Q&A: Emily Henderson on Transparency and Authenticity in Influencer Marketing

  • Categories:

    Content Marketing, Social Media

  • Date:

    December 12, 2019

Q&A: Emily Henderson on Transparency and Authenticity in Influencer Marketing



Content Marketing, Social Media

If you’re in the home space, no doubt you follow style and design expert Emily Henderson. Known for her universally appealing interior designs that mix vintage pieces with quirky art and soothing textiles, Henderson’s steadily growing Instagram is approaching 1 million followers. But she’s much more than social media likes. Her prolific blog, stylebyemilyhenderson.com, is powered by a team of 11 people. It offers insights, inspiration and education on interior design, fashion, food, top podcasts and much more.

We sat down with Emily to talk about being an influencer, a role she’s both passionate about and uncomfortable with. True to form, her mind ran a million miles a minute in contemplating the significance of influencer marketing today and how it may evolve.

Why do influencers have such a strong influence on people?

EH: Influencers are kind of like friends to their followers. There’s a lot of believability; there’s kind of this pact that “you’re telling me the truth because we’re friends.” That they’re recommending a product just like I would to my girlfriends or I would to my mom, so there’s that feeling they get from the influencer. That’s why it’s really important to me that I’m recommending things that I truly would only recommend to literally a friend or my family.

As a follower, you’re looking for someone who has more experience and expertise or who has maybe even tried a product, so before you have to buy, you can instead follow someone you trust and say, “Hey, did you like it?”

It’s not just a friendship pact; it’s also that they (the influencer) are an expert, so they have enough experience in this field that I can trust them this is a product I can purchase.

Why do you think you have influence over your audience after building it up over the years?

EH: I think I have influence because I have been very transparent since the day I was born, and I have no DNA for shame or embarrassment. So, when I’ve made a mistake or even bought a product that I didn’t like, I will tell them. I think that gives me a lot of believability and authenticity. I don’t just say, “Buy, buy, buy!”

Thinking about the home décor space, why do you think influencers are so powerful when it comes to influencing purchase decisions?

EH: Doing anything in your home feels permanent and expensive, so the more people can look to influencers who have tried it and used it and recommend it, and can even see photos of it looking good in their home, the more reassured they feel that they could and should purchase that product as well.

It’s like athletes who wear shoes they endorse. As influencers, it’s like we’re trying on all these products to show our followers in the home space how good they can look and how functional they are, which is why it’s so important to be honest and transparent about it because the second you recommend something that isn’t a good product, your trust is gone.

How did you get your start?

EH: I started the blog in 2010, and then I went on HGTV’s Design Star shortly thereafter and ended up winning it. I had a makeover show (on HGTV) called Secrets from a Stylist. The blog was feeding the show and the show was feeding the blog, and it really helped the blog blow up — thank goodness — because TV can be fickle, but digital media has grown a lot in the last few years.

I started out writing home inspiration. It was a journal for me. It was: here’s what I love and here’s why. And here are some low-grade photos that I took to show you. Now, years later, there are 11 of us working on this blog, which seems crazy. We create content on all platforms and literally every day in this world of digital media are trying to give our readers and followers inspiration and information they need.

You’re almost like a mini media company.

EH: Yeah, or like a mini ad agency, too. I think one of the reasons we’re successful is that not only do we create the content, but we are also the press that can push it out. No matter what company we work with, they know we’ll get eyeballs on their product.

Beyond the TV show and blog, how did you build your audience?

EH: To be fair, when I started blogging it was early on, and I filled a hole in the market. I was all about eclectic, vintage, kind of no-rules. I wasn’t trained as a designer, so I did a lot of playing and giving people permission to play in their homes, too. People at that time were aching for that content. So, I think finding a unique perspective and something you — only you — do really well, will build that audience. Had I come to the scene as just another design blogger showcasing pretty photos, I don’t think there would have been that connection with the audience.

What platforms have been your most successful and why?

EH: Ever since Pinterest came around people have been saying blogs were going to be a thing of the past. So we shifted and committed ourselves to creating content you could not get on Pinterest, that people had to come to the blog to get. We have these pretty photos on Pinterest, but on the blog it’s: This is how you do it. Here are all the resources for where to buy and the costs. We have to get people there and it has worked. The blog has grown so much in the past two years.

I think I’m successful on Instagram because it’s a visual format and design is visual. I like to write, and I think I have a voice people connect to, so that combination of photos that people connect to and voice that people connect to is the reason engagement was high and kept growing and growing and growing.

What advice do you have for brands on selecting influencer partners?

EH: I think obviously you want the influencer to be aligned aesthetically and through voice with you. It shouldn’t feel like this jarring partnership for both of you — nobody is going to benefit from that, and the readers and followers can see through that in a second. Look at the quality of past content and engagement with that content — that’s really what you need.

How do influencers impact purchase decisions?

EH: I think influencers have a massive impact on purchase decisions. I know that because I also follow influencers in different fields, and if I trust them, I will buy what they tell me they love. Like with fashion bloggers, if they tell me this is the most comfortable shoe that I can wear with like a million different outfits, I will be like, “OK, I believe this person, I’ve been following them for years.” I don’t even shop around; I just purchase it.

In the home realm it’s the same. A lot of people don’t have time to do the research. They don’t want to shop around. They really just want somebody they trust to tell them what to buy.

Where do you think influencer marketing is headed?

EH: All I know is you can’t chase cool. I don’t wake up worried every single day about the company because we really do create high-quality content, and we’re really prolific. We have a lot of work that we put out there and people feel very inspired and educated by our content. So, we just have to keep doing what we’re doing, except better, and be as innovative as possible that makes sense for the brand and for this field. I’m going to keep being transparent, authentic and creating educational and inspirational content.

Top image credit: Sara Tramp/Style by Emily Henderson

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