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Why Vulnerability is Key to Authentic Influencer Content

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“Lead the charge and don’t be quiet.” Derek Wiggins, US Country Head, Takumi

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“The simple, aspirational aesthetic is over,” Takumi’s Group CEO Mary Keane-Dawson declared early in her #SMWONE session alongside her colleague Derek Wiggins, USA Country Head, about the current state of influencer marketing. She punctuated her sentiment with a pair of photos: the first, a prettily staged image of a sun-kissed woman holding a daisy in her mouth; the second, a less staged image of her sputtering to spit the flower out. And while this pristine and staged aesthetic was on its way out before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the latter has us all feeling as discombobulated and uncomfortable as the woman in the second photo.

As it turns out, that’s making what influencers do now, and will do next, so appealing.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Platforms that can elevate imperfect content will shine
  • Influencer marketing content will favor more raw and unpolished stories
  • Be open to experimenting and playing around when communities need it most

Veneers Down, Vulnerability Up

“Reality has come in and slapped us all in the face,” said Derek Wiggins shared, going on to say, “what it’s done is it’s humbled and changed our opinions, making us more open and vulnerable.” He shared a quote that reveals the resulting work is not only more raw and unpolished, but more fun for the influencers themselves:

We’re just being ourselves and making sure we’re having fun behind each piece of content – we really think having fun and genuinely loving what you do is SO important to stand out.

And who wouldn’t want to engage with content, or with creators, who are enjoying themselves? As it turns out, a vast majority of social media users. A 2019 Takumi survey revealed that 8 in 10 followers of influencers said they’d stop doing so if an influencer misrepresented themselves or their lifestyles to followers; 78% said they’d do so if they realized an influencer’s lifestyle promoted unrealistic or unsustainable life habits. Now that we’re all at home, there’s figuratively and literally nowhere to hide…and the content these professionals create could change significantly as a result.

It’s TikTok’s Time to Shine

As the aesthetic fades away, platforms that can elevate imperfect content will shine…and for Takumi and Wiggins, this means TikTok. Coaxed onto the platform at the urgings of his wife, he now finds himself one of the 522 million users (and fast-growing, as new data is showing) who returns to the site multiple times each day to be entertained. It’s a fantastic space to “be relevant, [to] make it yours,” he said, adding, “as a minority, looking for things to relate to [when I was younger] was difficult. Now, it’s a market for everyone.”

The platform is about more than dance challenges and whipped coffee; Wiggins highlighted two examples of influencers using the space to contribute to a larger social good. Calls for cause marketing were put out to their influencer community; creative spots came back for campaigns like Oreo’s #CookieforaCause (to benefit Save the Children) and #HaagIndoor and Secret Cinema’s campaign to keep people indoors. And independent of brands, pro bono campaigns emerged for #SafeHands (promoting frequent and thorough handwashing“Influencers have to adapt and rethink things like never before,” Keane-Dawson noted, audibly marveling at their community of creators as she continued, “this is where their creativity comes out.”

Play Around When the Community Needs It Most

For those worried that their work wouldn’t be as polished as normal, Wiggins and Keane-Dawson are in agreement that now is the time for that sort of work. Because consumers increasingly care less about the curated aesthetic and more about genuity and realness of content, now is precisely the time to play with the form, especially on platforms that reward that sort of playfulness like TikTok.

“Lead the charge and don’t be quiet,” Wiggins insisted, noting that people will remember down the road who didn’t want to speak up for fear of getting it wrong. Partnering with people who know what they’re doing means everything here; Keane-Dawson heaped more praise on the influencers they work with, saying they’re meeting the moment just how so many of us would hope: “they find the humor, and they find the connection…it’s amazing what these creators can do.”

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