How Brands Can Forge Authentic Influencer Relationships to Better Reach Black Consumers

The right person can be a spokesperson for your company

Photos of Michael B. Jordan, Allyson Felix and Marques Brownlee
Brands have the ability to enhance brand loyalty and provide a more beneficial experience for the African American community. Getty Images
Headshot of Corean Canty

Brands and advertisers are challenged to connect with African American audiences. Yet many brands fail to engage the African American community, whose shopping purchases are at least $1.3 trillion annually.

Reaching this audience is key for businesses to expand their customer base. African Americans are influential in the success and failure of a brand. With the African American buyer power projected to rise to $1.54 trillion by 2022, businesses need to embrace African American influencers to resonate with this audience and increase engagement with consumers that drive the purchase decisions. While 94% of marketers using influencers in a campaign believe it to be an effective tactic, companies need to align with African American influencers that embody their company identity and elevate sales and brand awareness.

Find an influencer to embody your brand

Businesses need to ensure that African Americans also have a seat at the table when making a decision on the influencer to align with the brand. Being able to identify an influencer that strengthens the value of the investment and represents the brand effectively to connect with the African American community is essential to kick off an influencer campaign. When six-time track and field Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix spoke out against her then-sponsor Nike, a brand renowned for its association with prominent black athletes, about the company’s maternity leave policy, it elevated the exposure on stipulations in sponsorship contracts for female athletes that reduce their salary during that time period. Felix went on to sign a new apparel sponsorship deal with Athleta, which included full protection during maternity leave to athletes following the birth of their child.

Businesses that cultivate influencer programs and create content to engage the African American community will build more meaningful and lasting brand relationships.

Whether it’s for a campaign across Instagram, YouTube, Facebook or another platform, know the channel that is most prominent with your target audience. From there you can build relationships to connect with influencers and determine which one is right for your brand. Remember to also strategize on the goal and desired results of a social media campaign.

Getting the influencer to buy into the brand is key to achieve a successful campaign. By aligning with the perfect influencer, brands will ensure the campaign will achieve the desired outcomes.

Not all influencers are created equally

There are different levels of influencers, and not all are created equally. However, don’t believe that an A-list celebrity will have your sales skyrocket overnight. With an influencer, it’s about the relationship and trust that they have developed and maintained with their followers. When selecting an influencer, know that the size of their following doesn’t correlate with the impact of the campaign. The loyalty of their followers is pivotal to the success of a campaign that can capture the attention of your target audience.

Tap into influencers that are genuine to your brand

Influencers are an extension of a brand, and consumers can see through the connection between an influencer positioned to engage with the African American community, if the collaboration isn’t authentic to the company’s history and vision for the campaign. For example, Marvel Studios’ Black Panther actor Michael B. Jordan aligned with Brisk ice tea to launch the Creators Class program to enable creators in urban areas to have the opportunity to work with film, visual arts and writing industry leaders.

African American shoppers engage with influencers that support causes that they can connect with on a more personal and emotional level. By aligning with an African American influencer, the individual brings their personal background to the campaign as the target audience can assimilate more with the culture brought to the campaign. In order for brands to drive purchase decisions via influencers, their campaign needs to convey an authentic message that an African American audience can proudly support.

Ensure the two audiences align

A powerful approach to social strategy with influencers is to cultivate brand loyalty and collaborate with an influencer that equates with a brand to capture synergy for a campaign. For Coca-Cola, four-time Olympic gold medalist gymnast Simone Biles aligned wonderfully for the brand’s campaign to celebrate 90 years of being an Olympic sponsor. As the only African American gymnast to win a gold medal, she represented the greatness of having a champion be an influencer for Coca-Cola’s campaign.

With African Americans over-indexing on platforms like Instagram and showing high Facebook usage, social media is an important part of any brand strategy to engage with this audience via influencers. But first you must have an understanding of the platforms that have a high usage by your target audience.

The African American community wants to engage with brands that embrace and reflect their culture within the content shared with their followers. To achieve authentic messaging, companies need to align with influencers that are authentic to ensure messages with the campaign are crafted and shared with audiences that embrace African American culture.

Authentic messages from a brand’s influencers are critical to raising not only the brand’s credibility but also deepening the connection with the African American community.

Give influencers the appropriate level of creative control

You decided to work with the influencer for a reason: their content, communication style and followers, which can all deliver meaningful relationships for your brand. While capturing the company’s positioning should be done within the campaign, enable the influencer to have the creative freedom to merge their style with your brand. An influencer can bring a fresh perspective to spark creativity and elevate a campaign. After all, they understand the content that will bring in their audience and enhance the ROI of the campaign.

Whether it’s a technology influencer like Marques Brownlee, with 10.3 million YouTube subscribers, a beauty influencer such as Raye Boyce, with 1.5 million Instagram followers, or “mommapreneur” Ellarie, with 1.3 million Instagram followers, brands have a variety of African American influencers with a vast array of followers to choose from. The creativity of influencers is a powerful tool, one that brands need to embrace to experience the greatest ROI for the campaign.

Businesses that cultivate influencer programs and create content to engage the African American community will build more meaningful and lasting brand relationships. By pairing a brand with authentic influencers and culturally relevant messages, brands have the ability to further enhance brand loyalty and provide a more beneficial experience for the African American community.


@ccanty Corean Canty is chief operating officer of Goodway Group.
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