership.”

Jenny Wu

“A genuine passion or affinity for the brand/product and being able to articulate those feelings truthfully is vital for a campaign to be authentic. My goal with any partnership is to inform and inspire my readers.”