First of all, a disclaimer: I don’t watch baseball, and I don’t really know much about it. But what I do know is that it’s important to throw well and hard, and that there’s a little ball involved. Well, that’s about the extent of my knowledge. I think I probably know roughly as much about baseball as the average American knows about what we call football and they call soccer. It involves a ball, and a goal.
All that said, I wear a Dodgers shirt. And I don’t even know what city the team is based in, let alone what league it plays in.
Well, I know a good deal more about football/soccer: I know most of the players, I even understood by know what it means that a ball is in the out, and I watch the most important games.
Still, I wear a baseball and not a football shirt. Why?
The honest answer: I think football shirts and jerseys are ugly – especially those of my favorite team. And I’m not up for getting involved in too many discussions on the subject – it just seems to be such an emotionally charged subject. Not many people take football lightly here in Germany. Whereas it’s ok to be an atheist and still wear a cross for fashion reasons, tolerance levels are much lower when it comes to football. I’m not even sure if I’d be considered worthy enough to wear my team’s shirt, being the casual fan I am. I’d probably face some criticism along those lines. As I said: an emotionally charged subject.
Either way, I think it’s totally fine to wear a baseball shirt.
I like it. That’s literally the only reason. The question is not: does this make me more or rather less credible?
Yesterday, I was invited to attend a panel discussion organized by Instagram , a workshop or sorts, where I presented something like the aggregated influencer’s viewpoint on the subject of mobile marketing. We discussed the various possibilities to widen reach via different channels. The consensus we reached was this: quality and authenticity are everything. But reach and target group orientation are also crucial for the booking of an influencer and the campaigns he will be assigned with.
Those are the key points, the crucial factors.
But what do they mean? How do I stay authentic as an influencer?
In my opinion, there are only two ways to stay authentic.
1. If you have a wide reach, you can’t post too many advertisements (no infomercial), you need to know your target group very well (and take it into account), and you need to be willing to go against the grain from time to time.
2. If your reach is rather limited, and you are not branded yet. That automatically makes you more authentic.
The fact that authenticity and reach are very often quite divergent concepts is apparent in the case of many major influencers. For example, do you still really believe Chiara when she tells you that this or that product is the best thing ever? I have my doubts. Today it’s this brand, tomorrow the competition. Still, many follow her, mainly because they think her life is exciting. Many bloggers advertise, but do you still believe them when they recite company slogans straight into the camera? It’s easier for smaller bloggers: they’re not so appropriated by a long run of cooperations, which can make it easier for them to get better results.
These two factors are seemingly mutually exclusive:
if your reach is big, you won’t be perceived as very authentic.
And if you stay authentic, your reach will be limited.
But is it possible to be authentic AND have a wide reach?
I asked myself that question after yesterday’s panel as I was editing the pictures that illustrate this post.
My answer is: YES.
There are many positive examples out there, after all, the Dandy’s, Jane’s of this world, DariaDaria or, in the American sphere, Leandra Medine.
They all share a common quality: they sometimes address unpleasant subjects.
And another one: they are all from a slightly older generation of bloggers. They did not blow up on Instagram, the became popular because of their messages.
I would like to see myself in their tradition. I try my best to be authentic and honest with you. That comes at a price. While I am not constantly dealing with lawsuits like the Dandy’s, but there are incidents like the other day when I was harshly reproached by a former cooperation partner because I talked about the negative aspects of our work together in my podcast. I didn’t even criticize the company or the product, more the circumstances. Well, they were not amused. And in turn I was pretty pissed off too, because I didn’t find their criticism justified at all. I wanted to explain that that’s the price one has to pay for authenticity sometimes. And that things like that can happen if you work with bloggers and not with models.
In times of professionalization, companies sometimes forget why the book bloggers in the first place: because of their personality, and their opinions. If you provide neither, if you turn like a flag in the breeze, you may be more popular with agencies, but you won’t be authentic – would you agree? Is the majority of bloggers already completely flexible in their opinions for the sake of collaboration deals?
In the workshop, one brand made a point with a campaign they’d been running. 3 bloggers said the product slogan into the camera, with their widest Hollywood smiles. Photoshop skills, 1000 points. The wooden acting just made everyone laugh.
‘In terms of authenticity we have come a long way since’, the company’s rep went on to tell us in the workshop. ‘Today we’d do it very differently’.
There is hope, still.