Trust is the most crucial aspect of your influencer marketing campaign.

All influencers build their followings by establishing trust. It’s nothing new in the marketing world. For years, celebrity endorsements relied on the same concept, with old-school marketers believing a popular (and trustworthy) face would be enough to create value for the brand.

But social media changed the game. Now, companies are able to leverage marketing partnerships with social media celebrities who users actually trust. They’re social icons that users follow, repost, interact with, and talk about. Naturally, the inherent trust of these partnerships goes well beyond the superficial celebrity endorsements of years past.

However, this proximity is a double-edged sword. It’s easier than ever for social media celebrities to gain followers’ trust, but it’s just as easy to lose it. This is particularly true when influencers team up with a brand—and completely change their messaging to suit the whims of their new corporate masters.

Crossing the Trust Threshold

This concept is known as the “trust threshold”: It’s the tipping point when an influencer’s audience begins to question the opinions and motives of the social media creator.

We’ve seen it happen over and over. Influencers build up a respectable following, they garner attention from a few low-level corporate partners, and almost overnight, their messaging turns from an original voice into a sponsored soapbox.

This is becoming a big problem in the industry. The market for social media influence is growing fast in 2018, and more creators than ever are trying to get in on the action. This has lead to a “gold rush” in which users of all ages are building their own brands and trying to monetize their passions. It sounds good from a market adoption standpoint, but the problem is that when influencers have dollar signs in their eyes, they’re blind to what really matters.

And in most cases, the first thing to suffer is the hard-earned trust they’ve built with their audience.

Influencer Marketing Is a Partnership

Who’s to blame when messaging goes awry? Surely the influencers themselves should take a more active role in protecting their brands, right?

In a perfect world, sure—but the problem is that many young influencers aren’t even aware of what their brand is! They push content they enjoy, but they’re not usually tuned into the specifics of their target market, their overall brand messaging, or even why they’re generating interest in the first place. As such, many of them don’t see the downside to pushing sponsored posts, regardless of the product.

This is where you, the sponsor, enter the picture.

As the corporate partner of these fledgling brands, it’s up to you to protect the brand voice. You’re investing in the influencer, after all, and maintaining his or her original voice is just as much about protecting your own assets as it is about protecting the influencer.

Protect Your Influencers with the Right Messaging

So, what’s the bottom line? In short, trust is essential to influencer marketing success. Young influencers will be open to value-generating partnerships—but won’t understand how to protect their brands. It’s your job to align your company’s messaging strategy to meet your own goals while protecting the creator’s own channel. But unfortunately, improving the quality of influencer relationships was ranked as one of the lowest priorities for U.S. marketers. We see this as a serious issue that companies need to address as the influencer market grows.

Companies that connect with the right influencers—and do everything they can to protect the partnership’s assets—will see the most success from their influencer marketing efforts. Settling for anything less would be a disservice to you, to your customers, and to your influencer.