Building Authentic Influencer Relationships

The importance of genuine connection between influencers and the brands they endorse.


By Kelly Pellico

In a Forbes article on 2024 marketing trends, one sentence really stood out to me: 

“Modern consumers want more than endorsements; 
they crave genuine and authentic relationships with influencers.”

The notion that people crave authenticity, even within their influencer relationships, isn’t a surprise. But it does beg the question of how exactly to achieve this relationship. Influencers have big personas and are known primarily through the digital realm. This means it can be difficult for audiences to connect with them in a more authentically experiential way. 

Add to that, influencers have a reputation for making the “money grab”─ endorsing anything and everything as long as they’re paid well for it. 

Vital Findings’ work with influencers has dispelled the money grab myth. For example, we spoke to a dozen influencers about potential partnership with a brand in the health and wellness space. Every single influencer was focused on whether the brand aligned with their personal beliefs and values. They all wanted to make sure the partnership would support an honest and authentic aesthetic. While we had expected this response from some of the influencers, we were surprised to hear this from all of them. 

Just as consumers crave authenticity from influencers, influencers crave authenticity from the brands they endorse. And we’ve seen this to be true from the health and wellness space all the way to the fashion sphere. 

Influencers hold brands to a high standard, are adamant that brands align with their personal values, and are unafraid to turn down offers if they’re not an authentic fit. As a consumer, that’s incredibly refreshing to discover. As a brand, it brings into focus the importance of fostering connections with influencers who genuinely love your product/service, which in turn allows them the opportunity to communicate from a place of truth. 

Here are four important takeaways for brands:

  1. Connect personally. When we first started working with influencers, we thought they may be driven by vanity or entitlement. Instead, we found them to be grounded, fascinating, driven, cultured, creative, genuine and humble. Building a connection with the human behind the influencer persona will help you shape a partnership that works best, and most authentically, with your brand. Ethnographies and mixers are two methods that lend themselves well to finding deeper connection.
  1. Be diligent in finding the right fit. Like a job interview, remember that the influencer is interviewing you too. Engage them to learn what brands they love, and find out whether they love yours. Do your values align? Millennials and GenZ have long been advertising skeptics and will always see through a poor influencer fit. This also means avoiding a decision based on follower size alone. Niche is better if it leads to a more organic connection which will better serve your brand in the long term.
  1. Invite influencers into the research process. In addition to endorsing your brand, influencers can play a unique role in building it. They’re creative leaders, have a strong voice, and are highly attuned to the end consumer. Through their own analytics and follower conversations, they can bring audience insights and interesting perspectives as you shape new products and marketing campaigns.
  1. Give the influencer space to create. A lot of the influencers we’ve worked with speak candidly about brands engaging them purely due to the size of their following. And those brands often give them specific content to create, guidelines to stick to, and messaging to include. That kind of control may help the brand feel risk-free in the relationship, but it ultimately leaves the true power of the influencer completely untapped. Influencers agree to partner with brands because they already love, believe in and admire them. Plus, influencers are creators themselves. Giving them creative license is the truest form of authenticity and will reflect well on your brand.

Be authentic in how you choose your next influencer partnership, who you choose and why. Then watch how the results shift.