Smoke & Mirrors: The Importance of Transparency in Influencer Marketing

Smoke & Mirrors: The Importance of Transparency in Influencer Marketing

By Vanda Dobritoiu

Illustration by @marinedequenetain for @kate.lavie

Illustration by @marinedequenetain for @kate.lavie


When you think of authenticity what comes to mind?

I think of transparency. Real connection. Emotional depth. Ability to be vulnerable and comfortable in your skin and with your situation, and being able to communicate that across all mediums, whether that be in person, or digitally, through social media.


Technology has changed the way we communicate and relate to one another. With the advance in social media and the rise of the influencer culture, it’s so easy to see how brands utilize well-known and loved people in the digital community and encourage them to promote the brand’s products and lifestyle.


However, because of that, it’s hard to discern what’s real and what’s not, as you scroll your feeds. Many of us are posting the highlight reel of our lives -- it’s easier to post a photo of our Pumpkin Spice Latte than to admit that we’ve struggled that day. Or, share a status about how we’ve failed. Or, that maybe our lives don’t look quite as put together without a filter on.


According to this article by The Next Web, CNN estimates that approximately 83 million Facebook accounts are fake accounts. Twitter is estimated to follow distantly, with more than 20 million fake accounts. Business Insider reports that eight percent of Instagram accounts to be fake. 


On the same wavelength, this article by Adweek states that, “The average price per sponsored post is about $300, with some accounts earning more depending on the number of followers or expertise.” Social media spending in the U.S. alone is expected increase to $17.34 billion in 2019, according to Hootsuite, meaning that a lot of the content you’ll be seeing on your social media platforms will be sponsored.


So, what's real and what's fake? 

How can we know that what someone is recommending to us is actually genuine, rather than paid for by a brand? How can we know if YouTubers actually love and recommend a certain makeup product, or just use it that one time on camera for the paycheck?


Well, the reality is we can’t. However, as consumers, it’s our responsibility to do the research and try our best to become ethical and mindful when it comes to trusting brands, and not follow other’s opinions blindly.


There are so many wonderful content curators out there, whether they be bloggers, social media influencers or YouTubers, that have created a community that values transparency. It’s important to encourage them, and join them.


I personally admire transparent brands so much, and always strive to be as authentic and as transparent as possible in all areas of my life. Much like The Dove Real Beauty Campaign or the Aerie Real Campaign, or Everlane’s #TransparencyTuesday on Instagram, I’m trying to learn from these influential brands, by being more comfortable with all of the areas of my life (even the ones I might not be so crazy about).


Over time I’ve been able to discern what content is being sponsored (you’ll often notice multiple YouTubers promoting the same product or brand around the same time) and which isn’t. My social media feeds are inundated with content, and its a breath of fresh air for me, when I see a brand that is unique, transparent and authentic in its content. 


Consumers are becoming more and more savvy, and are learning to sense when content is sponsored. Over time, inauthentic influencers will fade from relevance, leaving room for trustworthy and transparent content. 



Going that extra mile, both in person and digitally (especially digitally, in this day and age) will be a major distinguishing factor for brands of the future. These brands will tell their brand story with a unique approach, that is both personal and open. They'll aspire towards being genuine in their interactions and brand alignments.