Last month I attended Shop.org and had a chance to meet with a friend who introduced me to a company called Gatsby. Given my background and current feelings about trends with influencers, this caught my attention quickly. Gatsby is a different type of micro-influencing tool that identifies real micro-influencers from within the companies current customer base. 

Not so long ago, social media marketing was all about subtle messaging. Brands would compete against one another with well-crafted messages - some truths, some half-truths - in hopes of winning a sale. The words “authentic”, “organic”, and “genuine” would rarely even be whispered in this era of marketing. After all, the very premise of this is based on rhetoric and the art of persuasion. 

Increased consumer skepticism and an ever-increasing connection to digital content and user generated content has shifted the power from producer to consumer. The modern consumer not only expects but demands honesty. And while the wanna-be Don Draper’s of this world would shudder at the thought of using transparency and truth to sell products, it’s the reality of 21st century marketing. 

While television advertisements continue to dominate big brand budgets, the most coveted piece of marketing is how customers choose to promote brands online. What others say about a brand can be up to 10 times more influential than brand curated content and goes further in defining a brand to the public. Brands need to invest in authentic marketing, creating a genuine online presence, and enlisting the help of micro-influencers to lend legitimacy to their brand. 

Authentic marketing involves using truth and transparency across all forms of marketing. In place of outdated brand messaging, authentic brands focus on the human component by putting a face (or several) to the name of a brand. This type of genuine, relatable marketing promotes a connection with consumers and when done effectively, fosters long-term brand loyalty. 

While consumer demand for authenticity is not limited to a single generation, millennials have become critical game-changers as they increasingly look past brand-curated content in search of third-party reviews online. Only 3 percent of today’s millennials consult traditional forms of media (television, newspapers, and magazines) when making purchasing decisions. They seek guidance online in the form of blogs, reviews and their connections on social media. 

As the push for authentic content and genuine connection continues to grow, countless social media tools have rushed to the market “offering” to help. These tools aim to increase growth and consumer engagement by identifying influencers and micro-influencers who may have an interest in representing brands. The problem is that it is merely a transactional relationship, and if the influencer is too big, how much true influence do they have? That’s why there is a push to the micro-influencer, a real person with an established personal identity (or brand) who has a small but loyal following between 10,000-100,000 like-minded individuals who live or aspire to live a life like that of the micro-influencer. 

Most social media tools select would-be micro-influencers based on their personal interests and target demographic. But since they are not real customers, is it an authentic form of marketing? The short answer is no. When brands engage with would-be micro-influencers, they are investing in a one-dimensional arrangement where the brand trades product or payment in exchange for promotion on the micro-influencer’s social channels - sometimes just for a limited amount of time. Most of these individuals are simply responding to profitable opportunities rather than partnering with brands they truly stand behind. It is merely transactional.

Gatsby is looking to take micro-influencer campaigns away from transactional to relationship. Instead of brands and companies guessing on target audiences and enlisting micro-influencers that are in it for the paycheck rather than the passion, Gatsby helps brands find and engage with customers who like and love the brand. 

If you are a company that has customers, Gatsby may be your new best friend.