Just 35% of Gen Z survey respondents said they care about authenticity as a quality they look for in influencers.

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A new report suggests authenticity is no longer a key driver for Gen Z look when they look to follow influencers. However, the truth may be more nuanced. 

Sprout Social surveyed >2,000 consumers and 300 influencers for its new report: ‘In Influencers we Trust’ to get their take on what makes influencer marketing successful and predict how the landscape will evolve in the future. The qualities consumers look for in influencers:

  • 53% They align with my personal values
  • 47% Authenticity, even when posting sponsored content
  • 37% They post the right amount of content
  • 36% They align with my personal demographics
  • 26% Follower count

The survey results unearth a worrying stat about Gen Z’s relationship with authenticity.  Whilst authenticity is the second highest driver at 47% for consumers across all age groups when following influencers just 35% of Gen Z survey respondents said they care about authenticity as a quality they look for in influencers.

It depends, I guess, on how you define authenticity. Some academics distinguish between passionate authenticity and transparent authenticity. They argue passionate authenticity emerges when influencers are driven by “their inner desires and passions more so than by commercial goals.” 

Transparent authenticity on the other hand refers to the influencer’s ability to provide “fact-based information about the product or service at the centre of the brand partnership”.

Many consider authenticity to be a sub element of trustworthiness - which, in turn, is a sub element of credibility - sitting alongside expertise. I wrote about this further for my entry defining influencers in The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Interest Groups, Lobbying and Public Affairs.

And here Sprout Social offers us a glimmer of hope for our industry. “This increasingly discerning generation [Gen Z] tends to put less stock in ‘authenticity’ at face value, and more in quantifiable credibility,” according to the report. 

Successful influencers demonstrate credibility within a defined context. This is known as source credibility. Source credibility has two dimensions: trustworthiness and expertise (Levi & Ozcelik, 2020). Trustworthiness is distinct from trust. 

Influencers appear trustworthy in comparison to traditional celebrities by creating a sense of intimacy with the audience. In turn, authenticity is an important sub-element of trustworthiness. Successful SMIs appear genuine to their followers. Expertise, in this context, may be defined as domain knowledge i.e. specific knowledge in a certain field.

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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